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Fertile yet Forceful

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Chawkandi Art exhibited the works of two maestros of painting: Mehr Afroz and Mussarat Mirza. Both single women, the artists have much ln common – they shy away from the Western ideologue of feminism, preferring to draw upon their cultural heritage and sensibilities. Yet, both speak volumes about the traditions that bind women to their heritage and both are stimulated by a Sufi tradition of mysticism and spirituality while dismissing the present-day norms of religiosity.

Mirzas dusky paintings look like they have been unearthed from mounds of sand after a fierce sandstorm, a common occurrence in Sukkur where she abides. But from the bowels of the earth have emerged what looks like an excavated city of adobe houses suggesting the continuing existence of many of the repressive traditions that these walls have witnessed.

Afrozs paintings are replete with imagery and symbolism, all of it forceful and vibrant because she is not one to mince her words, or rather, her strokes. The idea of the mantle or Turkish poshak without a wearer symbolises the many garbs that people put on runs throughout. She adds layers of meaning – a rain of nails, luscious fruits tempting the human and the child losing innocence before he has had a chance to grow up. The show is a superior example of how female artists can skilfully circumvent the obvious modes of addressing feminine concerns and take a more mature approach to addressing the issues of their gender.