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Conflating the mortal and the eternal, the sculptor has laid out the South Asian woman’s everyday unspoken war.

Artists and Activists See Tighter Controls on Expression in Pakistan
Artists and Activists See Tighter Controls on Expression in Pakistan
The Wall Street Journal November 2019

No sooner had Pakistani artist Adeela Suleman’s exhibit opened at the Karachi Biennale last week than she had an encounter that artists, writers, journalists and activists say has become common under the current government: It was shut down.


I first saw Adeela Suleman’s work during a visit to her studio as a fine arts undergraduate student at the Indus Valley School, Karachi—a department she now runs. At the time, she was designing ornate armor for women. 

Starting from the fragile and complex socio-political relationship between India and Pakistan in the era of contemporary warfare, I don’t want to be there when it happens investigates, in a broader sense, the psychology of trauma.

The Artist/Knight is an exhibition with and about artists imbued with the spirit of chivalry and who bring the knight to life in countless incarnations, ranging from gentle irony to unbounded passion.

There is a scene in Peter Greenway’s movie, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, where the angry husband, a master chef, serves the dead body of his wife’s lover, cooked and garnished with vegetable and herbs. Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes a similar situation in his novel The Autumn of the Patriarch when the military dictator forces his cabinet ministers to eat the baked body of his opponent who in the past was his close confidant but betrayed him.

In the current century the complex relationship between creative practice and political activism has gained new critical relevance. Closer to home, artists are responding to the ongoing turmoil and destruction by engaging with strategies of resistance against conformist reason, often registering dissent through dark comedy. 

When Adeela Suleman’s work was included in Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan at the Asia Society, New York, in 2009, her curiously inventive use of ready-mades consisting mainly of cooking utensils and household objects to make helmets, skeletal formations, and sculptures inspired intrigue and wonder about her practice.