My performance titled ” I am ….”

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Art, as we all know, is an expression and when this expression is in the form of a performance, the term used for this form of art is Art Performance.  In this form of art, an artist puts her/himself on the line to make a statement. In my case, the journey started on Friday the 13thof March 2015, when I first slipped into a skirt and did the first part of my performance.

I was wearing a shimmering skirt with a ladies shirt, hidden under the overalls. My first stop was Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVSAA). I go into the washroom, shed my overalls, and out comes a guy wearing clothes which even the bold women of the region would think twice before wearing in public.  I paraded all over IVSAA, and then did the same at T2F, KOEL café, Koel Gallery, Sanat Gallery.  And Fika Café.

All these spaces were taken up by surprise, all were related to fines arts, in each of these place, I would have required a proper permission to exhibit or do an art performance or even do photography.

The performance is Titled “ I am …. “ and as most of my works it was designed and conceptualized to trigger questions. Is he a guy, or a girl, do clothes define gender? gender orientation? how it feels when men are objectified? why am I doing it? What am I gaining from it? Is it a shoot, a show, or my preference of dress up ?  and a  lot many more questions.

Besides these questions, there was a very obvious but yet overlooked layer of vandalism in the performance. I was invading a space, doing a performance, leaving its managing team and people having their lunch baffled as to what is going on and leaving without an explanation. The layer of vandalism to point to the vandalism a woman faces every day in our society, it’s different but its there and goes very much unnoticed.

For me it was a breakthrough, I came over my fear of public performance, I came out and expressed and I could see that the questions I wanted to raise were in the minds of the people but they were too shy or may be taken back to bring them up so they remained baffled.

It was then that I decided to extend this performance further. It was just me dressing up differently. Within days I had bought a few stretch ladies pants, and some shirts which won’t be strikingly feminine but tailored for ladies, It was very tricky to select what I could wear because I didn’t want to trigger any rage or anger, but just questions.  I slipped into these new clothes and walked the streets of Karachi.

A few heads were turned, I overheard comments, “ Look at his legs”, “Is he a guy ?” , “ Must be gay”. I had to be aware of my security, I had to be vigilant not to run into trouble, I had to carry a “ Normal set of overalls” A normal baggy pant and a tee shirt to cover up when I am in the “ Difficult parts of the city.

Another challenge was my being accepted, yes some of my friends started avoiding me, my own relatives started to avoid being seen in malls like this with me, a lot of artists started to laugh at me and the irony of the whole process was that I had to be tight-lipped about the fact that it’s a performance, because obviously explaining would have killed the whole purpose of it.

To step up the game another notch, as I was at the time the official photographer for Sanat Gallery, I somehow convinced the director of the gallery, Abid merchant to allow me to dress up for the show,  He was not aware of the fact that A: It’s a performance, B: part of the performance is about vandalizing too.

Starting off in March 2015 each time I was covering a show a Sanat, I would dress in a bright skirt, or a shining dress, totally of a woman who may have walked right off the fashion ramp, It would show skin, it would be pink, yellow shimmery blue. and I would wear it over my body,  own it along with the actual identity of my masculine gender, straight orientation, with an intention to vandalize every single show I was professionally covering in a Gallery which was paying for it.

The audience were all artists, I was laughed at, made fun of, was questioned was rumored to be gay, or belonging to the alternative gender and there were all sorts of gossips. My dresses were talked about and people waited for the nest show to see what next will I pull out of my sleeves. Sadly not many could understand or figure out that it was an expression and it was a work of art.

The performances continued till October 2016, which is when I realized I should stop because by now people had stopped questioning much and started to accept me in these dresses. And the whole purpose to trigger thoughts was fading away. It was time to end it and I decided to keep it unannounced.

I suddenly changed my ways of dressing, started wearing normal men’s clothes and that triggered yet another wave of questions? Why are you wearing men’s clothes? what happened to the man we knew? You look odd, thought that was your style. And a lot many comments and questions that followed.

I had decided to reveal the fact that it was a performance after almost one and a half years of ending the performance that I was in. two years because 1: I don’t like explaining my art, 2: some personal matters were keeping me mentally occupied and I couldn’t dissect and explain what I did 3: I wanted people to forget before I strike again and jog their memories.

I am very thankful To Sanat Gallery for allowing me to wear all those dresses while covering their shows, to Khalil Chishti for encouraging me on the first performance, to ZAK for his encouragement, and to everyone who helped me and supported me and allowed me to express freely. I apologize that none of my supports had any clue of the complete picture and scope of the performance.

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My performance titled ” I am ….”

Develop Zero Social Tolerance to Sexual Violence.

As a usual habit, even today I checked my social network first thing in the morning only to stumble upon a news link which sent a chill through my spine. A 9 year old girl child in Bahawalpur was abducted from right outside her house, beaten up, gang raped and left back in semi unconscious, critically injured state. At the time of filing the report Doctors are struggling to save her precious little life.

The police has filed an FIR and is looking for the culprits, but there is little hope that justice will be served even in this case, as our legal procedures are highly complicated, and a financial challenge, where corruption allows the culprits the convenience to get the medial reports and evidence altered an escape proudly from the grip of the law to free find yet another innocent child or person to victimize.

In any legal system to work properly an integral part of it is the proper implementations of the procedures so as to make it fool proof and convenient for the people. For this a proper people who have proper knowledge of the forensics, the dynamics of crime, the loopholes, the behavior of the society and the routs the culprits take to get rid of the track they leave behind the crime they commit.

Also the society will have to play its part of the role, taking such crimes seriously. Stop blaming the victims of sexual abuse and violence and take stand against the culprit. The trend of shamming the rape survivors labeling them as Impure had to be opposed seriously. Common thoughts and notions which suggest “ the girl has been spoilt” or “has become impure” or “it must be her fault” or “ it’s a shameful thing , keep it under the wraps and not speak of it “ only make the culprits more stronger and makes it easy for them to commit such horrendous crimes and yet move proudly in the society.
Also our mainstream (conventional ) media will have to be more sensitive while reporting and talking over such issues. We have seen a number of times, when cases of sexual violence appear on the news channels there are often suggestions that the women were of “bad character” or were “dressed improperly” or were “acting provocatively ”. It is sad when these multimillion news setups with educated journalists and staff on board fail understand that RAPE is a serious crime and it does not make it any less serious or acceptable if the victim / survivor is a female sex worker or was roaming even naked, nothing justifies such a violent crime.
Performance and visual art can play a strong role in changing the mind sets of the society, artists have been addressing these issues in their art works since a long time but sadly their thought and expressions don’t reach the masses.

Its about time we use every social / public forum to educate people. Write, Blog campaign on internet social networks against such crimes and suggest a Zero tolerance from the social and legal system, There is a need to promote, literature , art and theater so it can reach a larger audience and help change perceptions, and broaden people’s vision and help them realize their fault to bring a positive change and shaping a better society.

Develop Zero Social Tolerance to Sexual Violence.

Rape

She is sitting alone in the corner of an empty room wrapped in a white cloth stained by the blood seeping from her bruises and wet from the tears she has been shedding.

In the other room her mother is being comforted by a few friendly ladies, when she shrieks again “Ooh God they ruined us, disgraced us, why did they left her alive after blackening her face, I wish she would die”

She, a twelve year old tender child hear her mothers mournful cries, her pain intensifies, her body aches and her tears flow even more vigorously, she is shattering into tiny bits but there is no one to console her.

Her mother shrieks again “we can’t show our face to any one, they have corrupted my daughter, they have shattered our honor, I wish I would have died rater than being a witness of such a shameless incident. It is all her fault, it was she who wanted to study like a “mamsahab”, and see now she has painted our faces black ”

The guilt, the pain the agony mounts, she spots a knife lifelessly lying on a dish full of vegetable, left carelessly by her mother. “It’s all my fault, I never listened to my elders, I have brought dishonor to my family, let me ease their pain”. The lifeless knife comes alive, blood drips from it’s tip. The knife is noticed hours later clutched in a lifeless hand.

Sheeesh!… Silence!… Don’t dare say a word, you don’t have the right to mourn or cry, you are the mother who killed your daughter, you are the people who brought death to this innocent child. You are the culprits, the followers of a patriarch society where women’s worth is her virginity and her virginity a man’s pride.

Rape