Art Stands Still

Orienting state policy in favour of the corporate oligarchy is the basis of the corporate-Hindutva alliance.

By S.G. Jilanee | December 2019

Pakistan’s socio-political strings have tied down the practice of art in the country. There was a time when abstract art was considered to be “un-Islamic.” Raging from drastic Islamisation upheavals from Zia-ul-Haq’s restricted vision all the way to the censorship of even the slightest narrative of political art or nudes, the Pakistani art scene today has made little progress.

The system in Pakistan just fails to protect freedom of expression and art. Recently, LEA personnel pulled the reins of state censorship when they made KBT shut down Adeela Suleman’s installation ‘Killing Fields of Karachi’ on the 444 extra-judicial killings by Rao Anwer, the former police SSP.

Art is at a standstill when it doesn’t raise questions, challenges and provokes. Even today if a slightest whiff of sexualized art is sensed, action is taken to dismantle or to confiscate it immediately. Artists have to censor their own work or hide it by sticking two canvases together when travelling with it. It is an illusion of progress, because it’s easy to be revolutionary within the walls of a privately owned gallery, where the only viewers of your work are like-minded people from a very small circle.

What started as a nation with only two art institutes, the Mayo School of Art and the Department of Fine Arts at the Punjab University, now has several private art galleries and institutions like the Indus Valley of Art and Architecture, BNU, CEAD and others lend a touch of sophistication to art teaching. The art scene is further invigorated by art shows and biennales which provide a platform for artists.

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The writer is a free-lance journalist. She covers a range of subjects including art, culture, entertainment, travel and women’s rights. She can be reached at

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