These Pakistani women artists are using social media to #LeadChange

Updated 13 March 2019

These Pakistani women artists are using social media to #LeadChange

ISLAMABAD: In the past few years, social media, particularly Instagram, has emerged as the social media platform of choice for many contemporary Pakistani women artists who use it to promote their art and create a space for a meaningful exchange of dialogue and ideas about women’s rights and issues. Here are some Pakistani women artists and designers to follow on Instagram for their creativity as much as their activism on and offline.
SHEHZIL MALIK




Shehzil Malik shared a photo after plastering a large scale poster of 1 of the 3 original artworks she created for Aurat March 2019 in Lahore. (Photo courtesy: Shehzil Malik/Instagram)




In collaboration with Nigat Dad of Digital Rights Foundation, Malik created this original piece for a new web portal Dad's organisation was launching to make reporting harassment in the digital sphere easier for women. (Photo courtesy: Shehzil Malik/Instagram)




Inspired by Meesha Shafi's 'Me Too' story and the subsequent harassment Shafi faced, Malik created a portrait of the singer which was later used as the backdrop of Shafi's performance on 'Pepsi Battle of the Bands'. (Photo courtesy: Shehzil Malik/Instagram)




'Women in Public Spaces,' one of Malik's comics she drew in 2015 reflecting her experience as a woman occupying public space in Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Shehzil Malik/Instagram)


Did you see the Aurat March posters plastered around Lahore? That was the genius of Shehzil Malik. In 2015, Malik drew a viral comic inspired by her experience as a woman in public spaces in Pakistan, which gained her a large following. Her graphic, high-color saturated pieces have since captured the public imagination. Malik has also launched a fashion line with a feminist bent and her drawing of Meesha Shafi was used as stage art atPepsi Battle of the Bands.
SAMYA ARIF




Samya Arif was commissioned to create art work for Pakistani rock Sufi band Junoon for their reunion concert in December of last year. (Photo courtesy: Samya Arif/Instagram)




Arif's second book cover was for Sabyn Javeri's collection of short stories 'Hijabistan,' the chosen cover was Arif's piece titled 'Cosmic Ninja'. (Photo courtesy: Samya Arif/Instagram)




Arif's piece aiming to depict a powerful and hopeful image of the future for women. (Photo courtesy: Samya Arif/Instagram)




Arif's piece aiming to depict a powerful and hopeful image of the future for women. (Photo courtesy: Samya Arif/Instagram)
Cover art for Nadia Akbar's 'Goodbye Freddie Mercury'. (Photo courtesy: Samya Arif/Instagram)

Karachi-based Samya Arif’s list of clients and collaborators reads like a drool-inducing menu of the who’s who of the Pakistani music scene: Junoon, Mooroo and the Mekaal Hasan Band, that small unknown indie band by the name of Coldplay, as well as mega brands like Coke Studio, Al Jazeera and Magnum. Arif, who teaches part time at her alma mater the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture uses visual art and illustration to make eye catching designs such as the cover arts of novels ‘Hijabistan’ and ‘Goodbye Freddie Mercury,’ and to celebrate womanhood.
MALIHA ABIDI




Cover of Maliha Abidi's book 'Pakistan for Women' a collection of illustrations by Abidi depicting 50 of Pakistan's most iconic women. (Photo courtesy: Maliha Abidi/Instagram) 




Inspired by UN Women's 'end Dowry abuse' campaign, Abidi created this illustration with a bride's jewellery strewn with the word 'dowry'. (Photo courtesy: Maliha Abidi/Instagram)




The late Asma Jehangir is one of the many women Abidi has illustrated and whose story she has included in her book 'Pakistan for Women'. (Photo courtesy: Maliha Abidi/Instagram)




An in process shot of a painting of Madam Noor Jehan, one of Pakistan's most revered singers. (Photo courtesy: Maliha Abidi/Instagram)


Maliha Abidi paints colorful and arresting portraits celebrating Pakistan’s women icons. Based in the UK, Abidi compiled her illustrations, such as those of the late Asma Jehangir, Noor Jehan, Nazia Hassan, Malala Yousafzai and Pakistan’s first female firefighter Shazia Parveen, into a book called ‘Pakistan for Women’ showcasing 50 Pakistanis who have contributed to the fabric of the nation. Abidi has also used her work to highlight women’s issues like dowry abuse, domestic violence and child marriage.
AREEBA SIDDIQUE




An illustration of a girl's wall including a poster of a girl with the words "Girls Just Wanna Have Their Revenge Mostly". (Photo courtesy: Areeba Siddique/Instagram)




A portrait Areeba Siddique made of her mom. (Photo courtesy: Areeba Siddique/Instagram)




Siddique's illustrations are clever commentary on life for some girls in Pakistan with strict parents and a lifestyle mix of both the traditional and contemporary. (Photo courtesy: Areeba Siddique/Instagram)




Siddique illustrates women getting ready for a wedding. (Photo courtesy: Areeba Siddique/Instagram)

Areeba Siddique’s drawings on her Instagram page have the most clever detailing: A cell phone lit up with texts from mom next to fingers applying the words “Follow me on Instagram” in henna on another person; inside the intricate pattern of the mehndi design is this sentence: “no more boys name in our henna. ONLY INSTAGRAM USER NAMES.’ With nearly 67,000 followers, Karachi’s Siddique shares not only her feminist artwork and illustrations depicting the delightfully mundane happenings in the lives of mostly hijab-clad women but also presents glimpses of her own personal style and design process. She most recently collaborated with a homeware line that put her artwork on mugs and dishes.
FATIMA BAIG




A take on 'Rosie the Riveter' Fatima Baig's work focusses on portraying South Asian beauty and strength. (Photo courtesy: Fatima Baig/Instagram)




A common theme in Baig's work is the relationship between women and spirituality showcased with the inclusion of cosmic elements like the moon and stars in her pieces. (Photo courtesy: Fatima Baig/Instagram)




Similar to many of the contemporary artists listed here, Baig is using her talent to share shine on Brown women and their many reiterations. (Photo courtesy: Fatima Baig/Instagram)




A portrait of living legend Sufi-Qawal master, Abida Parveen by Fatima Baig. (Photo courtesy: Fatima Baig/Instagram)


The beauty of the body, of diversity and of spirituality are the main stays in the art created by Fatima Baig. A native of Rawalpindi, she creates power-packed, color-saturated images depicting strong women of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, skin tones and body sizes. There are recognizable shout outs in her work to regional dress, jewelry, people (including her portrait of Abida Parveen) and a playful approach to incorporating the cosmos and the connection between women and the spirit. 
MAHOOR JAMAL




In a unique take on fashion editorials, Jamal used illustrations atop of fashion photography for this spread. (Photo courtesy: Mahoor Jamal/Instagram)




South Asian women presented in unexpected ways is a common theme in Jamal's work, like this painting with a renaissance vibe but Pakistani aesthetics in the subjects clothing and features. (Photo courtesy: Mahoor Jamal/Instagram)




Dark skin, dark hair, South Asian shapes and sizes are prominent features of Jamal's work, like this illustration she posted on Eid with the caption, 'Eid Mubarak'. (Photo courtesy: Mahoor Jamal/Instagram)




Mixing the elements of fashion photography with her gift of illustration. (Photo courtesy: Mahoor Jamal/Instagram)

Combining the worlds of illustration, design and photography Mahoor Jamal has become a person to watch in both the art and fashion worlds. With a unique approach to artistry Jamal has worked with fashion campaigns and editorials in both photography and text. Her work depicts women both realistic and fantastical, incorporating desi aesthetics like jewelry and clothing with breathtaking control.
HAFSA KHAN




Pop art like that made popular by Andy Warhol has been reimagined with a Pakistani twist by artist Hafsa Khan. (Photo courtesy: Hafsa Khan/Instagram)




Khan contrasts current happenings (like pizza) against classic South Asian ones (like a background of henna motifs) to create graphic pieces that play around with identity. (Photo courtesy: Hafsa Khan/Instagram)




Khan includes lots of jewellery in her pieces as a part of South Asian identity and in particular to show the regality of South Asian women. (Photo courtesy: Hafsa Khan/Instagram)

 




Titled 'Louis Vuitton Khan,' Khan shares on her Instagram projects which are painted or drawn on designer boxes and utilizing popular high end designer prints like this one. (Photo courtesy: Hafsa Khan/Instagram)

US-based Hafsa Khan has grown a strong following across social media for capturing the beauty of South Asian women, drawn in pop art. When talking about her work on her website Khan said, “I want you to notice the regality of the women.” Hands wearing mehndi and decked out in rings and bangles, nose rings and teekas, and traditional dresses skilfully reimagine the classic pop art graphics of yesteryear and merge them with South Asian aesthetics. The images of brown skinned women and their hands contrast against neon pops of colors, bold backgrounds and even at times designer logos leave a lasting impression.


Pakistani man performs jaw-dropping stunts despite polio impairment

Updated 20 min 7 sec ago

Pakistani man performs jaw-dropping stunts despite polio impairment

  • Muhammad Usman was infected with polio when he was six years old which caused paralysis of his left leg
  • Not being able to walk properly has not deterred Usman from pursuing his dream of performing dangerous stunts at public festivals

QUETTA: Stuntman Muhammad Usman can jump over five cars on a motorcycle and pull a car with a chain tied to a sharp knife hung around his neck.
There are many showmen in Pakistan who can perform such stunts, but Usman, from Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, is special: his left leg was virtually paralyzed after he contracted polio aged six years. Now the 38-year-old leads an active life as a stuntman, saying he never allowed the crippling virus to keep him from pursuing his dreams.

Stuntman Muhammad Usman, a polio sufferer, pulls a car with a chain tied to a sharp knife hanging around his neck in Quetta, Pakistan, on January 17, 2021 (AN Photo by Saadullah Akhter)

“One day I went with my friends to the historic Sibi Mela where I saw various stuntmen performing in the festival,” Usman told Arab News in Quetta. “I asked a man whether I could perform these stunts but he looked at me and replied sarcastically: how can a disabled man become a stuntman.”
That day, Usman said, he resolved to prove his detractors wrong, joined the ‘Power Show Club’ in Quetta’s Nawa Killi neighborhood, and began training under stunt master Shaira Bangulzai.
Pakistan last week launched a nationwide vaccination campaign against polio amid tight security, hoping to eradicate the crippling children’s disease this year. Pakistan had hoped to eliminate polio back in 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But in the years since there has been an uptick in new cases.
Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are the only two remaining countries in the world where polio is endemic, after Nigeria was last year declared free of the wild polio virus.
Usman said he never received polio drops as a child because his illiterate parents were unaware of the dangers posed by the virus.
“But I have been vaccinating my six children with polio drops during every single anti-polio campaign in Quetta,” the stuntman said.

Stuntman Muhammad Usman, a polio sufferer, pictured with his son in Quetta, Pakistan, on January 17, 2021 (AN Photo by Saadullah Akhter)

Bangulzai, who has been Usman’s teacher for around five years, said he had more than 190 students across Balochistan but Usman was the most “loyal and keen” among them. 
“When Usman joined my club and asked me to teach him, I couldn’t refuse him because I didn’t want to break his hopes,” the instructor told Arab News.
In one memorable instance in 2015, Bangulzai said Usman had to replace him at the Sibi Mela after he had to pull out of the event at the last minute to take care of an ailing relative.
“My student [Usman] performed ... with immense confidence and accuracy in what was his first public performance,” the teacher said.
Stunts is not all Usman does.
He is also the driver of a passenger coach and a rickshaw, a performing artist for TV and theater shows, and a comedian.
“What else could I wish from my god?” he said, expressing gratitude for the “full” life he had led despite being a polio sufferer.
Usman is now training his eldest son who at the age of sixteen is already performing at small festivals.

Stuntman Muhammad Usman, a polio sufferer, poses with his son in Quetta, Pakistan, on January 17, 2021 (AN Photo by Saadullah Akhter)

“I want my son to become a famous stuntman in Pakistan,” Usman said. “Because after my death, people will know him by my name.”