With international women’s day being celebrated everywhere on March 8, Pakistani female artists gathered a day in advance at the Alliance Francaise to display their work at an exhibition titled, “Connecting Women: Inspiring Future”. The amalgamation of work consisted of paintings from six experienced artists and six new painters. The show was a celebration of the strength and endurance of Pakistani women.
When women paint, they usually try to highlight the subjugation felt by a common woman in Pakistan. Very rarely, female painters use their brush strokes in order to paint the empowerment of women.
From Shakira Masood’s untitled work showing women in nude to Hajra Mansur’s painting illustrating the royal Mughal princess walking idly in the garden, these art pieces focused primarily on women. However, Zahra David broke out from pack with her landscape painting reflecting a fresh start and a new dawn for women.
But what captured the eye the most was the work of two young budding artists — Cyra Ali and Sammer Sultan. For Ali, both her brightly coloured paintings reflected the simple pleasures of life. What set one of her paintings apart was the symbolism behind the depiction of a woman sitting on tree branches unable to fly whilst a tiger in the background was trying to take control.
While empowerment was key in Ali’s work, Sammer Sultan’s paintings concentrated on women’s suffering. About her painting, titled “I Tried To”, she says, “It is about the absence and presence of an individual in a person’s life; about loving and losing people and things in your life.”
Regarding “Tears”, another one of her paintings, the creative use of tissue papers correctly captured the grief. Sultan said about this work, “Women are emotional creatures; we tend to suffer in the privacy of our homes. We never bring it out in the public eye. Very few women find the guts and the courage to speak about their pain.”
While Sultan showed the bleaker side of being a woman, Shammi Ahmad celebrated the beauty of the feminine mystique. With concentration on female faces in particular, her artistic subjects wore small flower wreaths or nestled butterflies on the lips.
Regarding the exhibition, Ahmad said, “What I see here today is a talented and bold lot of young female artists/painters. However, still, more space and promotion needs to be given to them. I realise that such a statement will take time in bearing fruit, since Pakistan is still a developing country.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2012.