Wajid Dharkiwala – An artist of many faces

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Wajid Dharkiwala – An artist of many faces

Dharkiwala was born on 2nd July 1981, in Daharki, Sindh in 1981. He completed his MA(Hons.)Visual Art in 2010 from National College of Arts Lahore, B

Nayyar Ali Dada
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Dharkiwala was born on 2nd July 1981, in Daharki, Sindh in 1981. He completed his MA
(Hons.)Visual Art in 2010 from National College of Arts Lahore, BFA with honors in 2004 from The Department of Visual Studies, University of Karachi. He has participated in Karachi Biennale – KB17 with 1095 Drawings Installation. He was the key member of the project W11 – Karachi to Melbourne Project for the Commonwealth games 2006 in Melbourne, Australia. Built The Great Wall of Pakistani Truck Art at New Islamabad International Airport 2018 as Production Coordinator. Designed and coordinator for European Union – EU road show Truck ‘Dosti Ka Safar’ 2023 and traveled all across the country for 36 days on Iconic Pakistani Bedford Rocket truck. Since 2006 He has worked with various premium institutes of Pakistan (Department of Visual Studies, Karachi University, PIFD – Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design Lahore and NCA – National College of Arts Lahore). Currently he has been teaching at The Department of Fine Arts, School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Gujrat as Assistant Professor and the founding head of Department since 2011. He has participated in many National and International Exhibitions. He was also a PhD Scholar in Cultural Art History from University of Karachi. Daharkiwala Lives and Works in Gujrat Pakistan.

Wajid Ali Daharkiwala is actively working for the welfare of street children, street art projects, and has worked for flood victims in Sindh and south Punjab region, fundraising for medical assistance and rehabilitation process, camps , funding for marriages of flood-affected families. Last but not least, Dharkiwala is a certified official for restoration and preservation of artworks
(paintings on canvases only) for a Danish museum.

Artist’s Statement.
“I have traveled through buses, trains as well as trucks. I see Pakistan as though an eye of an
automobile, and it has been one of my successful experiences of life. Because of such
experiences I have decided to discover cultures and their expressions”.

Commentary
”General history takes as its theme particular societies, such as peoples and nations, whose
existence is continuous. Special histories, on the other hand, take as their theme abstract
aspects of culture such as technology, art, science, religion, which lack continuous existence and which are linked together only through the initiative of the historian who is responsible for defining what counts as art, as science, as religion.( Paul Ricoeur: Time and Narrative) Activism in art is a powerful force for social change that has evolved and adapted throughout history. Artists, in various forms, have used their creativity and vision to challenge the status quo, shed light on injustice, and inspire action. As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, the role of art in activism remains essential, providing a platform for marginalized voices and a mirror to society’s challenges. The fusion of art and activism is a dynamic and enduring
partnership that continues to shape our world and offer hope for a more just and equitable
future.

Wajid Ali Dharkiwala is an artist whose practice personifies a level of activism far beyond the
norm. In fact, if we take into consideration Ricoeur’s writings, then Dharkiwala is a specialised historian. Not only this, but he becomes an ethnographer of the highest degree. Ethnography is commonly used in anthropology to study indigenous cultures, subcultures, and marginalized groups. It has also been applied in various other fields, including sociology, education, healthcare, and business, to explore and address a wide range of social and cultural phenomena, and is a valuable research method for gaining deep insights into the social and cultural dimensions of human life, allowing researchers to uncover nuances, perspectives, and practices that may not be apparent through quantitative or more superficial research approaches. It has been found that the most important, two-fold, factor in ethnography happens to be the ethnicity of the researcher, since, not surprisingly, individuals and groups tend to trust
their own acquaintances and members in certain conditions. And, of course, the researcher’s own participatory situation contributes toward a better awareness of the territory, so to speak.

However, moving on from Dharkiwala’s privileged position as historian, witness and activist,
there are more directly aesthetic concerns that must be taken into account here.

Firstly, others have learned to apply newer methods to the analysis of that topography that
forms discourse around art and craft. In the real world, perhaps it is the students and
practitioners of design who come to a resigned recognition of the parameters that factually
separate art from craft. Confusingly, we still speak of the art of creating functional objects, and the craft of making decorative objects. We also continue to speak of both art and craft as
industries. With some trepidation, we in Pakistan can refer to the increase in art-schools as a booming industry, and indexically show the production of ever larger populations of skilled artists to be a cultural success. Along with this, there are concerned individuals and institutions who are ideologically tied to craftsmanship. All this means that the singular factor that might make life easier does not exist – to be precise, we in Pakistan are not in a position to theorise in order to advance in meaningful ways, in the field of aesthetics.

However, and with more relevance to the discussion at hand, truck art first made its appearance on canvas, literally, around 1994, at art exhibitions. It arrived at a peak, according to Manizhe Ali, who at that time was also closely involved, when David Alesworth, Durriya Kazi and Iftikhar
and Elisabeth Dadi collectively formed the transport container project in Karachi. This group’s status was confirmed by Hammad Nasar in the Guggenheim exhibition titled Karachi Pop:

I want to introduce two bodies of work produced by a group of four artists—Durriya Kazi, David Alesworth, Iftikhar Dadi, and Elizabeth Dadi—in 1990s Karachi. These works are exemplary of these artists’ explorations of the popular and the everyday. And while these artists’ influence is
acknowledged by a cadre of younger artists including Bani Abidi, Huma Mulji, and Rashid Rana, it is not extensively studied, analyzed, or even widely known. Implicit in this group of works at the time of their making were three broad challenges to Pakistan’s small but then entrenched art world. The first was a questioning of the relationship between high art and popular craft—concepts for which the Urdu language does not even have separate words. This interrogation constituted a restaging of earlier aesthetic debates, with the addition of a political dimension that privileged the urban and eschewed fantasies of an unspoilt rural environment.

The second challenge was a rethinking of sites and modes of display that treated art as a mode of inquiry and the city itself as a kind of museum. The third challenge took the form of an oppositional response to the largely moribund but persistent aesthetic of western late modernist painting propagated by the local gallery culture—a form wholly inadequate to reflect the explosive urban realities of Karachi.”( Guggenheim: February 11th. 2013).

Positively speaking, or putting it in other words, the ground reality could simply be that the popularity of truck-art has evaded accusations of cultural misappropriation via its own merits, and could even be said to have surpassed in longevity, the Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe! One reason for this is almost certainly technology – truck art no longer constitutes mere painting, and now extends to the crafting of designs and patterns with reflective tape, vinyl, metal and, of course, LED lighting has taken showmanship to greater heights.

The Guggenheim exhibition and Nasar’s statement can now be used as a point of departure in a number of important ways which are related to Dharkiwala’s practice. For the sake of brevity, we may notice, for one, that the linguistic style of high-art that instituted itself briefly (encouraged no doubt as a mimetic process) in art circles here, but which, largely due to the refusal of moving
forward in the philosophy of art on the basis of it not being relevant to aesthetics,strangely, has metaphorically evaporated from the scene. Dharkiwala’s practice then occupies and represents an advanced form of social activism via art, than has so far been seen.

Critically, Dharkiwala’s contribution to the development of art in Pakistan lies in his ‘travelogues’. In every deployable sense of exchange and evolution, his initial panoramic works, for their part (drawings, paintings, as well as installations), have been transformational to the extent that
there is a new type of cartography involved, inasmuch we may speak of investigation and
discovery of new territories. This lineage is clearly present in the eventual formation of blocks and grids onto which paints are applied – and these in fact possess the flattened perspective of purely abstract art. Indeed, if the term ‘abstract’ is taken from a number of valencies, and used in the sense of being a condensed description, then a significant number of the artists’ works segue into Bahktinian contemporary art. The reason we can speak this way lies in Bahktin’s
method of theorising the coalesced nature of certain types of literature – novels to be precise.

Here, the author orchestrates multiple voices, those of characters as well as historical epochs, of not just individuals but also societal groups.Just so, Dharkiwala, is not only a notable artist because of his methodology, but also because
he, along with a few others, serves as a bona fide interpreter of, on the one hand, and on the other, as the personified mediator between many worlds

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