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Pakistani artist Remal Arif has put his thoughts into a series of illustrations depicting the harsh realities of women who have been silenced by men for generations. 18-year-old Remal Arif says her art is “a language that speaks about customs, traditions, power, feminism, breaks unwritten laws and expresses the unspoken truth of our society, which is often neglected”.
It draws attention to injustices, barbarism, misogyny and sexism that women in South Asia often face daily.
A hand around the neck of a woman pointing to brutality through strangulation. another woman hides, her disgrace and sadness behind a curtain; a third woman suffocated by an unidentified hand; and a fourth with a princess crown on her head and a red tape covering her mouth; They are all part of the Arup series Chup Raho.
Her characters, mostly dark-haired women, are almost always in bold red lipstick, wearing jewelry and sometimes even wraps their heads in a veil. Violent elements such as female infanticide, “killing”, rape, domestic violence, premature deaths, acid attacks, harassment, coercive payments and premature marriage are topics that she likes to deal with. Topics that are common in South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Arif’s art invites men to question women in their lives about their problems. To do this, she assumes an unusual creative process.
Her illustrations are essentially of themselves, but show the pain of another person. She stands in front of her mirror to imagine and feel the fear, trauma, and grief of another woman, and takes a photo with her phone while expressing those emotions. She then uses her own image as a reference and her imagination to illustrate the women in her work. Arif stands out on her low-budget phone without using a stylus while lying on her favorite couch at home.
Earlier this month, illustrations from her Chup Raho series were exhibited in The Flying Dutchman, a venue in London where new and emerging artists can find a space for their work, especially when referring to gender and diversity.
“What will people say” is one of the most common and basic problems that keep taboos intact. In fact, a movie of the same name from 2017 is a sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl, Nisha, who lives in Norway and whose father catches her in bed with her boyfriend and then marries her. When she refuses, he kidnaps her and packs her in Pakistan to live with relatives who practically enslave her.
Last week, the Electronic Media Regulatory Authority in Pakistan (PEMRA) issued a statement to broadcasters asking them not to broadcast controversial dramas because “they are not a true picture of Pakistani society.
Impersonal scenes / dialogues, extramarital relationships, violence, inappropriate clothing, rape scenes, caresses, bed scenes, drug and alcohol consumption, intimate moments between couples are glamorized in defiance of Pakistani culture and values. “PEMRA even banned the American reality TV series” Naked & Afraid “, which requires a man and a woman in the wild to survive without anything, including their clothes.
In 2016, Qandeel Baloch, the social media celebrity, was cold-bloodedly killed by her brother because he was “too brave” and voiced her opinion. He confessed the crime and said, “It brought honor to our family, and I could not stand it any longer.”