I. WE. THEY. Reflections on Personal & Collective Identity

January 23rd 2013

Cuadro Education discussion with artists, Zara Mahmood and Saba Qizilbash.


About the Artists

Zara Mahmood’s visual language combines symbolic and overlooked objects. Created in response to the attack on a naval air force base in Karachi in 2011, “The Dawn On Her Temples Was Stained Red” depicts a bride’s dowry jewelry constructed out of pomegranate seeds and shrapnel, transforming procreation symbols procreation into tragic artifacts. Meanwhile, in the “Amnesia” series, a fractured backbone exemplifies the impact of orchestrated erasure on collective memory. This backbone is weighed down by phantom recollections which tug at and weaken national stability, or is disjointed by the damaging repercussions of an inability to address recollections. In “The Case of Red,” change appears aggressive, piercing the skin, and there is an instinctive urge to mend what has been adulterated. The artist fluctuates from clinging on to the sanctity of the past, to eventually welcoming a rite of passage - womanhood.

Zara Mahmood holds a Bachelor of Fine Art in Printmaking from the National College of Arts in Lahore, and a Masters of Fine Art in Painting from the UK’s University for the Creative Arts. She received Sheikha Manal's Young Artist Award in 2011. Her works have been exhibited in Dubai and Beirut, and will be exhibited at the 2013 India Art Fair.


Saba Qizilbash’s series "The Empress's New Clothes" presents clothes as a second skin, loaded with cultural and sociopolitical connotations. By removing figurative representation, the artist reinforces the idea that what women wear or are made to wear can become unwanted barnacles that can consume them. She uses clothing from her personal wardrobe to denote the distinct aspects of her own identity. The works go beyond the autobiographical to carry a more universal narrative on the load felt by contemporary women juggling expectations, preconceived notions, and relationships. As layers of clothing are added one by one, they contribute a sense of heaviness, pulling the figure down. Yet if one were to remove the articles to shed the load, the figure would disappear.

Saba Qizilbash carries a degree in Philosophy and Psychology from Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, Pakistan, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the National College of Art in Pakistan, and a Master of Arts in Art Education from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she received a Fellowship and a Community Service Learning Grant. She was a resident artist at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in Oregon, and has had numerous exhibitions in Pakistan, India, the US, and the UAE. She is currently an Adjunct Professor at the American University in Dubai and a Visiting Professor at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore.