Photos and captions by Fawad Khan
I attended a folk music event arranged by Umair Jaffar of IPAC Pakistan at Kuch Khaas. More than twenty folk artists were invited for a discussion of the challenges they face in the pursuit of music – a passion, profession and tradition at once, for all of them as I could hear in their heartfelt and understandably grim accounts. They were mostly from Balochistan and Sindh, including Mewari speaking Hindus of Rajasthani background.
It was heartwarming to see them peacefully and intensively involved in ‘the one thing they are good at’, as they proudly profess. When the discussion ended, some musicians stayed back for an informal music session, and among them was the notable Saroz player Sachoo Khan, a Balochi artist who has received Pakistan’s Pride of Performance award.
Listening to these musicians and watching them play is a stark contrast to the violent outrages we are accustomed to witnessing on our television and computer screens. We live at different ranges between opposite phenomena in a multiverse of continuums and often forget that art transforms mute suffering into eloquent beauty – and transformation is not an ‘escape’. It is never easy to set our minds at ease in the light of incompatible perceptions – so I did what I could at that time: took pictures, recorded some of their music, and later tonight, wrote a little poem inspired by the limits of my understanding.
Sachoo Khan accompanied by sons – Afternoon, 11 June 2011 [download]:
The quiet noon roads are teeming with time
and the shimmer of poplar leaves has come
to know the sun full circle and I somewhere
between deciduous trees and the silence
of our summer stars am drawn to link
the substance of soul to the air
of carnal fact whose roots are rain
and sweep the ageless dust around.
Oh, unchanged musicians of our lands,
does it take long to always sound like love?
10:17 pm 11 June 2011
Not only doves, even the kite population/comfort is increasing here – and I really like it. Look them in the eye, and they are significantly like us.
I’ve observed that the dove population is definitely increasing in Rawalpindi/Islamabad. Raza Rumi remarked and wished that the same should happen in the establishment too. Dedicated to this beautiful thought, adorable bird and extended spring, this photograph is from the here and now – a few minutes ago before it started raining and hailing. It still is…
The notion that only what is new and young is beautiful poisons our relationship to the past and to our own future. It keeps us from understanding our roots and the greatest works of our culture and other cultures. It also makes us dread what lies ahead of us and leads many to shirk reality…
Many people have a very limited interest in art. … Most people have no intense concern with antiquity. But the central problem of the effects of time concerns all of us, even if millions refuse to think about it. It is not easy to get at this problem.
The philosophers who have written on time are not much help here. Almost all of them have ignored life at the limits and have done their work in the eye of life’s hurricane.
My experience of time owes more to Rembrandt than to Plato, and more to the Hebrew Bible than to Kant. It has also been shaped by the contemplation of sculptures and ruins and of alarming “restorations.” To Plato and Kant it never occurred that our experience of time could be shaped by looking at works of art, tree bark, erosion, and sunsets, or by reading stories like those of Jacob, Samson, or David.
Of course, “Old is beautiful” is as paradoxical as “Time is an artist.” What meets the eye is the opposite. Yet photographs show how both claims are true. Still they do not tell all, and it may be objected that this aesthetic approach is overly optimistic. My approach, however, is not merely aesthetic. It does not concentrate on surfaces while ignoring oppression, suffering, and death…
Time is an artist. But an artist is not only an artist. Old is beautiful. But old is not only beautiful. As long as we fail to see the artistry of time and the beauty of age, we are far from understanding man’s lot. But to understand it more fully, we still need to ask: What is man?
– From Walter Kaufmann’s Time is an Artist (1978)
This girl, like a few other children in our village, was very amused to see me photographing doors, bolts and windows, my nephews and nieces, and so on. All of them were very eager to pose for portraits, and when I asked her if she would like to be photographed, she was delighted but also shy enough to cover her face. Her features remind me of kindness and her shawl of ultramarine. In painting, the pigment for this color was made by grinding lapis lazuli (Persian: لاژورد lāzhward) which has been mined primarily in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan for over 6000 years. It was expensive, difficult to prepare and work with – a synthetic alternative became available in the 19th century. Ultramarinus, the Latin origin of the word, means ‘beyond the sea’ with reference to the foreign (non-European) origin of lapis lazuli.
The first noted use of lapis lazuli as a pigment can be seen in the 6th- and 7th-century AD cave paintings in Afghanistani Zoroastrian and Buddhist temples, near the most famous source of the mineral. Lapis lazuli has also been identified in Chinese paintings from the 10th and 11th centuries, in Indian mural paintings from the 11th, 12th, and 17th centuries, and on Anglo-Saxon and Norman illuminated manuscripts from c.1100. The pigment was most extensively used during the 14th through 15th centuries, as its brilliance complemented the vermilion and gold of illuminated manuscripts and Italian panel paintings. European artists used the pigment sparingly, reserving their highest quality blues for the robes of Mary and the Christ child. Ultramarine blue is now commonly used by many types of contemporary artists, with Yves Klein being prominent. — Wikipedia
A Photoessay by Fawad Khan | The stills were shot with a Canon camcorder from Pir Suhawa.
Four rababs made by Khurram, grandson of Samandar Khan. They are the best rabab makers in Dabgari Bazar, Peshawar – or, what comes to the same thing, the best in the world.
Joshua Klein on the intelligence of crows
Soon after sunset today, I noticed a moth under the porch light. I picked and held it gently in both hands and then let it fly off but it returned. Attraction of moths toward candlelight and subsequent searing – a symbol of self-oblivious passion – has inspired many fine lines of Urdu and Persian poetry.
baavujuud-e yak jahaa;N hangaamah paidaa))ii nahii;N
hai;N chiraa;Gaan-e shabistaan-e dil-e parvaanah ham
despite ‘a world of’ commotion, there is no creation
we are the lamp-display of the bedchamber of the heart of the Moth
I turned off the light, took the moth to the Jhumka Bel with flowers still blooming and feeding its companions around the end of season. The moth returned and landed on the car window. While I was holding forth on the beauty of moths and dragonflies and how they don’t sting or bite, another one landed on my shirt. I sent our cook to bring the camera but the moth didn’t wait that long. I picked up the one that was still on the car and seemed to like my compliments, but it started struggling, wriggled out and settled on the back of my hand, as you can see.
Zulfi Bhutta on the public-health crisis from the recent Pakistan floods, and Tony Nelson discussing rotavirus vaccination in Africa and Asia.