The thesis work recently displayed by the University of Peshawar’s (UPesh) Art and Design students reflects the turmoil which the region is undergoing — the energy crises, rampant insurgency and violence, growing rates of unemployment and suicide are all themes that have been painted in a variety of hues onto their canvases.
Mashal Ahmad, a fresh graduate with a degree in Arts and Design, exhibited the dark face of death and suicide through her work. Her paintings explain the reasons behind young people ending their lives. “Why do youngsters opt for suicide instead of confronting their issues boldly?” she says. “Through my paintings, I highlight and understand the reasons behind this choice.” In one of her paintings, she has cleverly shown a depressed young man committing suicide as a train approaches him while he lies on a railway track.
Yusuf Khan, a student from Swat, based his thesis project on Gandhara art, with the aim to create awareness about the civilisation and highlight the work of artists who keep this art alive. “The north western region of Pakistan was once known as the land of Gandhara,” he said. “From this region was born the tradition of arts and sculpture which was devoted almost entirely to Buddha,” he added.
“Unfortunately, the common man does not know about past glory. Here, the statue [of Buddha] is considered a sign of apostasy. It is these people and relics that have brought to light knowledge of civilisation that existed here almost 2,500 years ago,” he says, appreciative of the work of artists who devote their lives to this art without getting any recognition.
Another student, Salman, also touches upon a theme most locals are ignorant about. His project is about Pashtun poet and philosopher Ghani Khan, who is also a remarkable painter and sculptor.
“For many, he is only a poet who wrote about love, music, pleasure, wine and sensuality,” says Salman. “For some, he is a rebel while for others he is a heretic, but he has other colourful artistic sides which most are not aware of.” Salman’s thesis highlights Ghani Khan’s face and mind with a variety of colours to show how he has coloured the world.
The perpetual power outages in the region compelled some students to base their theses on how to find solutions. Young graduate Shamsul Islam shows different aspects of the electricity crisis through his work.
“Pakistan’s energy crises have made our lives hell,” he says. “I wanted to address this big problem through my work, since we are literally back in the Stone Ages as a result of it and every aspect of our lives is negatively affected by this menace,” he adds.
He said that power sharing is a better policy than loadshedding, by which the upper class will reduce their electricity consumption and help the underprivileged since their consumption is far lower.
Sobia Shaheen’s thesis was based on the Islamia College University. “I was greatly inspired by the architecture of Islamia College so I observed its architecture and decided to paint it on my canvas.”
The objective of her work is to show the structure’s majestic architecture on canvas and bring forth its dominance and influence on modern day architecture.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2012.