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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Updated 20 min 7 sec ago
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.
“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.
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.
“I want my son to become a famous stuntman in Pakistan,” Usman said. “Because after my death, people will know him by my name.”