Belonging And Becoming

Belonging And Becoming
Qinza Najm, an inter-disciplinary artist based between New York and Lahore, Pakistan presented her solo show titled, Meray Dil Meray Muasafir (My Heart is my Companion Passenger) – Tracing the Belongings on Wednesday 17 May, 2023.

The title of the exhibition is inspired from a poem “Meray Dil Meray Musafir” by renowned poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz , an eminent persona in history of  Indo -Pak Partition. His written literature paves the crux of the pain one feels to be displaced from their motherland.

Najm, being a resident of America from last three decades, explores the evolving nature of our Traditions and Culture from an outsider’s perspective; in quest to know her own roots and identity. She is a global traveler and surveyor of ideologies; her work investigates various distinctions of an expats life’s ontology; an emotive voyage of being and becoming.

The history of crafts in Pakistan is rich and diverse, reflecting the country's cultural heritage, craftsmanship, and artistic traditions. Several initiatives have been undertaken to ensure the preservation, promotion, and growth of traditional crafts but it’s also equally important to evolve the craft with modernization to fit in our contemporary lifestyles.

Najm in her ongoing research and art practice is converging various local crafts into contemporary dialectal. Coming from a feudal background with her father in air force, she received her early schooling from various regions of Pakistan and later obtained her higher education from States brings forth an innovation, nostalgia and uncanny to her works; fetching a prodigious synthesis of cultures from both East and West.

Entering into exhibition space, one grasps semi-circular puddle like shapes floating over the walls of gallery – an interesting sight to experience wondering how they are suspended in air.

Beside these works, the exhibition encompassed a large-scale boat installation, two large scale canvas paintings, a reflective metal interactive painting and three stainless steel sculptural suit cases in small, medium to large size, in total thirteen artworks are on display.

For this exhibition she has used the peyti- a tradition South Asian metal trunk to store things while travelling or to store household goods as her main source of inspiration. This specific object carries rich history metal craftsmanship and cultural symbolism, she has used peytis as an allegory for a container of emotions, memories and belongings; it carries strong connotations with dowry and one's social/economic status traditionally. She has used the metal sheets which peytis were made to create a new surface for her paintings instead of opting for convention canvas surface.

Najm’s semicircular paintings are imbued with small hints for the viewer , bold abstract splashes of black and white paint flowing into each other to creating an illusion of influx , Urdu text in bold and intricate style creating patterns, childlike eye drawing, Islamic geometric and pixelation patterns, cultural objects like the Lota(a water container used in the bathroom) and Janamaz (prayer Mat), the anchor icon, pop art symbols and pattern of chess are amalgamating with each other in layers to construct new narratives of political, cultural and religious progression.

Alongside various painting techniques she has incorporated truck art elements, traditional metal lock and kundis- a type of a holder for securing purposes. These paintings were mainly about her own emotion voyage of living between two opposite cultures, the memories of growing up in patriarchal society, one’s relationship with their indigenous language and literature, the idea of home and belonging in fast pace life of New York and her own identity twisted in between the new space of hybridity and transformation.

The two large scale painting titled, Hua Phir Se Hukum Sadar and Meray Dil Meray Musafir talk about mass migration in circumstances of climate change, floods and Wars. The recent floods in Pakistan have affected millions of people and cultural sites which has deeply affected her as Pakistani living abroad. She actively participated in various flood funding events to help flood effectives. Inter- connected to same theme is a boat installation piece titled Chal Bulleya Authae Chaliya - The Good Immigrant depicts the philosophy of movement in life and how our past, present and future are entwined with each other; no matter where we go, we cannot really let go our values and memories we cherish from these objects and meanings they behold for us.

The timeworn found boat from outskirts of Ravi River, is reminiscent of told times when people have simpler or eco-friendly ways of traveling, containing Najm’s own belonging from now and teen years, she also collected items from different individuals, varying in class and status with voice recordings of their relation to those objects. In this way, the boat became an interactive piece of artwork telling its stories to people sitting on boat.

Suitcases are often representative of one own personality; the nature of their travel determines the type of suitcase they are going to choose. The three suitcase sculptures titled Kuch Ishq Kiya, Kuch Kaam Kiya I, II, III are made in golden stainless steel with thorn like holder signifying the pain and emotional turmoil one goes through after taking the decision to leave their homeland; no matter how luxurious your future appears the warmth and comfort of living with your loved one’s had to be sacrificed.

One of my favourite Artwork is titled Baat Umar Bhar Ki Hai – I, is made in same Peyti’s metal sheet, cut into small pieces to make one whole amorphous shape, the base layer seems like an ariel view of land and sea, with truck art inspired traditional hanging wind chime, engraved with metal bird symbol on top. For me, this work appears to be a nub of the exhibition or perhaps an autobiographical work to Qinza Najm’s own transformation; Futuristic yet traditional, living in between two worlds - flying in sky with both wings open to accept and celebrate life.

Over all, the exhibition forecasts the prevalent issues of our times and our evolution as being in this transitory world of opportunities, disasters and identity crises; in pursuit for yearning of belonging which dwells beneath the desire of Heart. Each artwork is created like a nest, a stable base anchoring the composition, small hints of its surroundings, elements of familiarity and comfort woven with both sensibility to high art and craft together conjuring narratives from past and present; laced with both ecology and politics.