This body of work is from 2019 till 2020. After I was diagnosed with Parkinson's in October 2018, for me 2019 started with my healing process. The first 3 months of 2019 were spent mostly on my sun drenched terrace and the rooftop in Islamabad. Mostly painting and in the process also healing myself. Besides art therapy, a number of things worked like medicine for me, my prayer in Arabic, Tai chi, Yoga, bird watching, music of Leo Rojas or just contemplating. Even my healing is multi cultural.
When I informed the neurologist in Munich that instead of taking medicines for Parkinson’s right now I will wait for another year, she told me that whatever I decide the end will be the same. Well I thought to myself we all have the same end don’t we? No one lives forever, but we all choose our own paths. Is it the length of life or the quality that is important? Why do we want to live long, what is the use of living till 90's when all our loved ones are dead? At least, I don’t want that kind of life. But as long as I live I will make sure I am not a burden on my loved ones.
Now that I have been told how my end is going to be, I have started looking at life differently. I don’t know how many good years I have left, but everyday of walking, talking and smiling is a blessing. I don't know how long I will be blessed with these simple things that other people take for granted, but for me right now, I cherish every moment of having these abilities. I have started enjoying the present like I have never done before.
Watching the birds from my rooftop gave me so much joy. Although mostly myna birds, crows, kites and pigeons, which are an indication of a degrading environment, still they were heart warming. From a distance one could see rows of migratory birds flying over Margallah Hills. These birds reminded me of a post I read of a young woman mentioning her 'wings and roots'. They made me realise that compared to many women, I was blessed with a beautiful life. I am brown, Muslim and Pakistani, but I was born with wings. From my parents to my husband, siblings and sons, no one clipped my wings and those who did try, I am thankful to them because, it made me realise how important wings are.
Although I was born with wings but for most of my life I have been shy and under confident, but I can be anything in my paintings. During these 3 months that I mostly spent on my rooftop, I had to block out the ugly sounds of war drums, disgusting jingoism and sabre rattling, the noise of ugly misogynist men and complicit women drowning the beautiful voices of confident and determined young women marching for their freedom. The result were these paintings. My wings were broken, I had to heal myself, and I did that with painting, music and poems.
It is amazing that when my wings are broken, it is in the land of my roots where I find, love, strength, warmth and healing. I have a very small circle of family and friends but they are love, they are my support and strength. I was born with very strong and sturdy roots with the land I was born in. My roots, are not merely a few centuries old but thousands of years old. Gandhara or Buddhist art was my inspiration for my work ' Buddha still lives in Pakistan'. For my latest work my inspiration is the art from the Indus Valley civilisation.
For me the most endearing legacy is the art that I have inherited from this civilisation of my roots. More than the figurines of mother goddesses and the serene and kind looking King Priest, it is the small figurine of a young girl called the 'dancing girl' that fascinates me the most. Almost 5000 years ago a sculptor from my part of the world captured the confidence and spunkiness of a young girl. It is a unique sculpture that captivated the archaeologist who discovered it. This confidence, determination and spunkiness of women has been shattered, destroyed and stoned in many ways in many lands and in many cultures ever since, but it doesn’t seem to be the case in the Indus Valley Civilisation.
There are not many kind and serene King priests left anymore, only the vicious and violent one. The ultra right-wing, war mongering, bigoted and nationalist ones are rising. Complicit boot licking women have helped them rise. With all these thoughts on my sun kissed rooftop I painted with every word of my mentor, friend and inspiration the respected feminist poet of Pakistan, Kishwar Naheed's 'Hum Gunahagar Aurtein' and the world renowned Maya Angelou's ' Still I rise’.
As my body has started a war against me, destroying happiness cells in my brain, dot by dot I replaced them. When I start with a single dot I am lost and I don’t want to stop. It is such a calming and therapeutic process. My first symptom was a tremor in my right hand. I went into a deep depression when some people told me to stop painting it will stop the tremor. Thank god for my neurologist in Islamabad who advised me that I should do intricate work with my hands. Oh well I have been doing it ever since I can remember, except for the big chunk of my time that I spent as an activist, but now it seems it will be my medicine. Activists not only have to deal with personal stress but injustices done to others kill them too. I just could not forget the injustice done to this young man, Mashal. I found out that I was after all not very strong, my heart is very weak and mourning for people I don’t even know, will kill me. I accepted my shortcomings, my failure as an activist. If we can not say the truth, then silence is better. Anyway all human beings believe in their own versions of truth. My truth is a lie for someone else. It is not my place to enlighten them.
Whenever I am drawing or painting I listen to a certain song or music on a loop. I was listening to ' Yeh haath salamat' repeatedly. For decades poetry by our revered poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, has been used by both 'real' and 'fake' revolutionaries alike. For me it is just a part of my music therapy. With the diagnosis I have, I don't know how long I will be able to use my hands like I am used to. As the poem says ' as long as these hands are intact' I will draw and paint, make up for all the time I spent behind a placard. While I was standing like a monkey with a placard others stole my work, my ideas.
This set of paintings is also a tribute to strong women like Kishwar Naheed and Maya Angelou. The quintessential women with wings, an embodiment of sassiness and strength of the 'dancing girl' from Indus valley civilisation. OH how I love Maya Angelou's laugh. Just the sound of her voice reciting her legendary poem is so empowering. I will heal! I will rise! Please watch the video I will heal! I will rise! here https://vimeo.com/manage/328935180/general
Some of these paintings were done during the lockdown of 2020. When it was spring in Islamabad, the flowers were blooming, observing strict lockdown, missing those huggable days of my sons I painted yet again on my sun drenched terrace in Islamabad. While working on animating Kishwar Naheed' s poem Darakhtoan may Chuppi Betyan, which she wrote especially for my exhibition, I was thinking of my own babies in a faraway land. Although it is a time of mental pain of separation from my boys, physical pain due to a dental treatment gone wrong (that is the last thing one needs in the middle of a global pandemic), the disappointment of cancellation of my exhibition due to the lockdown, the fear of an unknown enemy, but for me it was one of the most creative time of my life. My animation 'The Lost Lullaby' is my most cherished work. https://vimeo.com/415593940