Skip to main content


Bringing Nature Back to the City
Andy Warhol’s Do It Yourself (Landscape) 1962 painting by numbers emphasizes the alienation of city dwellers from the direct experience of nature. For Any Warhol landscape was not misty hills in the countryside, but gleaming rows of supermarket shelves.
The designers of the fifties were determined to invent newness to distance themselves from the ugliness of two World Wars. By the 60s, the “false joy”, as it has been called, became a very real celebration of the city, with its consumerism, plastic products and mass culture.
50 years on, the world is aghast at enormous plastic islands floating on the oceans, and the effects of climate change. As more than half the world population lives in cities, connected by motorways that slice through forests, mountains and valleys, what we consider nature, has shrunk dramatically. Progress is now a sober discussion on sustainability, eco-friendly and recyclable products . Cities are expected to house 75% of the w…
Recent posts
Beyond Gender
Earlier this month, two extraordinary women were in the news: Fahmida Riaz, the poet, whose death was mourned by many and SP Suhai Aziz Talpur, whose triumph was celebrated by proud Pakistanis when she was at the forefront of the operation against the terrorists who attacked the Chinese Consulate in Karachi.
While many feminists may celebrate them, they represent a far more complex space that cannot be contained in a traditional gender discourse.
Fahmida Riaz said in an interview with fellow poet, Amar Sindhu “I am not an exceptionally politically over-charged poet. Perhaps the only exception is that I am a woman.”She has translated into Urdu Rumi’s Masnavi, the poetic works of Shah Latif Bhittai and Shaikh Ayaz, written about a range of political and social issues. However, her public perception is imprinted with her 1978 publicationBadan Dareeda in which sheshared her sensual awakening. She says she did not set out to shock but merely expressed as she always has “the re…
From Image to Icon
Photographer AlbertoKordacaptured an image of Che Guevera at a funeral of workers in Havana in 1960. Rejected by the editors of the "Revolución", it hung in his apartment unnoticed for seven years. A few months before Che’s execution, the Italian businessman turned socialist, Feltrinelli requested a picture of Che. Korda gave him his favourite picture.Within days of Che’s death, Feltrinelli sold millions of Che posters. The following year in 1968, the Irishman, Jim Fitzpatrick, designed the now iconic black-on-redChe poster. A very average looking man had been turned into a smouldering revolutionary legend, inspiring social activists across generations and nations from Bolivia to Baluchistan.
Allen Ginsberg said ““Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.” Marketing and advertising people are well aware of this and use it as the cornerstone of communication and campaign strategies. However there are many images that never intended to be …
The Lotus and The Rose
Two invasions had a profound impact on India –the Aryans who gave India Sanskrit and the Vedic religion and the Muslims who established Indo-Islamic Culture.While the political impact may have faded away, both cultures have seeped seamlessly into the daily lives of Indians, both altering and being altered in the process.
Muslim expansion only took with it the Quran and Arabic, adapting and developing the existing cultures they found. India was no exception. As Reginald Massey puts it, the Lotus had met with the Rose. Koine, a Greek word that means common or shared , is often used to describe the cross fertilization of cultures in the Muslim world - soldiers and traders from different lands, combining of languages and lifestyles. Urdu emerged from a mix of Turkish, Persian, Arabic and now English, with a Sanskrit grammar base.
Muslim invaders brought Islam to India, but, along with Islam, they brought Chaghatai, Persian, and Turkic cultures, which soon blended with …
The digital networks teem with jokes, satirical videos and memes, from politics to the absurd new world leaderships. Humour is a coping mechanism that can balance out overwhelming circumstances, neutralize aggression and heal relationships. It is also a means of expressing criticism of society that escapes social or legal restrictions.
The court jester could get away with saying things that an ordinary critic would be beheaded for. With the end of traditional kingships, the court jester transformed into the stand-up comic, holding the mirror to society’s weaknesses
Dark “gallows humor”, coined by the Germans during the 1848 revolutions for the persecution of liberals is, as Antonin Obrdlik says “an index of strength or morale on the part of oppressed peoples”. Humor can be used as a weapon for mass resistance.The Italian’s used the slogan “Una risata vi seppellirà”, during protests against the Ancien Regime, which translates as “It will be a laugh that buries you.”Telling jokes …
Re-thinking Education
The 1200 plus acres of the arid campus of University of Karachi magically turn lush green after the rains, hidden seeds become beautiful flowering plants, dragonflies mysteriously appearand puddles teem with tadpoles. Teaching art feels pretty much like that: a little watering and amazing talents emerge.
Training in the creative arts by their nature must focus on self-realization and expression of the inner voice.According to psychologist, A.I. Krupnov, self-realization, one of the aims of all education, is best achieved by persistence. While creative education assumes the student’s self-regulated persistence, many academic programmes are standardized, prescribed and inculcate passivity. If, as George Bernard Shaw says “intelligence forces us to learn”, this lack of engagement can only stem from the methodology of teaching or perceiving the content as irrelevant to the student’s future life.
Many seek higher education degrees, including PhDs, not as an opportun…
Turning Thoughts into Action
Social media allows a platform for ordinary people to express their opinions. Many go further and share the actions they have taken usually in the social sector such as the Robin Hood Army or Roti Bank, Fixit, and Transparent Hands
However, it is also true that shelves of university libraries, and research centres are filled with amazing studies and reports and inventions that rarely cross over into the world of policy makers or manufacturers. A lot of intellectual activity becomes an end in itself.
In his paper, From Thought to Action, Jonathan Dancy asks can theoretical reasoning lead to action? Or does it only create a set of beliefs and intentions? Even if action is not the intended result of thoughtful reasoning, at the very least it needs to be shared outside the inner circle with the aim to inspire action.
Philosophy and art are expected to play a quieter role as influencers, rarely expected to turn their observations into direct action. The musi…