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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shanaakht Revisited

So much has been said in the last few days about the events that led to the closure of one of the festivals that promised to add more zest to a Karachi that is just beginning to be itself again.

With a couple of exceptions, everyone has condemned the violence that endangered attendees, participants, and organizers alike. Some have condemned, rightly, all violent protests, bemoaning the fact that our intolerant times have made this the most common form of protest. Others have drawn some fuzzy lines, one commentor on some site even stating that such protests are "kinda acceptable because they are inevitable - such as when they hurt religious sentiment".

That's BS. Violence is violence.

Is what happened in Lahore, when the Danish Cartoon protests took place, not condemnable? It destroyed the property, in some cases even the livelihood, of people who were as hurt by the cartoons as presumably the protesters were.

On blogs and Facebook people continue to debate, defend, and deride the art, or the artist, or the decision to display it. Even on Twitter, when the issue isn't so small as to fit into 140 characters. Discussions like this are invaluable in helping us understand other views, other sentiments, other ideas. My own blog post, too, and my comments elsewhere, came under criticism, and in some cases, I understood and even partially agreed that there were aspects I may not have considered when penning my thoughts.

All I can say in my defense is that I was still reeling from being present on the spot, dazed by the gun-slinging unruly anfd threatening mob's disregard for any civilized negotiations or discussions. My critics, some of them, had read detached (and often distorted) reports in the media and had had the luxury of a lot of varied inputs before they made their worthy analyses. Too, I was privy to more conversations and discussions, some overheard, than were people who were not there.

The arguments, from both sides, are as old as Creativity itself and, once knee-jerk reactions fade, deserve a great deal more serious thought and discussions - hardly possible in an atmosphere of FIRs, threats, and other pressures.

If you are genuinely interested in the larger issue of an artist's responsibility, take time out to read this piece of writing from over half a century ago and form your arguments for either side.

By allowing such sad incidents to be used for the imposition of censorship, by handing over the control of what we read or view, even think, to individuals who, for the most part engage in none of these activities, or to groups of people who would allow or disallow art and books on the basis of personal - often fascistic - views would be to condemn this society to ignominy.

I, for one, am unwilling to make members of any group - themselves guilty or suspected, of bribery, corruption, lies, fraud, and much higher crimes - the guardians of my morality.

... please don't let the Shanaakht aftermath be used for other agenda!

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Blogger sarah islam said...

Zak, my two bit:

I understand the image was distressing. I was shocked when i finally saw it this morning. It was ghastly and unbecoming (made more so by the grainy sepia tinted thumbnail that i saw on some board).

But what about the artist's freedom of expression? She may have created a ghastly piece of art (or not) but banishing it from public view is also a bit too harsh, I think.

My comment is for your earlier post where you requested that the image be taken off the net. I didn't comment on it because a). hadn't seen the image and b). needed to know more about what had actually happened.

This post of yours is more like it. Yes i agree that no one has the right to hijack something like this and use it to further a fascist agenda.

Sorry, have been lurking on your site for a while now :-D will sign off now. Peace!

14 April, 2009 16:42

Blogger Zakintosh said...

The artist has a right to post it on the net. My request was to others who, by doing so at a time when the matter was still controllable, were giving currency to an image that was sure to set many more people aflame. With messages and emails pouring in from many places abroad (because of its presence on the net, the FIR registered against her and others (none was registered, I believe, against the hooligans) will become even more difficult to fight … and there are threats to he life.

14 April, 2009 21:24


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