Encounters of the Third Kind: Textile Collages by Masuma Halai Khwaja on display at Canvas Gallery

The act of ruthlessly cutting up embroideries into little pieces, however, also represents the breakdown of tradition in the wake of globalisation, says Khwaja

By
Nadia Faisal

KARACHI: A provocative and engaging exhibition as a whole, the Karachi-based artist creates a unique, sophisticated, and visually-stimulating experience with her fourteen pieces of thought-provoking works that went on display last Tuesday at one of the prominent art galleries of her native city.

Each artwork is intense and possesses a strong ability to move its audience, seeking to voice societal concerns regarding dilution and pollution of many rich and dynamic cultures like ours in this era of globalisation. A concurring theme manifesting itself in various forms and aspects as an integral part of her trajectory as an artist, Masuma Halai Khwaja tackles it once again in her distinctive style and a medium that is unique.

Cutting up indigenous embroideries and textile crafts of varying ethnicities into little pieces only to painstakingly embroider over them, Khwaja applying her flair for fabric gives a considered and nuanced comprehension of identity in the modern world.

Caught in the middle, unable to relate or fully embrace any one culture or history as our own, her current, self-described practice speaks of cultural invasion and its crucial impact on the sense of who we are, what we want, and what we respect.

Using old carpets and kilims as a base to superimpose a meld of rich embroideries of both local and foreign origins, her current portfolio of work deals with complexities of the changing or newfound identity, while exploring its pros and cons, simultaneously explains the artist who has won many awards for outstanding work during her career of over two decades.

The act of ruthlessly cutting up embroideries into little pieces, however, also represents the breakdown of tradition in the wake of globalisation, says Khwaja.

Graduating with a distinction in fine arts from the prestigious National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore in the early 90s, Masuma Halai Khwaja has been an art educator for more than 20 years and has taught at some of the country’s most prominent art institutions, such as the The Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi, NCA Lahore, and Karachi University’s Visual Studies Department.

The artist, exhibiting her works widely within Pakistan and abroad, is currently a part of the core committee of The Karachi Biennale 2017 and in charge of its public outreach programme.

Titled Encounters of the Third Kind, her latest solo show at Canvas Gallery will remain open until May 18, 2017.