Masuma Halai Khwaja

Karachi- based Masuma Halai graduated from National College of Art, Lahore in 1991. She also attended Arena Multimedia, Karachi for a Diploma in Multimedia Graphics. Khwaja has worked as an instructor at several art institutions such as National College of Arts, Lahore, University of Karachi and Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi.

The artist’s work questions identity, schools of thought and ethics that we adopt that inevitably establish our future. Khwaja touches upon many ideas that we come face to face within our daily lives. She talks about individuals’ abandoning their cultural and religious background and adopting entirely different characters that they feel are a better fit.

The artist makes references to religion, culture and gender roles in society. According to Khwaja her work is a method of self – reflection where she tries to understand her own character to better understand her ancestry and lineage.

She also makes references to several religions by using sacred symbols along with different regional scripts to document the religious and cultural diversity prevalent in the city of Karachi. The Arabian headscarf is a recurring feature in her work as she tries to reveal the kind of personality people assume more readily around her. Furthermore, her work includes elements such as the Gulmohar and Bougainvilleas that are endemic of Karachi.

The artist’s work is ever evolving with changes in size, palette and concepts. Masuma Halai experiments with many materials whether it is photography, paint, collage, oil pastels, plaster strips for casting, pen or even embroidery that she feels has a “feminine undertone.”- This seems rather apt as she makes use of this medium to talk about the status of women in Pakistan, using herself as an example.

Thus, Masuma Halai talks about the current state of affairs in the country with hints of irony and symbolism. She says that Pakistan might be declared as an independent state but how free are the residents of the country, really?

The artist had her second solo show Life is a Song at Khaas Gallery, Islamabad in 2012.

Masuma Halai Khwaja

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