Pak Khawateen Painting Club

Indus Water Machines, 2019
Mixed-media installation, new commission

Ostensibly benign, proper and ‘pure’: women painters dressed as air hostesses enter sites built by powerful men to generate energy on a massive scale – only to subvert the logic of ‘patriotic’ economic development. Saba Khan, Amna Hashmi, Malika Abbas, Natasha Malik, Emaan Shaikh, and Saulat Ajmal are the Pak [pure] Khawateen [women’s] Painting Club. In this project, they venture to the frontier of the Indus river for ‘plein-air’ painting of nationalistic projects: the mega hydropower dams in the north. Female painters stereotyped as a benign, bourgeoisie group, but in uniform (inspired by Peirre Cardin’s design for Pakistan International airlines in the 60s) subvert roles and enter sensitive sites built and imagined by powerful men to generate power and energy for the nation. Drawing from the book, ‘River of Fire’ by Qurratalain Haider, complex narratives weave a temporal history of people who are united around water bodies. The Indus waters host strata of history. Its deities, rituals, supernatural powers and folklore transcend religion and time, who protect subaltern cultures. In an attempt to tame its waters with modern engineering for agricultural output maximization, the fragmentation of the river, resulted in displacement of indigenous populations, unequal division of resources and inundation of histories. The multi-layered project will create links between femininity, masculine power, water structures, folklore, magic, colonial and neo-liberal designs. As provocateurs, we will question and aim to open the conversation about who’s right is to be considered of greater importance – the urban centres, the subaltern indigenous, or the earth itself.

Text provided by the artist collective
Special Thanks: Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), National College of Arts (NCA), Puffball Sutdios