Terror affects “Fine Arts” in KP

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: Photo By News Lens Pakistan /
Photo by News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai

Peshawar: If the purpose of art is to wash the dust of daily life off our souls, as Picasso suggested, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may be accumulating layers of grime.

Fine arts in the province and its capital Peshawar has registered a sharp decline in the wake of unrest and conflict that has haunted Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for years now, say experts, sending art and artists into hibernation, even exile, to escape the threat due to terrorism and militancy.

Taliban militants in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the bordering tribal areas have caused artists to abandon their homes and professions. Many an artist have left performing, growing beards under force. Others have fled the area altogether due to threats, leaving for abroad. In January 2009, singer and dancer Shabana was killed in, followed by Peshawar-based Ayman Udas who was murdered the same year. Singers Gulzar Alam and Gulrez Tabassum have abandoned singing and performing in the face of threats from militants.

Ever since terrorism has visited Pakistan, KP has been at the crosshair of terror-related activities due to its proximity to Fata and Afghanistan. The unrest has affected every sector including education, and Fine arts.

Muhammad Ijaz was an artist, but the growing presence of extremists elements in his district Buner KP forced him to leave his city and switch profession to become a businessman. He had begun to receive accolades for his paintings when studying in college. Ijaz remembers how his work was appreciated in UAE when he went there for the exhibition. “I got amazing feedback on my work from the people in Dubai and sold some of my artistic portraits.”

Ijaz told News Lens Pakistan that because of the prevalent situation and dwindling interest of the people in fine arts couple with little or no patronage from the government to the artists in the form of job opportunities or stipends, the future for people like him is already finished.

A research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania has revealed that societies tend to be more socially cohesive, civilized and creative when art in all its form and manifestation is allowed to flourish.

Muhammad Sher Ali Khan, who teaches at the department of Fine Arts in the University of Peshawar, while sharing his impressions about fine art with News Lens Pakistan says that fine arts relates to the aesthetic of a person and cannot be categorized as a commercial venture. Terrorism has made people rigid causing them to become indifferent to arts.

“How will someone buy a piece of art worth thousands of rupees when there is unrest all around and businesses are affected,” Khan laments.

When Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal-led government ruled KP back in 2002 they closed Abaseen Arts Council which was the only platform avaiable to promote fine arts in KP. Though now the council has been opened, but it has not gained its previous status.

The government had planned a project back in 2000 to hire artists in the government departments with the task to design different pieces of art and write reports. Like every good thing, this too had been abandoned by the government.

Every year 10-15 students graduate from the Fine Arts department of Peshawar University, 50 percent of them remain jobless. “The only place for the graduates in Peshawar is the “Jhangi Mahalla” press market where they work to earn money for themselves by designing posters and cards,” says Sher Ali

Naseeruddin Mohmand a prominent artist says that foreigners used to buy our paintings. Ever since they have stopped visiting this country we have received a severe blow to our profession.

He said that government needed to make the Abaseen Arts council functional and use fine arts for the promotion of peace and harmony in KP.

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