Artists remember Peshawar tragedy

— Photos by Ishaque Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: The images and installations on display at an exhibition took visitors back to December 16 last year and into the classrooms of Army Public School in Peshawar where schoolchildren were mercilessly killed.

These images and installations are the works of over 80 artists who responded to a call from Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and its Shakir Ali Museum which sought description of their feelings on the incident through their art.

Almost 100 impressions have been put on display in this exhibition that revived memories of the terrorist attack that claimed the lives of over 130 children.

Arranged in collaboration with the Artists Association of Pakistan, the exhibition titled, ‘Massacre of Innocents’ is also a message from the artist community that they stood with the nation and supported the government in its fight against terrorism.

“The paintings depict the artists’ feelings just like words describe the pain of the poets and writers on the tragic incident,” said Amna Pataudi, who has brought the show to the National Art Gallery and curated it with art critic Quddus Mirza.

Visitors can see bloody footprints, broken chairs and school bags on a white floor. This display titled ‘Whispering Props’ instantly triggers the mind to recall the horrifying images one saw of the classrooms on TV. Eyes are then drawn to this large mural painted by over a dozen members of the Lahore College for Women University that captures the destruction. Each piece is moving and full of sorrow. In his installation, Salman Khan has put on display a torn and blood-stained green jacket of a school and his boot that he brought from Peshawar.

Some of the painters have been known for their social and political commitment through art. Artists who responded to the cause were present at the show when it opened to public. Among them were Mian Ijazul Hassan, Dr Rahat Naveed Masood, Amna Pataudi, Mubina Zuberi, Mughees Riaz, Nayyar Ali Dada and Sardar Asif Ahmed.

“It’s interesting to see how artists have responded to an easy and difficult subject. It’s easy to talk about it but difficult to say it in a way that is not cliché and that is why this exhibition is unusual, effective and amazing,” art critic Quddus Mirza said.

He also believed that the artists were no longer afraid to say out loud and condemn those who committed acts of terror and wanted to impose their versions of faith onto others.

PNCA Director-General Mohamamd Naeem said: “The incident in Peshawar last year has left a terrible scar on the country’s memory. The show portrays how artists who have been pained by the loss of innocent lives have also risen in unison.”

An intellectual discourse preceded the opening of the show where artists got together to express solidarity with the nation. The show will run till May 31.

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