Pakistan's sectarian violence creeps into art scene

Fri Apr 5, 2013 11:59am EDT
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - A gold bullet on top of Islamic stenciling, open sores and festering wounds, life-size sculptures of silenced men whose faces are obscured.

Pakistan's sectarian crisis has grown so acute that it is creeping into the country's contemporary art scene, spurring young artists to question the causes and assumptions behind the violent Sunni-Shi'ite divide.

Hardline Sunni groups have killed hundreds of minority Shi'ites in suicide bomb attacks and shootings.

Shi'ites say they are living in a state of siege, and some call it genocide. Fear has driven some families abroad while others have taken up arms against groups backed by al Qaeda.

Some artists have taken to expressing their anger at the carnage through their work.

In the elegant city of Lahore, criss-crossed with colonial-era boulevards and home to a bevy of lively artists, Imran Mudassar balances one of his latest pieces, "Secret Love", on his knees, a diptych of a golden bullet and human heart against interwoven Islamic motifs.

"I've started to incorporate the clashing of the Shi'ites and Sunnis into my work," the 31-year-old artist, who is secular Sunni, told Reuters at Government College University, where he is also a lecturer.

In "Religious Landscape", he decorated a seven-foot high white canvas with designs from the Koran, Islam's holy book. Red gashes resembling flesh have been torn across it.   Continued...

Saud Baloch, 28, a fine art artist, stands near his sculpture called "No Fear" during an interview with Reuters at the National College of Arts in Lahore March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza