BANI ABIDI

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THE BOY WHO GOT TIRED OF POSING

Considering the manner in which history is written, manipulated and disseminated to advantage various self serving agendas, I am particularly drawn to the place that the Arab General Mohammad Bin Qasim is accorded in the official history of Pakistan. As children growing up in Zia’s 80’s the phrase ‘The conquest of Sind by Mohammad Bin Qasim in 712 AD’ was a familiar heading one could put down if one was in the least unsure how to begin charting out where the origin of the Pakistani nation lay. The civilizations, religions and cultures which had existed here before the Arab conquest of Sind had gradually been relegated to marginal status on the pages of our Pakistan Studies Textbooks. What was created as a result was an essential, simplistic and cleanly chronological interpretation of an exclusive Muslim history.
Currently caught in the throes of a violent Wahab-i-sation of local Islamic culture, Pakistanis yet again attempt to seek validation by aligning themselves with the Arab world, denying the rich and tolerant strain of Islam that has been the norm for centuries in the Sub Continent.

My current body of work tackles these cultural transformations with a series of fictional photo and video narratives. At the center of each is the symbol of Mohammad Bin Qasim as a recurring mythological figure. Playing with the very idea of concocted history, each story lies somewhere between truth and fiction. By presenting exaggerated scenarios of a nation which takes refuge in a selected glorious past, I hope to engage viewers in questions about the need or the extent to which we limit our identities.