Tear-drop in your hand: Kufic script-inspired baubles and beauties

National College of Arts’ Iram Zia brings textile and jewellery traditions to Karachi.

Tooba Masood August 19, 2011


In a simple saffron sari with a contrasting turquoise blouse and salt and pepper hair, artist Iram Zia turned out to be much like her work - bright, colourful and with a traditional twist.

The Lahore-based artist, who heads the textile department at the National College of Arts, has brought to Karachi a jewellery and textile exhibition titled ‘Mapping the Tradition’ that has opened at the Canvas gallery. One room is devoted to semi-precious stones and silver adornments while the other room is filled with large textile pieces inspired by the Kufic script. She works in bold colours such as orange, blood red and turquoise highlighted with impossibly delicate thread and wire work.

The chunky Chandi and stamped jewellery sold within the first few minutes of the show’s opening on Thursday.  Zia has meshed together the different mediums with semi-precious stones such as turquoise, rubies, amber, zircon and the mother of pearl. From earrings to anklets to pendants, she has thought of each and every item as if it were the most important accessory a woman would wear.

Zia claims that she is inspired by different manuscripts, including the Kufic script, and thus tried to incorporate that into her work. “I am interested in all sorts of manuscripts because they are a visual treat and can have a great impact,” she told The Express Tribune. “I am not a calligrapher but the script stands out in such a stark manner that it is undeniable.” As an artist she is more comfortable using textured material and in fact, this part of the work took her nearly four to five years to complete.

“My greatest pieces so far have been my students,” she remarks. “They change and take different forms all the time. Art is just a journey and there can always be room for more.”

So far Zia has held three jewellery exhibitions in Karachi, but this is her first textile exhibition. She has also showed in Lahore and New York.

The exhibition continues till today.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.