By Eliza Williams,
In the mainstream media, Pakistan is usually discussed in a limited fashion – touching only on the country’s political tensions, terrorism, or, most recently, tragedy. A new issue of Granta magazine, made in collaboration with Green Cardamom visual arts organisation, offers an alternative view, showcasing exciting new Pakistani writing and contemporary art…
The issue features writing by a number of Pakistani authors and poets, including fiction by Jamil Ahmad, Nadeem Aslam, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, and Uzma Aslam Khan. Karachi-based Fatima Bhutto contributes a reportage piece about the city, specifically the Sheedi community and the Mangho Pir shrine, while Basharat Peer writes of ‘Kashmir’s Forever War’.
In a break with Granta tradition, rather than featuring a series of reportage photography at the centre of the book, this section has instead been curated by Green Cardamom, who presents works by a number of established and emerging Pakistani artists. The section, titled High Noon, is introduced with a text by author Hari Kunzru, who explains that it is time for a break from the ubiquitous questions of ‘identity’ that are associated with South Asian art and writing. “High Noon,” he writes, “stages a confrontation with this brittle identity politics and claims a kind of luminous clarity, where shadows and ambiguities disappear.”
High Noon includes artworks that raise political questions, including an extraordinary photograph, shown above, of an installation by Ayesha Jatoi, in which the artist covered a decommissioned fighter jet, placed on a roundabout in the city as a phallic ‘ornament’, with pieces of blood-red clothing and linen, turning the jet into a clothesline. Elsewhere Bani Abidi documents the non-Muslim minority in Karachi, and Rashid Rana draws on the miniature tradition to create works composed of hundreds of tiny video frames and photographs.
Contemporary art also infiltrates the issue elsewhere, with a number of the texts accompanied by paintings and photographs chosen for their appropriateness to the writing’s subject matter. The result is an extremely rich combination of new writing and imagery, offering an insight into the wide variety of ideas and voices emerging from Pakistan itself as well as from the Pakistani diaspora.
The issue is designed by Granta’s artistic director Michael Salu, who in collaboration with the British Council in Karachi commissioned the cover from Islam Gull, a truck and bus artist from Bhutta village in Karachi. The brightly coloured cover, shown in full above, reflects Pakistan’s long-established tradition of decorating vehicles.
Granta 112: Pakistan is available at Liberty Books