A picture of a Pakistani artist posing as Mona Lisa, with a lit cigarette and a Coca-Cola bottle in her hand, is among 70 photographs on display at Max Mueller Bhavan from Saturday, seeking to present the troubled nation in a new light.
Titled Surge, the exhibition will feature works by 14 photographers from Pakistan, Iran, India, Singapore, the UK and France. It has been organised by photography magazine PIX Quarterly, in association with Goethe Institut and the British Council.
On display will be aerial photographs of Quetta, by Asef Ali Mohammad; and a re-imagining of the troubled Swat valley as a kind of paradise, by Singaporean photographer Edwin Koo.
“The theme of Surge was arrived at after brainstorming with artists such as photographers Arif Mahmood and Insiya Syed and writer Salima Hashmi,” said Rahaab Allana, editor of PIX and curator of the exhibition. “It aims to explore the burgeoning photography scene in Pakistan and how the nation is re-imagining its identity and redefining itself in relation to the world. There is a greater cultural history to Pakistan that should not be subsumed by politics.”
“The presentation of contemporary Pakistan in media and the arts is stained with stories of extremes: violence inequality of gender or status,” said Amber Hammad, the artist behind the Mona Lisa photograph, who describes herself as a mother of two exploring issues of gender, class and globalisation. “I like to investigate how relationships to identity are culturally conditioned and subject to the changes brought on by globalisation… I try to explore ideas of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’.”