The World in Miniature

The World in Miniature was a session fully dedicated to the work of Shahzia Sikander. She works in drawing, painting, animation, large-scale installation, performance and video, addressed the session and briefed about her work and achievements and the new horizons she discovered in the form of miniature art. She is associated with miniature painting for almost three decades and for the first time she got an opportunity to show her work in Pakistan. Miniature painting has been the part of her interest and practice since her graduation which she did from NCA. She further explored this form in the early to mid 90s. She showcased her work through projector that how her interest in miniature expanded the medium from within by embracing its crafts, techniques and small details as well as its historical context. She embraced this technique when its future as a contemporary mode of expressions had not yet been laid out in any terms. The work she created from 1987 to 1991 in Lahore was important primarily because of dominant requirement of that time to produce a contemporary depiction of a traditional rich work. Her work challenge that established premises in the society, the un-translated ambiguity of youth and the flux of identity. Shahzia has also been working with different artists and communities to understand the cultural differences. These different locations and cultures have great influence on her work. Much collaboration paved her way for modern art. She also showed her work which he has made and displayed in different countries of the world including huge painting works as high as 30 feet. These works are directly done on the wall. Temporality is a reoccurring aspect of her work and ink drawings remained very fundamental to her work. She also showed some photographs which she has captured and taken inspiration from those photos. Wonderful video was also played which had infusion of different objects and wonderful sounds music related to our present.

Beyond the global novel

In this session Mohsin Hamid, Hugh Eakin, K.Anis Ahmed and Samia Mehrez with Razia Iqbal discussed how the world is becoming a global village and in what way new novels are crossing the boundaries and becoming international books. There were many aspects which came under discussion. Publishing industry is one of the major factors. This industry is changing very rapidly and becoming an enterprise. Now people and publisher have the notion that writers should cater western market also because it is a big market for reading. Then of course writers are not living in hermits; they are also the part of this society and are well-aware about the changing realties of this world. Whenever any novelist writes, its story is always about some people, place and this has been the pattern since Greek, Classic and now the contemporary. But there is one thing common that the story should always be compelling and touching to heart and this is the reason that Jain Austin and Leo Tolstoy still appeal us. Then there is another aspect that who decides that a novel is going to hit or flop. Samia Mehrez addressed this aspect and said that there are many elements which contribute in making a novel hit and language is one of them. For example there are many Arab writers who have produced wonderful pieces of literature but they may not be very famous in other countries because their work has not been translated; and if some have translated may not be reviewed. In this entire race of hit and becoming popular, the writers are losing some of their authorial skills was another point to be discussed. Mohsin Hamid said that the format of reading and writing has entirely changed in last ten to fifteen years in all over the world. Another point which came under discussion was that after 9/11 more work was produced having some political connotations and such topics which could be good for documentaries. Mohsin Hamid said that there are different imaginative spaces in a writer’s mind. That can be political imaginative space with which I deal and many other writers do. He also elaborated that when I am writing about Lahore it does not mean I am writing about Pakistan or Muslims or Islam. Rather I am writing Lahore as a city like Paris. Likewise Paris, Lahore should also be known.

Reportage on Pakistan

Reportage on Pakistan was one of the most interesting sessions of LLF. The speakers were Matthieu Aikins, Shahan Mufti and Zahid Hussain. Talking about the a report which says that Pakistan is becoming a very dangerous country, Zahid Hussain said that people living outside the country may find it so but the country is exciting for reporting as well. Most of the journalists which died are from Tribal Area and in this way Iraq is also equally dangerous for journalist. He pointed out that the best journalism come when media faces some resistance like it faced in Gen. Ziaul Haq era. He also explained that reporting about some conflict is very difficult. The conflict of Afghanistan is not yet covered fully because issue is still there. Same is the case about North Waziristan. It is also highlighted that to produce good stories one has to break some laws and this is happening in every country. This is essential for good journalism. Internationally, Wiki leaks is its example and locally during Zia era there was a complete ban on reporting any news about MRD movement, but reporters performed their duties against all odds. Shahan Mufti and Matthieu Aikins pointed out that there are many issues like labour laws which can’t be reported even in Punjab. It is the most censored topic of the province. Matthieu also said that state intervenes here in Pakistan and censors lot of news but this is not the case in Afghanistan. It may be difficult to get some news or to investigate about some issue but state does not intervene in that. Zahid Hussain added that there is lot self-censorship which is because of owners of the media houses. Then there are also many day to day affairs which are neglected because those issues may not get attraction of the readers or get rating for TV channels. Discussing how the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will affect Pakistan, Zahid Hussain replied that we have more threats from within Pakistan than from any neighbouring country. He said that the number of soldiers killed in Pakistan is more than the soldiers killed in Afghanistan and the irony is that the government is still not clear about its policy for terrorism. In future there will be a fight between moderate people and the extremist people, who are also less in number. It is more ironic that these extremist people have become successful in creating terror in the minds of the people and now every person feels threat to be killed in some bomb blast. Talking about the freedom of press he said that it is a double edge sword. He criticized media for giving air time to Maulana Abdul Aziz who have repeatedly said that he has almost 500 suicide bombers. Similarly the coverage of Malala Yousafzai was also made controversial on media. Talking about the military operation in North Waziristan he said that it is a fight of ideology. Presently we can overcome these terrorists but to avoid them we have to fight that ideology.

Crisis of education: Tagore’s meaning today

Tagore concept of education was somewhat different. He wanted practical and aesthetically accomplished graduate. He hated the idea of nationalism. He was against the idea of nationalism what state does to create uniformity in the minds. Education is the first victim of nationalism and under nationalism education is more dangerous than illiteracy. Its example is the syllabus of India and Pakistan which is specially designed to create hatred for each other. Pervez Hoodbhoy added that religious nationalism is more dangerous and the war if Iran and Iraq is its prime example. Quoting a local example of religious nationalism, he said that Taliban killed FC men and played football with their heads, while the Information Minister Pervez Rashid said that Taliban are bad but if India attacks us, they will be on our side. Similarly, he said that the book of Pakistan Studies even of sixth grade is a poison which we are teaching to our young generation. In that book our students read in what way Muslims are different from Hindus and which was the basis of Two-Nation Theory and the separation of the sub-continent. The book also tells us about the three wars in which India used aggression against Pakistan. He was of the view that from the very initial stage the syllabus poisons the minds of the students. Amit Chaudhuri said that nationalism discourages the ambiguous ideas in the minds of people. He said that Tagore hated institutions which became a hate for nationalism. He also hated prints and publications and preferred hand writing because he was of the view there could many nuisances in hand written material.