Lahore Literary Festival in New York 2019: Lahore, Art, and Literary Icons



so welcome to the first session of the fourth llf in New York and as Rosie mentioned in his introductory remarks the first session rightly celebrates Lahore and explores the legacy the living legacy of a very rich artistic tradition a very rich you know poetry can cultural past of Lahore which is now still informs the national debates the national cultural movements etc so I'm not going to speak a lot because we have a lot to cover with very esteemed panelists before we start I will quickly introduce but Professor if the hard Adi he needs no introduction he's an associate professor at Cornell in the history of art and he is also the director of the South Asia Studies Center at Cornell University he's author of several books on muslim modernism and and if renowned art historian from pakistan Salima Hashmi also again needs no anybody knows her but let me introduce educator artist a mentor to many many present-day artists and and of course a cultural icon of hard times if I may add and halla damer who I'm really privileged to be next to him he has been my personal mentor as well but I we worked together in the Friday times but he's currently the contributing editor for the Newsweek Lahore which prints from the hall he is also a regular columnist at the Indian Express he's author of several books and of course a a a sort of very well recognized name on Pakistan's and current affairs and its history of extremism in recent years so we'll begin the session with Professor Daddy's presentation and maybe you can take the podium so many thanks to resi and all the organizers for for having llf here and for inviting me I want you to talk about the relation between art and literature over the course of the 20th century and one of the things to understand is that people you know when when modern art first emerges in in in Lahore it's not necessarily legible in other words it has to be made critically and intellectually legible through and and that happens through a kind of a relationship with with with literature so I'm going to look at three episodes one is sort of the early to mid 20th century and the second is mid 20th century and the third is a little bit later and a key sort of flare in in in my in in my presentation is what was the mayo school of art which then becomes the National College of Art so let's begin with this image which is actually a mobile Mughal miniature which which shows you know the title is the title is given later of course but it's called a thoughtful man which shows perhaps a poet reflecting you know in a garden and when we think about Abdullah a bunch of ties itching local artists from the 30s okay we see him and we see the mohel artists in a kind of a similar similar relationship you know in a reflective in a pensive state in an inner landscape however the Mughal artist this is in some ways this is a fanciful rendition of a mohel artist by Chuck by because the Morgan artists of the 17th century was was not disfigured okay so in some ways supply is innovative in two ways okay so one is that he is claiming a pensive reflective philosophical and critical position for the artist that actually was not the case for the mohan artists necessarily in the 17th century okay and the second way in which Chuck tie is innovative is that he is a product of print culture okay so he's a he's a very smart and innovative you know exploiter okay of the possibilities that are opened up through grouping culture so in some ways as much as joepie wants to be the mohan artist he's actually not the bakken artist right okay and one of the ways in which a pie begins to think about his career and his his trajectory is an artist is through his his relationship with what's happening in Calcutta Calcutta from the beginning of the 20th century is really a major site for for for a new way of painting which is the main wall school and we need to think about your thighs practice in relation to the Bengal school as well okay but also Calcutta is a major Centre for publishing the publishing work in this particular this particular sort of series of Illustrated plates okay was called Chatterjee's picture albums that were published in in in many editions and chucked I featured in almost all of them and he's the only artist from the whore who features in almost all of them right and in fact the art historian parameter says in Calcutta art came to hold center stage in cultural politics and notated art plates in magazines to paraphrase Clausewitz and conduct the war by other means in other words to propagate okay the Bengal school and the other way we can think about yokai is his growing connection with you know the the efflorescence of literary debates that are beginning to take place in in the hoard which so for example this is his cover design of of Muhammad Iqbal you know a collection Ezra from 1922 and his sort of magnum opus okay from from his sort of early career is the Barack types of tie which is was published in 1928 now this was this was published by cipta himself self published in 1928 in a number of and it it took heat it took him a lot of trouble to to make this he had to install a press in his own home right he had to import a press install the press import paper okay get the plates printed in Germany or in perhaps in in in in England and the maroc types of toy comes out in in 1928 and really in innocence he makes his mark really as a kind of an established artist with the publishing of the maracas of Ty okay and these are this is the frontispiece of the maraca chip type with the illumination also done by by by soft I and suggest some plates from the from the maraca so paintings by another later work you can see that maracas is Monica H of T is 1928 okay forty years later okay chopped I publishes a whole bunch of books during his the in you know during the you know the succeeding but a massive volume that is published in 1968 is a mallet subtype which is uh which is his illumination an illustration of it balls verse so very nice the maraca is based on her lips poetry the amulet of Thai is based on impulse poetry right and in some ways you can see that the it's a 40-year gap between the amel and the Baraka but he's hardly changed his his his style in his later career the other ways in which edge of Thai becomes so so so it bad remains Iqbal infallible important interlocutors for him but as well as living sort of other poets living artists living living critics and and people in you know the literary intelligentsia which is it which is around him in Lahore right so you can see his involvement in these by by the book book cover designs for you know for the poet's fairs know me brush it then tell me that is these are all designs by and also his participation in literary circles okay so he's these are more these are important you know a whole galaxy of important writers and chucked is on the upper right okay with the arrow with the white arrow okay and also what you have interestingly is also some of the same critics beginning to wrestle with the meaning of occupies paintings right so so these are some just some quotations from the various writings on on chopped I buy these literary writers and critics who actually don't have been clearly written on art before okay okay so this there's a way in which you can see it seen the writings that they are grappling with with how to think about two thighs art and art in particular and so there's you know their various I won't read all of them but the last one says that chef's thighs woman was not a familiar figure but a picturization of the classical rustle are the you know metaphors of the beloved of the classical rustle right a very important sort of hello traveler and mentor to Chopra is Mohammed Dean toss here and they published a journal called Caravan together in 1933 this is a very key this was a very important initiative unfortunately they only one or two volumes were published but it what was important for me about this journal is that it was it was centrally dealing with the problem of writing on art right and you can see the kind of you know writings that were published in the first the first the first volume of Caravan which includes debates you know writings by William Blake by you know and so writings on art from all eras and from all from both on from on Europe and on from India okay and the seal you notice he claims that you know you need to sort of you know provide writing and criticism it will do in on art and also need to you know in a sense analyze images so that people become trained to look at modern art right and and there's a number of so he says you know otherwise in it will be something like the Europe saga young man you know who just draws a cartoon of the of the of the of the imagery of of of poetry and claims that this is that this is a adequate phase also reflects on supplies verse which and he you know phases it has a reflection chopped eyes sort of sorry painting by by by by by suggesting that he is retrieving what is being rapidly being lost okay to memory how am i okay so 2pi himself it was a prolific writer and he in his writings he's appreciative of Western Renaissance masters as well as you know Persian painters etc but he's quite disparaging of modern art right so he's he's quite disparaging of Picasso and cubism and nevertheless you know this lament is quite remarkable he says if only we had our own experimental abstract art like the French even if it was wasn't anything other than the most modern and I want garde art that's not a good thing for him right at least it would have been ours okay okay now what happens well that's in the subsequent generation of artists from Lahore is that they actually reject chop ties position regarding his his position regarding of modern art and actually embraced modern art wholeheartedly one one important person just some images from mid-century of art schools and exhibitions another key person who whose who becomes a very important artist later in his career is Anwar Jalal shumsa during the 50s he he publishes several novels in Urdu and also the cover designs are also done by by Sansa and you can see he's a founding member of this group of modern artists called the heart circle which were active in the 50s and they they were several of them and this is a later work by shams and you can in this later you can still see the relationship between kind of textual 'ti and painting that it we know from where really his career begins that let's let's look at the Mayo School of Art picture again it's been renamed the National College of Art in 1958 circularly becomes principal in 1962 circularly doesn't circularly is also a person who remains deeply associated with the literary intelligentsia okay and so the noted critic Oscar II writes very well unshackle early actually the writings on shackle early by Oscar II are quite exemplary in terms of their his ability to analyze painting and just some words by bicycle early from the 50s and 60s you know jocularly in you know in conversation with fares in the later 60s and shiki delis own writings on art I'm not extensive but they are quite deep okay and so you can see his his thinking being also informed by existential philosophy as well as as a debates on modernism right so for example he says the artist has become lonely in today's time to the degree that one has been estranged from one's very self right and in so in in that sense shark eerily in would position himself against a chipped eye by suggesting that modern art is actually a an authentic way to represent the dilemmas of the self in in the in the modern age right and that's that's brought up very well in this quite humorous letter okay that he writes which is he it's a letter to the 15th century Persian legendary Persian and painter desert okay in which he says of your legacy of Asia as the center of civilization only ruins are left right the European artistic influences arrived with imperialism wiping out or cultural entities the Machine Age further strangulated its oriental spirit right some painters in the present have struggled to remain faithful to it due to their inability to modernize they become imitators okay and you can see this as a real critique of job type all right okay okay and and this is even more interesting he says Matisse whose recently died has gone to heaven and has joined you with bizarre so there is this meeting of assembly of you know great painters from you know across the world right who are in heaven and would have informed you of the of new artistic movements I can only imagine the free environment in heaven where you all enjoy Brotherhood and equality right and unity and some stubborn artists down here still living on earth and also involved in this project of unity and video players might well achieve success in deploying art in the service of human Brotherhood right so there's a way in which you know literature Mossad okay criticism is association with the literary sphere becomes a way for both the artist as well as the writers to in a sense create a sense of meaning and and critical reception for the rise of modern art in in a place like the horror otherwise it would not have been arguably intelligible in the way that it becomes you know through this through this trajectory thank you thank you Thank You Fatah that was really a kind of quintessential Lahore you know after 1947 and the intellectual and artistic journey explained through these three key figures choukai hamza and and Shakir Ali and I'll go to you Salima and who is the other icon that comes to your mind in this continuation of the Horus tradition but first I want to dispel the notion there's all been one big happy family because each of these people held on to certain very strong commitments visa vie how they looked at art in literature and then photo of them digitally I mean as you know I'm very ancient probably one of the most ancient Israel and I remember as a small child these bitter debates in which one artist is yelling at a writer and the artists are yelling between themselves and much something of tables with the help of certain libations but the thing is that you know I wonder if the age of the icon is dead because it becomes more and more difficult to hold up an icon either in literature or in art but I would say that the last great icon in in art files you know I think it was overlooked and I think the whole perhaps is one of the most undervalued in terms of the way people buy art it's not fashionable but in terms of his thinking the fact that she was deeply deeply involved with literature as well as his own work I think he embodies the best of many of these debates that were happening and certainly as far as his relationship with shot it was his mentor's that he did he was a universalist like shocking but also perhaps perhaps more than I'm I don't know a temporary message more than even sharted he was deeply aware of the legacies that were embodied in a painter an artist who dares to be creative in the 20th century and from our part of the world so therefore in all the ways that he thought in all the ways that he very quietly influenced some of the people who are now the great stars of Pakistani contemporary art without making a great song and dance about it because if you think of his output in terms of any writing or holding forth it's just not there the work talks but one has to take the time to decode it and to look at it in the context of what was going on around him so Chaka suddenly wrote much more shocking also did not get into huge fights and like shumsa but in our time the iPhone a not is Sahu and yet to be acknowledged so but certainly I mean but as I said is the age of the icon dead yeah I think it's been ironed out because of our peculiar political history and social history this when you look at people like took thigh and shock it I mean look at the diversity there and the fact that they loaded one another's was but they were in the same city when Chuck tie-dyed I mean I was in shock his room he just been to a condolence meeting at the YMCA and he came into his office and he said you know to tie up there when you heard me reading out a message of condolence must said but we say you have come back to you happy merry future this chap has followed me over here also but I think that the the desire for bakasana Society for regimentation in certain ways has stamped out the eccentricities and the diversities that are necessary before you can build someone up to be like because an icon of necessary it's not going to count down to anybody so maybe icons are no more that's wonderful so how's it sad but picking on what Salima said on the peculiar social and political histories that we witnessed after 1947 I would like to comment on that and also the icons that you knew and that you have been extensively writing about both in terms of never meant men and women of letters and artists as well if you look at Lahore today it's not very much like what it used to be when it was more creative and I think when Razzies started his festivals Lahore festivals an aspect of it was really a revivalist effort so that we can go back men or to rule the whore when we'll do produced masterpieces when great people lived there and there was a legacy Alessa going back into the British Raj which gave rise to pluralism although Lahore was dominated by Muslims 40% was Hindus and Sikhs but most of the property was owned by Hindus and Sikhs and and the Muslims were not really educating themselves but the fact is that things were changing as Pakistan was established and as she mentioned that be hardened there was some kind of a regimentation and I think that regimentation you you can see far back for instance I'll give you just one example and let me first say that it is all about order because all do was created and promoted by Lahore and was associated with Lahore and there was Hafiz Mehmood shirani in Lahore who was a great researcher that research is now vanished but he claimed that all do was born in Lahore not in Delhi the only problem was the only problem was the word order because that could only be said by whose backs the Mobile's who came here because they had borrowed it from the Mongols so the mum goals when they were let's say 300 years ruling over the Russians they were polished a lotta aorta so it was ordered when they fell upon Europe they called the Golden Horde so today when you say horde you actually think so it is contestable whether buddha was born and no daily or it was born in Lahore but Hafez my Moochie irani insisted that it was born here and then of course if you look at the the creative side of the literature you will find that most of the big people were here under British Raj and then something started happening immediately after 1947 and you can see it in Monto writing about the day after it's amazing that he he he wrote a sketch and he was heavily into sketches because he could you go into a newspapers office write it out in five minutes and collect his money and then go and drink but he said the man is walking the street right after 1947 but somehow he doesn't like it anymore he's more critical he is judgemental about how people walk how people dress the sign boards are all wrong so he was pointing out that you have changed after 1947 and of course the he didn't like the separation and he was a fantastic writer of of style and I think we haven't really got gone out of this love for his style because Matewan doubt will do it's a magical style it's more akin to how you speak in the past it was not like that there was a lot of metaphor and political ease and he got rid of that and my friend Harlan Hassan translated him and he's also a stylist and the sort of English that you find it very easy to read so the whore was remembered for or do for its odor writers odorous literature and writers but the fact is that it is no more that so we have a lot of nostalgia about Lahore and how people live there how the literary giants are will do live there and produce their work and of course we can go into why it is no longer so and I think next time I speak I'll go back to cinemas word regimentation but anyway I'll let go back to if the time and so do you think this the relationship that you are showed through thee as an art historian does it still continue does it manifest in contemporary times and if if so what are its manifestations yeah definitely we are in a different you know arena now right so in some ways you can see this I mean despite the fact that they fought you know in fact fighting about things is is means that it's important right so in a way it creates a discursive field of debate and contestation okay which moves things forward so we don't necessarily have the same regime of you know the relation between art and literature the way we had in early times and I agree completely with Adi mind and and but what we do have is I think in contemporary art has in some sense created its own terms of eligibility right and it doesn't need to rely so much on the word on the world anymore and maybe the whole is the in but you know having said that of course there are writers were increasingly becoming interested in in in art and means ARIMA published the last book she published had she invited for important you know fiction writers to reflect on for artists so so these things I think this debate is you know perhaps we are entering a new a new relationship a new set of a new a new a new conversation you know and I'm not sure of creativity has declined I think it has shifted in and I think if you look at contemporary art contemporary artists I would second the the galaxy of Contemporary Art is what the writers might have been in the 1950s right in some ways so I'm I won't be hesitant to say that repression automatically kills creativity I am not comfortable with those artists and writers are for want of a material I mean polite word would be resistant or resilient in polite way would be their bloody-minded and they just will go against whatever the order is and good for that too yeah so causes of my my last question and then we'll open it to do audience would be so you are you agree with this suppression and creativity relationship and and what faction and the Horan and suppose Park Senate largest undergone in the last 40 years you know with this increasing signs of radicalization or I think the British introduced pluralism into into Lahore the governor was presiding over this and Hindus Sikhs and Muslims were kind of more or less forced to mix and not target each other so push one Singh who lived in the whore and father has sent him to to pursue a very good lawyers career he said we are all okay we delete will mix with each other but somehow when I go to the bar room in the whore High Court Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims are seated separately they don't mix it in 1947 suddenly the elite of course was still okay but the the common man started killing each other and at that point push one Singh was taken in his car because push one said I I will never leave the whore I'd love the all and then of course man will gather his friend from the elite class put him in his car and you know took him across the border and that's how his life was saved yeah but it goes much earlier actually you know the conflict between English the imposition of English in India or the revival of the local language right and I will just point out to one instance which is I think very interesting is there was a Jewish person from Hungary named Lightner who had written or a huge book on the madrasas of Punjab and he got the job in Lahore to open government College Lahore and he first was in Anarkali and then he shipped to do the Mount where now Lahore College Government College Lahore is actually situated and he gave a motto – and I think he must have gone through some very tortuous of moments because he gave the motto of courage to know which of course fares revived by saying Jorah that the Hickock and all that and that that was also very secretly but the the fact is that he took the motto from enlightenment he was an Enlightenment scholar because if he found that was enlightenment which improved the lot of the Jews in Europe and enlightenment replaced religion and church and he took this from from Immanuel Kant the the German philosopher who had written a small essay on enlightenment but he headed it with a Latin phrase sapere Aude and it had he had taken it from Horus an Italian a poet now we have two volumes history of government ecology but nobody mentions where the motto came from hmmm I think that Lightner was scared that if he said ok now I am preaching enlightenment which supersedes religion the Muslims won't like it the proof of that is that he had employed a very learned person from daily maulvi muhammad hassan azad who is also given us a writing style which which simply can't be imitated a simple direct is not like the florid style of the past and he became he presided over a new subject called Liu memo Frieda the useful knowledge for the first time the Muslims were say asked to learn something useful but the fact is that for the first 30 years after the establishment of Government College Lahore it was an ideal at Dilek place for 30 years there was not a single Muslim graduate from there now the Hindus and the 6 latched on to it and and they will remember government college forever but then the second term is surrender Hayat came the Chief Minister and said I want a quota for Muslims in the government College Lahore that's how the Muslims got it right the fact is that despite the pluralism for instance Lightner hated Macaulay he said why English let us revive our own local languages and he wanted order to actually be the embodiment of that and he was a fantastic person but he never let on why the motto was courage to know and what it really meant so we have a we have few minutes left we'll take a two or three questions so keep them very short yeah first one yes please my name is Abby Hartman and I am a writer I'm fascinated by your mention of ratchet being regimented to desire to be regimented and how that can interfere with being created anybody challenging I feel that in my case personally speaking being regimented instance a certain amount of discipline in me which enables me to be productive and to meet deadlines even if they're my own deadlines so you know I just give you a small example about how fear has been instilled into a creative person mmm ideally whether it's the world or whether it's the image there should be a degree of freedom of expression but we know over the years that these have been slowly whittled away and there's a tremendous amount of self-censorship there has been as a teacher I address this when a student is for example doing a thesis and I look at something and I can see where it's headed and I want them to make an intelligent assessment about whether a certain law which is in in you know in evidence would be contravened if they continue the way that they are and that artists young artists in the making has to make that choice the regimentation that I am referred that I refer to is that many levels and some of that is to do with law also the laws that have come into place since the 1980s and how they have whittled away personal expression so I if that begins to outline what I was referring to but certainly artists have to make choices which may or may not be to the best of their give their talent there was a particular work that a student was doing and and I saw immediately that it could lead to it could lead to the idea that this was blasphemous even though it was entirely to do with literature maybe I can add a little to that and I think when oppression is under a despot people take to literature to to voice creatively voice their objection to it but when you have oppression under ideology then literature simply dies and that is what is happening to Pakistan after the death of intezaar ascend you can't name a novelist in pakistan hose of any value but let me tell you about this regimentation when Plato wrote is a republic he was copying the Spartan model and he banned poetry in that ideal Republic that he created he banned poetry it is I it is incomprehensible but it it happened in Pakistan especially in Lahore which became a very conservative city compared to Karachi of those days that there is absolute for instance when the Tsar was ruling Russia the best Russian literature was produced under that but that doesn't mean that the the regimentation was not allowed it was allowed but under that regimentation it was possible to write to do something creative but when you are under ideology you simply dry up and that is what is happening there is no longer much resistance yes then I think that and that applies to writers and journalists as well so the media keeps home self censoring I mean as well as an instinct now won't don't like writers and artists find other ways right you find a library they find metaphor they find you know kind of displaced that's fractious there are many ways to kind of think about your own of this year has been that the work has become much more advanced and say this for the fine arts yeah so well he's tremendously nuanced you have to decode it and read into it meanings that perhaps even beyond the artists so it makes the audience work harder and I think that is a tremendous thing ok one question from here we only have like this is the second loss and then I went to see machine miss after he came back from Australia and he had an exhibition this was soon after the Hawks period and he said I could not produce anything during this period and now we are free and I can now practice my heart so there is some relationship but I wanted to refer to the over intellectualization of art versus the visual dimensions of art because I remember my French I Sajjad god forbid if you are with him you got submerged with the meaning of every little thing and it bores you to death while you looked at the piece and it was a beautiful piece so so I have artists like Vikas or tal pool today who are drawing lines I don't know what they mean but they look damn good so so my question is the difference between how we are talking about art and how modern art has evolved secondly there are no icons in the best either so the this whole concept of having a big name hardly I mean even if you look at the art scene today where is the big name there are no big names the big names are those who are marketed well and sell well so they become sought-after objectives thank you it is an issue but I think the good thing today in Pakistan is every week you find at least three exhibitions that are of Merit and these are young artists who are who don't have an eye on the actually they're doing the work because they must and at least for me as a viewer and somebody who is interested in art education it is amazing that in current circumstances where it is very difficult to sell work the work keeps happening and every week there's something extremely interesting new fresh with searching for vocabulary inventing vocabulary and you know you and I because I have to because I'm a teacher and I have to be there would never hear of those people really but it's extremely reassuring that they're there and they're working and their work is being seen even though it's by a small audience because necessarily Pakistani art you know doesn't have a big picture except for as you say the stars last month I am in – Mardon – first about to power poor not exactly the great art center that you hear about but interesting work happening in all of these places so I agree completely I think there is no cause for despair okay I think that what is happening at least in the contemporary art RL is a very exciting you know and quite a multi-faceted development in various centers different you know different ways of making art in Karachi for example there is more practice that deals with archives and nothing that you don't find so much in Lahore right so in other words that's a good thing because that there's no one way to make art just that as just is the case that we have no one issue that we are dealing with we're dealing with a you know a whole multifaceted range of issues some are personal some are social some are political and so so you you you want to have a diverse ecology and range of practices and and different kinds of patronage structures that enable and enable them and also different kinds of structures of legibility and recognition and I think that's happening and it's important for people who are not so well versed in contemporary art – I would you know urge them to pay attention actually to what's going on in Lahore alone you will have something like over a hundred but have several hundred artists that are of interest I mean using a place Javad Monson Ya Allah my pals home I mean it used to be a dead place but you know two months ago an artist brought her work there and showed her work in in conversation with the belongings of burn injuries Monson and you should have seen the schoolchildren and so on they came to see take vodka with Monson but there was the work of a contemporary artist thrown in as well and such Dylan's work was really fine you know really fine it had some risks you know something her grandfather was a friend of a llama that's how she thought of having the show there but it's also because the galleries didn't have space for her so she went and found a new venue and they invited her in so they're these places that are being opened up spaces old factories whatever so we are just out of time so I would actually okay forward about where are the big names I would say where is the big imagination coming from in any discipline visual art literary music and other performative arts where they popping up in thinkers amongst journalists and how are they being subversive and deliciously subversive yes please yeah I think the artists and and people who are into cinematography they get away easy but if you go with the printed word I think that is more dangerous because everybody can read it the seminary's can read it and the great clerical leaders can read it and and they and they they can then attack you and it's very easy for them to attack with the help of people and I remember there was a time when people loved cricket and everybody was looking up him Ron Han as the rising icon and suddenly dr. Arum had emerged in the horror as the big leader of of the clergy and he was also in the in the in the Lahore Gardens where Imran used to play and he gave a sermon actually which endangered him Ron's life was that he said look at the deciduous lasciviousness of in bronze rubbing the ball on his groin and of course the time when the Sri Lankan cricket team was playing in Lahore and was attacked and nearly killed and we haven't had international cricket in Lahore since then since 2011 so if you are in the printed word there are people who will latch on to it for instance in Iran where ideology is supreme the cinema can get away with it but not the written word so I just want to say that I'm you know perhaps I'm alone in this panel but I'm not comfortable with the language of resistance okay because I think it can become too reactive I'm much more comfortable with thinking about you know cultural projects as projects of investigation and becoming okay you know set against various kinds of structures and possibilities and I really like to think of it that way rather than think about kind of resistance and reaction which is which can become perhaps to instrument and a relationship I hope that answers your question seriousness of cricket and look where it got a grin [Applause]

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