Tag Archives: Iqbal Hussain

Iqbal Hussain: The agony and the ecstasy

DSC_1540 copy WITHOUT RIGHTSIqbal Hussain’s new work reveals a darkly poignant preoccupation with death, an artistic crisis born of the violence in our midst. But this work may yet survive the changing cultural topography of Pakistan, says Raza Rumi

Being stuck in an awful traffic jam on Lahore’s Mall Road is an everlasting nightmare. This was the road which once housed the tempestuous and famously poly-amorous painter Amrita Shergil, as well as the grand old man of Indian writing in English, the legendary Khushwant Sigh, among other lost symbols of our bygone past. But mine was not a fruitless journey: I was heading to the Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery at the National College of Arts (NCA), where Iqbal Hussain’s new work was being displayed. I would not hav e gone to see this exhibition had I not heard about the significance of the show from the proficient curator of the gallery Qudsia Raheem. I liked to meet Iqbal Hussain in the throes of the walled city where he has reinvented a space for himself among his own people — entertainers, artists, traders, sex workers and a multitude of local and global visitors. Iqbal Hussain has been successful through his personal endeavors to put Lahore’s old city and its infamous red light district on the world map. He has achieved this primarily through his stupendous paintings and sublime rooftop views of Mughal monuments from the Cooco’s Den Café he owns and manages.

DSC_1510 copy WITHOUT RIGHTSIqbal Hussain’s work over the decades has brought to life the shades and aspects of sex workers from Heera Mandi around whom Hussain grew up. Most importantly, he is proud of his heritage and origins and, unlike the hypocritical and self-denying society in which he lives, he has publicly claimed ownership of this background. His work has obsessively captured the many narratives about the women who are central to Heera Mandi. In doing this, Hussain has humanized the portraits of the “dancing girl”, the aging prostitute and the honorable livelihood earner. Contrary to the religious decrees on such women, or the excessive romanticization of dancing girls in our culture, Hussain’s subjects are nothing but human. They are real and vulnerable while blessed with the ability to sing, dance and celebrate life and sex. In our socially conservative culture, made even more so since the advent of Victorian values in what was then British India, such characters have been the recipients of much derision. Hussain, through his momentous collection of paintings, has countered every stereotype and cliché that comes to mind about such women. Continue reading

Iqbal Hussain – Lahore’s controversial artist

Iqbal Hussain from Lahore is one of the finest painters we have. Most of his paintings depict women from the Heera Mandi (literally the diamond market)- or the centuries old red-light district. I found the above image on the Internet today. The news-item referred to Iqbal’s advocacy through his powerful art works:

..Others, who have emerged as spokespersons for the women of Heera Mandi, including leading artist Iqbal Hussain, whose own mother was a sex worker, emphasise their “lack of empowerment, exploitation and helplessness”.

His works convey all of these emotions and bring to life extraordinary characters who are often neglected or spurned by the hypocritical culture of Pakistan.

Endnote from here:

Being termed a controversial painter in Pakistan, Iqbal’s subjects sometimes tend to shock “puritan painters”, but Iqbal follows his own visions and continues to paint his unconventional and radically innovative paintings. He enjoys a great reputation as an artist in the international art world. His paintings have been requested by Jordanian Princess Wijdan Ali for the Jordanian Gallery of Fine Arts. His were the only ones selected for Unesco Headquarters Prize in 1995, Paris. In 1998, one of his paintings was auctioned at the Sotheby’s Auction House in London.

More on Iqbal Hussain here