Sunday, February 27, 2011

In Their Eyes I see My Soiled Soul....Iqbal Hussain's Women In Paintings.Contemporary Painters Of Pakistan

In Their Eyes I see My Soiled Soul.  By  Meher Zaidi.
Iqbal Hussain with his Women In Painting.

Iqbal Hussain’s new exhibition of paintings and book launch at the Unicorn Art Gallery , Karachi was an intensely introspective and soul searching experience. The paintings of the women of the Red Light Area of Lahore were digging deep into the hearts of the viewer, as if  lancinating with their sad eyes to look into our conscience. Asking questions, probing to find answers. Answers of centuries, millinea of injustices to the human body, the woman in our species. As the march towards egalitarian, free society in the modern world continues this question remains. The ugly, unanswered question of human bondage, for sexual pleasure, for money. Modern day prostitution has taken many forms. This can be as raw and well defined as call girls and young boys who are called male and female prostitutes and sell their bodies for money as a profession or as vague and hidden as television anchor , dressed up respectably as a worker doing a decent political talk show. Both ways they are being exploited, especially the females by people who are ruthless, characterless, without morals and only pretending to be the label of the religion Islam.

Through the plump yet unattractive bodies of the Lahore Ladies of pleasure, Iqbal defines the flesh as a piece of meat, only to give temporary pleasure while it is savored. The dignity and beauty of the human body is screamingly absent. This is a stark truth that further lancinates our senses, our souls. Look what we have made our women , O society. Only pieces of meat to be savored and gluttoned away.

The life cycle in his paintings of a girl that is “Widai-ed” to the brothel as a girl gets to her “Susral” depicts the intense agony and in-human ignorance of the human society towards the girl in the center of the societal stage. A woman, who is described as the mother beneath whose feet is the door to heaven by God. This agony of separation from the parents and the start of an unknown, un- natural and often cruel life every girl who is married also has to undergo. Looked as a commodity with beautiful lips, body and hair the girl that is being wedded is no different from the prostitute girl in Iqbal’s paintings.

The irony stands big, fat and cold, cruel and stark for us to see. But then how many amongst us even understand the cruelty of fate, judgment, our own small selves. How many of us even understand what we are doing individually or as a society to our women by not giving them equal status as laborers, workers, mothers, teachers, doctors, anchors, airhostesses and professionals. 

How many of us even understand that by not giving equal rights of women in labor and agriculture we are not just increasing the poverty rate, the economic deprivation, the inequality in right to health, education and freedom  but also opposing God’s system of peaceful egalitarianism that is so vehemently emphasized in all His scriptures.

Meherzaidi with Iqbal Hussain's self portrait.

For those who are only following the narrow path and not the middle path in all their deeds as  ordered by Him, these eyes of the women in his paintings ask the eternal question. How have you looked at your soul? How have you searched for the truth that is God in your heart? 

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