An empowering art exhibition fosters a dialogue on the struggles of Pakistan's trans community, featuring diverse works, creating a profound impact
An empowering art exhibition fosters a dialogue on the struggles of Pakistan’s trans community, featuring diverse works, creating a profound impact
Currently on display at the Haam Gallery Lahore, “Tu kya hai” is a curated show by Ayesha Rumi that aims to spark a profound discussion surrounding the struggles faced by Pakistan’s transgender community. Through a diverse array of visual art, the exhibition not only brings attention to these challenges but also fosters an engaging dialogue between the subject and the viewer. The show boasts an eclectic collection, featuring paintings, sculptures, and performance art, which unites a formidable group of artists, including Quratulain Dar, Iram Sana, Shazma Arshad, Ayesha Rumi, Abdul Waris, and Raka Studio.
Visitors who had the opportunity to check out the show a few days after its opening observed a gallery with an immaculate white space, allowing the artworks to shine without any distracting display elements. The exhibition was thoughtfully arranged on the third floor, and one could also explore the floor above to witness the video display of Iram Sana’s captivating performance. The spatial flow and organization of the show were commendable, ensuring a seamless and immersive experience for every individual visitor. Each artist’s works were presented with meticulous attention, and despite their distinct themes and approaches, they seamlessly coalesced under the curator’s overarching vision.
The artworks of Quratulain Dar, featuring three evocative paintings, exuded delight for the eyes. One piece titled “Chaahat,” which signifies longing and affection, particularly struck a chord within viewers. In this artwork, a transgender person assumed an almost helpless posture, accompanied by a dog and a young puppy resting at their feet. The most captivating aspect of this work lay in the positioning of their hands, mirroring the subject’s expression of despair. The background, a captivating sky blending seamlessly with the ground, served as a reflection of the subject’s ambiguous reality. Dar’s surrealist approach prompted profound contemplation, elevating the show’s aim of sparking deeper conversations.
Shazma Arshad’s unique pink color palette immediately distinguished her works. The trio of portraits displayed side by side radiated an aura of joy and wonder, distinctly reflective of Arshad’s creative brilliance. In contrast, Ayesha Rumi’s works set a more serious tone for the conversation. With a discernible style, her multimedia visual pieces ingeniously blend photography, painting, and collage. The stark use of colors on large black canvases drew viewers in, inviting them to linger and explore the intricate details. Portraits, calligraphy, and subtle textual elements enriched the artworks, adding layers of meaning. A sculptural piece by Raka Studios, placed strategically in front, appeared as an extension of Rumi’s art, forming a cohesive narrative. All of these artistic expressions were beautifully complemented by Iram Sana’s performance piece, which delved into the heart of trans identity and expression. Simple yet powerful, the use of props and costumes by the performers, including trans individuals, effectively conveyed a compelling story. The absence of dialogue skillfully directed viewers’ focus on body language and intricacies within the performance. Even when screened within the gallery, the impact was captivating, leaving visitors yearning to experience its full brilliance in a live presentation on the show’s opening day.
Exhibitions that shed light on marginalized identities and strive to pave the way for fruitful conversations hold immense significance in the current social context. Hence, viewers were delighted to witness a gathering of brilliant artists for this meaningful endeavor. However, it was wished that each artwork had its title and details displayed alongside it, as the absence of such information necessitated further research after the show. Nonetheless, the distinct styles of the artists beautifully set apart their works, collectively achieving the show’s success by presenting diverse viewpoints. In line with the curator’s note, “Tu Kya Hai” effectively set the context for initiating a dialogue between the subject and the viewer in real life. From Shazma Arshad’s awe-inspiring monotone paintings to Iram Sana’s profound performance, delving into the socio-political aspects surrounding the transgender community, the show brilliantly represented the multifaceted lives of marginalized gender identities in Pakistan.