Friday, April 10, 2009

Benazir's Picture at Shanakth

Apparently, this is the 'photograph' of Benazir that was displayed at the Shanakht festival in the Arts Council in Karachi, and the cause of so much 'offense' to the PPP Jiyalas.

I don't really have much by way of comment, except that:

A) its clearly not a photograph or a painting of anything, and is rather an intentionally obvious mock up of a family portrait, with the heads cut & pasted over.
It depicts Yahya Khan on the lower right, Ayub holding baby Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on the rear left, Benazir, sitting on Zia's lap, and (I cannot for the life of me identify the person on the top right).

B) Its obviously meant to be provocative, not offensive,

C) I hope the entire Pakistani Blogosphere is plastering this all over the net, so that the 'offended' PPP Jiyalaas who saw fit to disrupt the festival, fire their weapons, issue death threats and FIRs to the organizers of the event, and who generally think that Pakistan is their fucking fief, may eat shit and die.


Anonymous said...

provaocative but not is a new ione from you

Anonymous said...

are you serious you think thats not offensive? i, like many other, am not a fan of PPP. but THIS, is to the extreme. freedom of speech you say? if this was a picture of any other RESPECTABLE female portrayed as sitting on the lap of any other man, i would find it offended to the same degree. specially if that man was responsible for her FATHER'S death. and again, I am not a fan of PPP.

karachi khatmal said...

are you kidding me?

this is one of the worst and most shit pieces of "art" i have ever seen.

i mean its not even photoshopped - it's something you can make on MS Paint. fucking desaturate all the images, or none at all.

are we sure the jiyalas didn't lose their shit because their aesthetic sensibilities were so offended?

there is no discernable social commentary either? i mean, what are we saying the army and the PPP are a big incestous bunch? then where is zardari, and who is that guy in the corner? is he mushie or mujib?

this painting really did not deserve the infamy it garnered from ruining the efforts of so many people.

if this was the guernica or something, we could have felt "well we lost a festival but gained an immortal peice of art." now we have no festival and a peice of shit e-mail forward. in fact, i don't think it can be elevated to that status. that dhoom 2 PPP thing was a thousand times better than this.

fuck you fake artist living abroad.

rant over.

Kalsoom said...

I agree - the piece was in poor taste, and was obviously done to an illicit a response, on either extremes.

That in no means justifies what happened at the festival, but I can understand how PPP members saw it as offensive. The whole matter could and should have been handled a lot more civilly than it did, and the Shanakht didn't need to be disrupted for it.

naqiya said...

i dont know how far i agree with whats being said here.

what is "good art" anyway??

maybe the artist was looking for this kind of cut/paste aesthetic to prove a point? not all art has to look like guernica (pieces like which btw elicited similar extreme reactions when they were first shown - "this is not art it is shit" etc.) to me it seems to convey the idea that all our leaders can pretty much be seen as interchangeable - cut paste the faces as they change, but they are all part of one family that only looks out for itself.

my problem isnt really with how good or bad the piece may be, but how quick we are to label something as crap just because its not what our pre-conceived notion of what "good art" is. if all artist were to paint/draw/sculpt the same way since the beginning of time without willing to try other ways of looking at/representing things, art wouldnt be art.

my rant over.

Nabil said...

I like this xD..about time someone makes a stencil of this

Ahsan said...


If you find it offensive, you can avert your eyes. As can everyone else who finds it offensive. But the idea of not displaying something avowedly political because it's "offensive" to some is completely and utterly nonsensical.

In general:

Clearly the piece is supposed to elicit discussion on the fact that Pakistan's ruling elite -- whether they be in military fatigues or civilian garb -- are all from one big unhappy family, disconnected from the average Pakistani in their concerns and interests. Feudals or industrialists or generals or whatever, they all have more in common with each other than they do with anyone else.

You can either agree or disagree with that statement, but you can't go around tearing shit apart because you find such a notion -- and that piece of art that gave rise to that notion -- offensive.

Tazeen said...

the guy in the corner is Shiekh Mujeeb of Bangladesh.

I guess it just depicts dictators and the democratically elected rulers that came afterwards, but I agree, it is in poor taste. Having said that, what PPP jiyalas did put them in the same league as Taliban and Mullah Fazlullah.

Captain03 said...

dont care about her much
she did nothing good to pakistan and was a party girl during her age
such people should not be looked upto and immortalized like the way her husband is making her.

supe said...

kalsoom, you took the words right out of my mouth.
i find it plain revolting and yet wasn't exactly a fan of BB.

on a similar note: one can't expect all people to understand art. i for one absolutely detest that form of art and harbour some pretty er, violent thoughts on it.
but each to their own eh?

still, nothing can justify the mob's buffoonary.

bubs said...

I've refrained from commenting on the piece because it tends to obscure the only thing that matters: that PPP thugs were so bloody violent. I felt the same way with the Danish cartoons and The Satanic Verses. People who were too scared to condemn the violence but felt they shouldn't be condoning the hate suddenly became literary critics. Not saying that's what the commenters here are doing but let's not lose sight of the big picture.

Anonymous said...

if we;re talking about freedom of speech here, and how everyone has the right to portray their feelings however they wish, then doesn't it apply the same to PPP workers? don't they have the right to free speech and display their feelings in whichever wish they like?

Anonymous said...

however, obviously it could have been treated in a non-violent manner. but if you're talking about free speech, they can have the same argument.

Ahsan said...


They absolutely have a right to protest. But they don't have a right to violence, and a right to disruption. We basically agree here.

Anonymous said...

i mean no offense, NONE AT ALL, buyt tell me this, if the woman was not BB, but your mother or sister on his lap, would you not feel the same anger? this is a general question, to all those who feel that resorting to violence was not right.

Anonymous said...

everyone gets so angry when they see a teenager being flogged by her family members, isnt it their freewill to act however they like?

why dont they feel the same anger when a woman is shown sitting on man's lap?

what happened to woman's rights now?

Anonymous said...

anyways, is the show still on?

Asfandyar said...

anon: Are you, and I apologize if you find this offensive, a little touched in the head?

In what bastardized, morally retarded world do you believe that being offended allows you the legitimate right to violence?

If it was my mother/sister, i'd be rightly pissed off but I'd have absolutely NO moral right to display my anger in a violent manner. None.

As for your second comment, what the hell? Have you just compared being flogged to being photoshopped on a man's lap in a distinctly non-sexual and non-violent manner?

NB said...

To people who found it offensive (as opposed to insightful or rather pointless, or or good art or whatever else), Id say 'sure, that is a legitimate point of view and interpretation.'

Its unfair of anyone (including me) to subjectively interpret the work as provocative, but to deny anyone right to subjectively interpret it as offensive. I still think the artists intention was obvious, but thats my personal opinion, and everyone is entitled to disagree.

So you can take offence. And taking offense does create a right to protest, but it doest create an entitlement to censorship (at least not if you believe in free speech).

The violence takes it a step further.

Your effectively saying a) that you have a right not to be offended (Which you dont), and B) that you then have the right to take the law in to your own hands, perpetrate violence, and tresspass onto other peoples right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought (and in the case of the organisers) security of person, all of which are actual rights, protected by our constitution.

As for the question of what is good art, and whether all this was worth it, given the portrait in question, I completely agree with Naqiya.

karachi khatmal said...

@ Naqiya, NB et al

the reason i called out on the work being shit is because there is a tendency amongst us to become overtly politically correct about such things. it is a fallacy to compare the reaction to the Guernica with this.

however, i do concede, and i should have made it clearer, that of course there is no right to make such a hue and cry about it.

people comparing this to someone's mother etc are the reason i suppose PC was the best route.

its just that Satanic Verses, or Midnight's Children, are the sort of works which even if they get controversial, are great pieces of art.

if rushdie's "Fury" for example was creating a fuss, i would be just as sad as i am about this one. cuz it sucks. i mean the point is that if art is going to stimulate debate or controversy, it should have some intellectual gravitas. a bullshit photoshopped thing does not deserve to deprive us of a festival, or to stimulate art debate.

i don't think we should get so PC that we can't call out art created for the sake of tilltilation (and little else it seems), as the bullshit that it is.

Tact said...

You have to admit though, the organisers of the Shanaakht festival shouldve seen this one coming. I mean, you KNOW you live in an intolerant society. Did they really expect this NOT to cause a furore? I'm all for freedom of expression and all that artsy fartsy nonsense. Which is why I don't blame the artist for "expressing" himself. But these organisers need some sense knocked into them. How did they allow this to be publicly exhibited? I'd expect something like this from a complete newbie. It was kinda funny seeing their bewildered expressions on the news later though.

NB said...

@Karachi Khatmal

I agree that we shouldnt put a particular piece on a pedestal, just because it kicked up a storm (and especially not if it happened to suck in our opinion).

But i do want to clarify my response to the point you raised as to whether it deserves to deprive us of a festival.

When faced by some jiyala, who said "This is offensive, take this down or ill trash your festival and have you arrested", the organiser should not be thinking "well, its shit anyway, so yeah ill save my festival and give in to this guy". It is entirely fair for him to say instead "Dude, its not your place to say that i should take it down, so I wont. Its my right to put whatever I want up within my gallery, and to display it to anyone who is willing to see it. Whether it sucks or is offensive is for them to decide."

Freedom of speech wouldn't really be a 'freedom' if it only applied to speech that was 'worthy' of being heard.

(Coz what is 'worthy' is in the eye of the beholder)

Anonymous said...

The "educated elite" class are pigs and thugs. They are as IGNORANT and out of control as the Taliban. What the elite did was terrorism !!!!!! And, of course, the gov't of Pakistan applauds it.

foolsparadise said...

Breaking News -- Pakistan will fail in a month to six months time.. and you guys are still discussing this useless piece of shit?

Ali said...

I whole heartedly agree with naqiya, and find it surprising that individuals who actually have enough of an education to use correct grammar can say what they are saying.

The mother/sister element is completely irrelevant- when you're a public figure, you become public property. Its the price you pay for fame. Spoofs and parodies and scandals happen everywhere, whether its benazir, Sarah palin's children, or the obama daughters. Its about time we got out of all the chauvinist bias we have.

I'd also like to point out that in the un-photoshopped image, the woman that has benazir's face superimposed is sitting in another womans lap. Like ahsan said- there is nothing sexual about it. My initial reaction was also one of distaste- not because of gender, but because of the historical dynamics between benazir and zia. Upon thinking about the message behind the picture, I reconsider. I think it makes a fine point, personally- as interpreted by one of the commenters above.

Although this is irrelevant- bashing the picture as art due to
quality of editing is idiotic. It is painfully obvious that the editing was supposed to be that way! This is not at all a basis for judging it as artwork. There is the interesting example of a certain French contemporary artist (I forget his name) who, during an exhibition on modern art is Paris, did nothing more than hang a urinal on the wall as an exhibit. It was a plain urinal bought from a hardware store- no personalization or painitng or whatever done to it. Upon inquiry he said that the fact that he found expression in such placement of the urinal was art.

Who are we to judge?

naqiya said...


you are referring to Duchamp (working in the 1930s-50s, so not exactly contemporary). but this goes back to my point that many new ways of looking/re-examining our world through art (as this artist is CLEARLY trying to do) were labeled as shit. its nothing new, so shouldnt we learn from history? then again, when has that ever happened?

anyway: marcel duchamp. funny guy. read his articles if you can find any

naqiya said...

@ all:

since we are talking about "good" vs/ "bad" art, what do you think about this little piece here:

Ali said...


Well, at least we know he's not a narcissist. *sarcasm*