Saturday, February 4, 2012

Iqbal Hussain, Voice in the Wilderness

Painting of two seated women in muted blues and greens, one arm over the shoulder of the other

Iqbal Hussain, Pakistan’s most infamous artist, grew up in the Heera Mandi, Lahore’s red light district, among the “dancing girls” who are now his models.

[H]e calls himself a "voice in the wilderness," who brings attention to the squalid conditions of an ignored segment of Pakistani society.

“I’m trying to bring this in front of people,” Hussain said. Heera Mandi’s prostitutes “deserve to be respected," he says. "Their children need to be educated. They need health care.” 

seated woman in bright orange sari looks straight ahead

Because of his choice of female models, Iqbal Hussain like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) is called a "painter of prostitutes and dancing girls."

three young women in blues and pinks perched on a round table with their backs to us

Iqbal Hussain is an artist who has opened the shutters of the world he lives in to a reluctant ‘other.’ Since his first controversial solo exhibition in the ’80s, his bold disclosures have been lauded universally and shown around the world through teams of documentary filmmakers. He is a prolific painter whose studio is always open to his troubled community who tend to get together after their working hours and chat. ...

Included in the display were allegorical paintings; groups of women uniformly dressed and held at gunpoint. The artist creates powerful, dark, dramatic scenes, as well as the lighter images confronting the observer with the humanity of his subjects. One discovers sadness as well as moments of cheer, the love between mother and child and trust between friends. Once the mask of the profession is removed, one recognises the vulnerability of people born into a way of life from which there is little chance of escape. ...

- Poignantworks: The world of Iqbal Hussain,

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