Historically the word Diaspora was employed for Jews living outside the Promised Land, but in the recent years, the term is attached to displaced communities, residing away from their places of origin. Actually the twentieth century was the age of immigrants, since large group of people moved from one place to other, abandoned their countries and acquired new nationalities for all sorts of reasons, including economical, political and social.
Literature emerged out of this period bares a mark of physical displacement, which continues to infiltrate and influence artistic productions. From James Joyce to Samuel Becket, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milan Kundera, V. S. Naipaul, Julio Cortazarand several others, authors have been living away from their homelands, but their writings are linked and embedded in their distant states, many of those transformed as magical locations or appear as real places with actual, immaculate and intimate details.
These works of literature are the blend of immediate and imagined realities, something not possible had the writers lived in their original countries. In the realm of visual arts too, a number of artists moved from one country to another in order to seek political asylum, professional opportunities, exposures to mainstream art or for other reasons. Perhaps the most prominent migration in this regard is of European artists to USA during the first half of twentieth century. Several of them with their Jewish origin escaped persecution of Nazis and the World War II, however the shift to the States was not confined to one community, as the expanding economy of America invited art and artists to flourish in the New World.
Many other artists, mostly from countries under dictatorships left their homelands to survive in an environment of freedom, or sought better recognition – away from their small or relatively obscure nations. In context of the Subcontinent – and especially Pakistan, a number of artists lived or have been living in Europe and North America. Majority of them reside in the UK and USA, yet they continue to connect with their land of origin, either through exhibiting regularly or incorporating themes, imagery and concerns related to those lands in their works. Their works enrich the art of their homelands too, since it creates an atmosphere of conversation with theOther, the Other who is not alien in a literal sense, but assumes that identity. Thus the travel between one place to other – which happens physically – takes place in the realm of art and ideas, and provides the opportunity to view oneself through multiple perspectives and points of views.
The present issue of Art Now Pakistan highlights the art of Diaspora and investigates this aspect in relation to individual and collective art practices. Both in the sections of In Focus and Profile, our contributors explore how art produced out of its origin is different or distinct,and how the artists living away from their place of origin view their world. These discussions and debates bring forth the question of origin too, an entity that is the subject of this month’s photo-essay.
With reviews, studio visit, book review and news, the new issue of Art Now Pakistan focuses on the art, which can not be defined in geographical boundaries, nor in intellectual ones, regardless of how much we try to do that as intellectuals!