Written by Vandana Kalra
It is their distanced view of home and their shared struggles and romances in New York that brought Pakistani poet Hasan Mujtaba and artist Salman Toor together for this collaboration. Introduced to the poet at a party in New York last year, Toor invited Mujtaba to his Brooklyn studio and asked him to recite his poem, For Allen Ginsberg. “Its commitment to resist conservative religious ideas, nationalism and the connections it drew between seemingly unrelated places, struck me. I knew I wanted to paint an image based on the poem,” says Toor. The result is a display in Kochi in which Toor borrows elements from pop culture to capture on his canvas the streets of Pakistan, the writings on its walls and the suffering of its people. “In my dreams, I go back to my country of origin, Sindh. I wish I could go, but I can’t,” says Mujtaba, who worked in Pakistan when the regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq came down heavily on the arts.