Terracotta Hearts & a Plastic Eden: Lahore’s First-ever Biennale

Part ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ and part a deluge of contemporary artwork, Lahore’s first-ever Biennale was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. After reading and viewing on social media about the Karachi Biennale, I was quite curious to see what this mix of artists had to offer in Lahore and let me tell you – they did not disappoint!

 

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Library at Bagh-e-Jinnah

 

A friend and I were only able to make it on the very last day, so we covered the installations at Bagh-e-Jinnah ( also known as Lawrence Gardens) and the former Lahore Lit Fest stronghold, Al -Hamra Cultural Complex – both conveniently located on The Mall.

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Lover's Temple Ruins

 

Let it be noted, I risked my life to see Ali Kazim’s Lover’s Temple Ruins public art installation. How’s that for commitment to ‘The Arts”?!  It was upon seeing Kazim’s unusual take on ‘Lover’s Garden’ on Instagram that it was decided to make Lawrence Gardens the first stop.  The risking my life part? It’s coming. A very helpful Lahore Biennale volunteer pointed in the general direction of a tree-covered hill and said that more artwork lies up there. Padding along in my comfy slippers with a thick sole, it was a surprise to find a steep trail comprising of random slate slabs, crumbling red dirt and a few roots branching along the path. With much trepidation, but with an even stronger resolve and a patient fellow-hiker,  we made our way up the hill and eventually to Kazim’s artwork.  On a serious note, future Lahore Biennale events should be curated with accessibility in mind. It does not make sense that any patron of the arts miss out on experiencing an exhibit just because wheelchair ramps, side railings or proper steps are unavailable.  What kind of public art installation is exclusionary?

It strikes you – as if one has been suddenly transported to a remote excavation site. Signs of an older civilization all but gone for some stubborn terracotta hearts. It felt as if one is a giant peering down on a collapsing foundation- moments before all is lost to the ravages of time.

 

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Warda Shabbir’s work at the Lahore Biennale

 

 

A riot of colors enclosed in a life-size version of child’s diorama, Warda Shabbir’s installation instantly engages the viewer and transports them to her version of the Garden of Eden.  Aside from being quite ‘Instagrammable’, Shabbir’s skill at turning ordinary plastic plants and flowers into a breathtaking 3-D mural is noteworthy.

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A close-up of Warda Shabbir’s work at the Lahore Biennale

 

Noor Ali Chagani’s artwork depicts the impact of societal expectations on Pakistani men. I felt that Chagani’s ‘brick wall’ speaks of the hope that perhaps one day more men will feel comfortable sharing their softer sides.

 

I adored, ADORED, Salman Toor’s ARE YOU HERE? installation at the Al-Hamra Arts Center.

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Shezad Dawood’s Neutral Density

 

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Asma Jehangir’s Legacy: Speak in Turn, Rise in Unison!

It has been a trying few days after the loss of true feminist icon and fearless advocate for the unprotected, Asma Jehangir. I tried to capture my thoughts and feelings in poetic form. 

Asma Jehangir’s Legacy: Speak in Turn, Rise in Unison!

Shoulder to Shoulder,

hand in hand,

a name, a presence, a force

that continues to rankles men’s egos and upset their comfortable self-delusions

This time around, Time will not heal,

We will leave this gash exposed and untreated

like the state of women, the minorities, the children, the unprotected

across the land

to twirl one’s mustache and think “ab tho yeh bala tali’

there could be no bigger mistake,

jahaan aik thee, ab hain aik hazaar,

sirf aik hazaar awaazein nahi, par goonjey thi we azaan hai yeh

bohot ho gaya intezar, auratein, miskeen, bachoon ka – Insaaf ke liye!

Asma Jehangir, courage and integrity personified, leaves up to Us

To Carry On,

To Be Strong,

To Be Fair.

 

– Mariam Shoaib

 

Women-Only: Out with the Bucket-list, In with the Action Plan

For those unfamiliar with the term, a bucket-list is essentially a list of experiences one wants to gain before ‘kicking the bucket’ or ‘meeting their Maker’. Hollywood is partially responsible for making ‘The Bucket-List” concept widely popular. It has been romanticized endlessly as the ultimate gift one character can give another; they are to help the other main character cross off all of the items, travel to remote destinations and partake in kooky adventures- all this mentioned on the bucket-list before they die.

Ever seen Mandy Moore’s ‘A Walk to Remember’ ?  One of Jamie’s wishes is to be in two places at the same time, so Landon makes it happen:

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It is easy to see the allure in choosing this concept for moviemakers as it makes for a straightforward plot line.  But here, on this blog, we are sticking to the real world.

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I say down with the bucket-list! Enough with adding bullet-points upon bullet-points to soothe the frustrated soul and the impatient mind  into believing that you will, indeed, take a big juicy bite out of Life- Someday.

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As a South Asian woman, especially as a Pakistani woman in today’s world, the lingering narrative is to ‘wait’ – wait until you are married to travel, wait for approval from a large, faceless ominous presence called “log” (a Desi-Urdu term for community) before choosing your major for graduate school, wait until the kids are older before going back to work (or to begin working in the first place!), wait for a better time for your partner before trying out a side hustle – just keep waiting.

If you are reading this, you are practically enrolled in the Catalyst Woman movement. I will let you in on a little secret-  us Catalyst Women, we do not wait for change to happen – we are the ones who make it happen!

Ease off the brakes and gently push down upon the accelerator when it comes to living your best life in 2018.  Replace the winding scroll of travel destinations, quirky hobbies and languages to learn with a point-by-point Action Plan.  Rather than dampen your dreams (and your spirit) by banishing them to a distant, undefined point in the future, try feeding the same list into a task management tool like Asana and start figuring out the logistics for attaining “Experience #1”.

 

Be realistic about what resources you have at hand – so that means taking a long, hard look at whether you have the basic requirements sorted – the savings, the passport,the right credentials- before embarking on “Experience #1”. Worst case scenario? You’ll find out  exactly what needs to be done before you can scale Mt. Kilimanjaro or enroll in vegan cooking classes.  Add that to your ‘to-do’ list and get cracking!

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If your dreams are founded upon undeniable aspirations, they deserve a chance to be actualized. No one will give you express permission to do so – not your boss, not your partner, not your pets- so you will need to be practical, focused and find motivation from within yourself about it all.

What is more logical and practical than an action plan?!

Book Review: An American Family by Khizr Khan

‘An American Family’ is literally one of the few Advanced Reader Copies or ARCs that I finished reading within days of receiving it via NetGalley.

I was curious to read the story of Khizr Khan. He is the Pakistani-American man who stood proudly at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 to take Donald Trump to task for his criticism of John McCain and Muslims during the U.S. Presidential Campaign.

Not only does Khizr describe his own struggle to achieve ‘the American Dream’, from sleeping on park benches to working multiple jobs, he also manages to become a voice of the 2nd or 3rd wave of original Pakistani men who had to leave the newly-minted nation to find work and stability in the Arabian Gulf countries and beyond. This entire generation or two, both men and women born in the early 1950’s to late 1960’s, all chased a better standard of life for their families and themselves, often by being exploited as skilled and unskilled labor in the Middle Eastern nations like the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia.

I highly recommend this book for millennial Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans to read to understand life from the perspective of our parents, aunts, uncles and mentors.

 “I wasn’t leaving so much as I was going forward”

“The billionaire’s playground that Dubai would become was light years away, but it was obvious even then that the emirate was making a frantic leap forward.”

Read my book review on Goodreads.

 

City Blog: Joie de Vivre & Lahore Eat

It was supposed to a quick stop. In and out. A check-in. Basically a #keepingupwiththeKhans in lieu of the Joneses. Plus, we didn’t have any other plans this Saturday night.  We trooped into Lahore Eat with minimal expectations and maxing out on  comfy shoes. To our collective surprise, the open-air stadium ground was well-kept, there was a large variety of activities to take part in, from attending a concert to taking part in a renegade rickshaw ride.

W16be412f784aaf1dd9792ef8b7f8bd6d.jpgithout meaning to, our inhibitions started melting away. Something pulled us in… reeled us in. Reminded us of what can not be terrorized out of us. It was our distinctly Pakistani flair for Life –> ZEEST *.

*Zeest is a word from the Urdu language that literally means viability and life. 

We live life to the fullest – it’s a gift. We cherish it in every which way: by wearing the brightest colors, laughing a little too loud, singing off-key in public spaces and spending time with those we love the most. Those couple of hours at Lahore Eat became a testament to our collective joie de vivre. 

 

Takeaways from VConnecting Sesh at OLC Innovate 2017

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I recently took part in a session at the OLC Innovate 2017:Education Reimagined Conference.  The virtual participation format was impressive and glitch-free.

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Questions were raised by the global participants and were answered by on-site participants Michael Berman, Lora Taub-Pervizpour, and Patrice Prusko. This particular session was masterfully co-moderated by Wendy Taleo, our Virtual Buddy, in Australia and by Michael Berman, our on-site buddy in NOLA.

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Snippets from the session itself which referenced the Solution Design Summit (SDS) event at OLC Innovate :

  • How are students experiencing courses that we are designing?
  • Food truck imagery was used metaphorically by students to describe just-in-time training/learning experiences during the SDS.
  • There was only one team from community colleges; looking forward to further collaborations in future projects/discussions.
  • There is a need for increased participation from community colleges at future summits and projects.
  • What challenges do community college-going students face that may limit/hamper/alter their ability to participate in off-campus summits and conferences?
  • The next OLC Innovate Conference should include a fully virtual team.
  • There should be a set program for virtual participants.

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There was much more that was discussed, as it was a remarkably lively conversation, but for that to be shared I would have to decipher my scribbled notes. 😀
Being able to participate in conversations that matter, conversations that have the potential to solve key challenges in Education  while being half-way across the world was a liberating experience.  This virtual session gave us all the opportunity to break out our respective silos and engage in meaningful dialogue about the Future of Education.  A big shout-out to everyone in the session:  Lora, Patrice, Wendy T, Michael, Wendy F, Apostolos, Yin-Wah and Mark ! 

Raising Awareness for CP in Pakistan

Just completed a 7- card beginner’s Awareness deck for .  Nothing too fancy, but the facts are important. Gearing up for . Share friends! 🙂

If you are interested in volunteering, join our Facebook Group here and like the page here. Visit Step Up Pakistan’s website to find out more about why we are trying to put Pakistan on the map this October 5th.

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Taking a page from Edhi’s Book

A few years back I set upon reading Abdul Sattar Edhi’s autobiography, A Mirror to the Blind*, with my highlighter and black pen in hand.  As a Pakistani who has witnessed the extent of Edhi’s humanitarian efforts in action, from fast-responding ambulances to the ever-present cradles at the donation centres, I thought there was little about him that hadn’t become folklore.

13590326_1010126859037163_8249178195416169058_nI was mistaken.

To learn about Edhi, in his own words, is to learn about Pakistan and Karachi with new eyes. His sleeping on the bench outside the very first Edhi Centre, a simple room in Mithadar to his tireless devotion to his mother ; at times such immense acts of humility were casually remarked upon by Edhi that it made me feel ashamed.  Ashamed that the rigmarole of everyday life has taken me so far away from the basic tenets of my religion, that which is based upon community service and peace, that I only take part fully every year in Ramadan. It is during Ramadan that I sense at least some degree of satisfaction, ‘yes, I have given my all to my community’, yet even that is illusory and I know it.  True service is constant, sustainable and hidden.

One of my favorite quotes shares Edhi’s mother’s advice about giving charity explains the hidden concept best:

 “In the holy month of Ramadan she collected other Memon ladies and made bundles of foodstuff, which she sent me to drop through the windows of poor people or needy relatives. All the while her soft whispery voice echoed behind me, “It is charity only when your left- hand does not know what the right has given. When the respect of the receiver is foremost.” 

When news came of Edhi Sahib’s passing, it was a shock. Not only because it seemed that his guidance will always be there but also because in some ways his service had made him larger than life. In life, Edhi had become a legend.  In death, Edhi has become a template for  human development and selfless social work. 

It feels as if we have been given an opportunity, as Pakistanis, to give back to our communities without the shackles of prejudice and intolerance.  The next time a living being is in need, ask yourself, What would Edhi do? and set forth without a moment’s hesitation. I will do the same.

*(This book is meant to read and re-read.  I can not do justice to it with a hurried review. If you haven’t put it on your ‘to-be-read’ pile, do so now.)

 

More than Desks: Co-Working Spaces in Lahore

Co-Working  Spaces need to be More than DesksSCC00WCQ3I

Listen to the Podcast on Soundcloud  or iTunes.  

Don’t forget to rate the podcast on iTunes! 

I pick up where I left off on the topic of Co-working Spaces in Lahore. I talk about one of new spaces I visited upon invitation in April, Forrun Office, as well as what is still missing in these spaces.

Read the original post  on the blog or on Medium.

Check out Forrun Office’s website here: forrunoffice.com/ .

 

 

IMHO:Every Day is Women’s Day

According to social media today is International Women’s Day 2016.

Every day is Women’s Day. **

Every day will remain Women’s Day until being a woman and being a professional is no longer exceptional, rather it’s the rule.

Every day will remain Women’s Day until being a mother and working full-time will be a choice made out of free will rather than financial constraints.

Every day will remain Women’s Day until we run out of ‘First’s to attach to a female executive, legislator, politician, academic, prize-winner, artist, and so on.

Everyday will remain Women’s Day until writing ‘homemaker’ in the box marked occupation is a recognized as a form of skilled labor, with pay and all the other privileges of traditional 9-5 jobs.

Every day will remain Women’s Day until the invisible burden of Emotional Labour is evenly distributed amongst all relationships, women AND men.

**Send in your ideas – complete the phrase ‘ Every day will remain Women’s Day until…’  and tweet @catalystwoman or email talktocatalystwoman at gmail dot com.