"Exhibiting You" - Story

Identity Crisis

By: Masuma Halai Khwaja
Submitted: 04/06/2009

The issues surrounding identity are bigger than ever before and I am focusing on the type of identity I see people around me trying to establish, and the advantages or repercussions of that on our once peaceful and tolerant society.
On a different level I am also trying to delve deeper into my own identity in order to come up with answers regarding ancestry and parentage and how these play a significant role in bridging the gaps that have been created in our minds through political boundaries

The Arab headscarf (Kaffiyeh) and photographs of old landmarks of Pakistan play a major role in my new work. I use the scarf because it talks of the kind of identity I see people around me trying to adopt, and juxtaposed with the photographs, they reflect the conflicting emotions of alienation and integration that I feel.
I employ a variety of widely accepted icons in my work such as the ancient Jewish motif of the Kabballah, or the flower of Saint Mary (native to the middle east) or images of flowers like the Bougainvillea and the Gulmohar that are found in abundance in Karachi .I use these images to talk of the multiple hybrid religious and cultural traditions and attitudes, encouraging people to forget the peculiarities that divide us, and focus instead on our common humanity. I have also started using text from the Urdu, English and Hebrew script by arranging it in groups with the same phonetics to further stress this point.

I use the kaffiyeh in a variety of different ways:
Using it as a base for my painting, after preparing it with glue and tissue paper, or photographing it and painting over the image, sometimes I embroider over it, and at times just painstakingly replicate the image through painting.

The photographs of the buildings and structures that I use to paint on are part of the cultural heritage of Pakistan and hold a particular importance in that piece of work.

I also use materials like plaster strips, for making casts of parts of my own body and working on those with collage pen and ink oil pastels and oils. I have recently started needlepoint and either paste the embroidered work onto the image or paint on the embroidered surface, or embroider onto the photograph

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