Pakistani artist Nausheen Saeed has been making waves on the internet with her recent work which depicts women as luggage. The uninhibited artist equates creating art to making love.
Saeed's work raises many questions about the social situation in Pakistan and also where women are placed in the society. However, the artist chooses not to go beyond herself. She believes that situations are different for different people and she focuses on things which interest her. "Since I am a part of a society, and an epoch, it reflects me as my work reflects it, but all that take place in an indirect and unintentional place", Saeed claims.
Given that it's a man's world, it would have been difficult for a woman to depict something like this. Coming up with such disturbing sculptures, speaks a lot about the artist. She's raising eyebrows, she's questioning the norms, and she's showing outburst and a lot more through her work. She's provoking people to think beyond their regular lives. Her powerful presentation gives one jitters, but does she have to gather a lot of courage to create these? Probably yes, but more than that she believes she needs strength.
In an intense conversation, Nausheen Saeed says the unsaid, read on:
Your recent work depicting women as luggage looks very interesting, is it telling a tale?
The idea is developed on a different note but as it started taking shape it reminded or you can say encapsulated the echoes of what you grow up hearing about being a girl in our context and what it means to the society and people around you.
Pakistani women are always seen as suppressed, is it just a stereotype? If yes, are you breaking the norm then?
If you go deeper than the stereotypes, women have an inbuilt power to move, tackle, manage the situation as a human being. Whether she is sitting at the front desk or hiding behind the curtain, most of the time she is calling the shots or playing a huge part in doing that. But as a woman I must say that she is supposed to express or even lead a life beyond norms. Either she has to cling to her feminine role or just hide it or suppress it or you can say ignore it to give comfort to other counterparts.
What are the problems faced by women in Pakistan?
Men...as everywhere else!
The sculptures are extremely disturbing. Did you have to gather a lot of courage to come up with something like this?
What I do every artist does at one point or other in his/her life. Camus describes an artist as the person who swims against the current and for that you need courage. But more than that you need strength and I get my strength from within and from around me.
As an artist do you get the kind of freedom you deserve to paint your thoughts on the canvas?
As an artist you always have a freedom to choose what kind of artist you want to be...as well as the freedom of not to choose what you do not want to say, which in my opinion is the greater freedom and advantage.
Tell us how you are perceived in Pakistan as a woman artist and working on bold, sensitive topics?
(Laughs) As there are many interpretation of a work of art there are many facets of Pakistan. It is not a monolithic or homogenous society. So in some sections I am admired for my themes, in others I am praised for my formal aspects, but by and large art is an exclusive activity. The art world in Pakistan, like the world over, is aware of current and contemporary concerns, so my work is discussed in that light - not being bold, or exotic in a sense.
Have you been working on this theme for some time now?
I have always been interested in body as an expression or possession. Of being in possession of one's body or being possessed by it.....the emotions follow that, and in one way or the other, I have been engaged with this theme or motif since my graduation from National College of Arts in 1990.
What made you create something like this?
When I look at art, it is a creation by human beings, though animals fabricate things through their instincts. But art is a sole human activity hence my interest in art is basically my interest in human form which can be metaphor for multiple meanings.
Tell us something about art in Pakistan? Do you see similarities with India?
There are many stories to tell for us here in Pakistan, same as in India. Many young artists are doing great work across the borders. Artists are more conscious of their subject matter and its perception. They are aware of market needs and global interest in both countries which is great....but personally for me art making is like making love.....you can't do it with calculations or planning or for others and definitely can't do it by keeping a side of you alert to watchful eyes.....
Your other works also portray fragmented women personas. Mark of activism?
Not in a strict sense, because I believe that art itself is an activity, more importantly, lasting and wider in effect than activism. Let other people do the activism, which I respect, but I make art.