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Discovering an Artistic Pakistan

By Najah Rizvi

The world, in its current state, is a wonderful place to be a creative. Growing up in the Middle East and then studying in London exposed me to ideologies and beliefs beyond what I had ever seen before. My experience, as a Pakistani diaspora artist, is not one I want to generalise, but I have discovered an ongoing conflict between our multitude of identities. I believe that far too many of us spend far too long apologising for our Pakistani heritage, and then apologising for not being Pakistani enough. The former seems to be the dominant strategy for fitting in when you are a diaspora kid - and that is not necessarily the right path to choose.

I have always wished that someone other than my parents had encouraged me to read in Urdu and explore contemporary art from Pakistan. My view of this is not influenced by my ‘love’ for Pakistan, that is something I leave out of my art. Pakistan is home to a wealth of creativity. The culture I only ever got to see on Eid holidays, where I spent more time meeting family members than engaging with art. There’s nothing wrong with socialising with your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents - but the way we are discouraged to take Pakistan seriously is a very concerning issue. How often do we take the time to look around us and wholly acknowledge the details within the essences of our culture? We are asked to constantly review ourselves from the perspective of other cultures, as if they were the first to write about who we are. I blame mainstream media, Eurocentrism and the effects colonialism had on us for this, but there is so much we can do about it.

There is so much we must do about it. We need to go beyond Eurocentric education systems and navigate ourselves through our heritage. Stop relying on teachers, parents and those immediately surrounding us. Use the internet, social media and diverse sources. We have to dig deeper to become aware of how it is not just about choosing to embrace the Pakistani identity or not. It is inevitable that we will be impacted by this label and we cannot escape the implications of that.

Fortunately for us, there seems to be an infinite number of past, present and future artists, writers, musicians, poets, singers, actors and more we can access and learn from. It’s overwhelming to consider it all at once, but I would urge young Pakistani’s to connect with and take in the creative works their identity has inherited. Land of the Pure is one such initiative, that aims to help the youth within and beyond Pakistan, explore our country. Who else is going to take from these culturally loaded pockets of creative energy? Adding this variety to their influences will make them stand out, but also help them develop in an original way which can deeply resonate with them. On a global level, it will not only diversify the voices of creative thinkers but offer alternative modes of thinking, moving and communicating.

Let’s take a break from mainstream media, and reinvestigate what we really are, stripped of biases, prejudices and projected understandings. Our country, its culture, its art is powerful, and deserves to be explored. Let's play our part in bringing it to the spotlight.

Edited by Myra Ahmed


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