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Posted 03.01.20

Fine Art lecturer Huma Mulji discusses cosmopolitanism at the Sharjah Arts Foundation, UAE

By Naomi Girdler

From left to right: Asma Mundrawala, Huma Mulji and Bani Abidi

Fine Art lecturer Huma Mulji has work featured in an exhibition at the Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE. Funland is a retrospective exhibition of the work of artist Bani Abidi, exploring the artist’s projects spanning over two decades. Huma’s piece 'Memory of a Pink' and collaborative project 'Aar Paar', with Indian artist Shilpa Gupta, feature as part of the group collection 'Very Very Sweet Medina'. 

'Very Very Sweet Medina' is a number of artworks, archives, oral histories and ephemera charting a constellation of art practices and dialogues that emerged in Karachi, Pakistan in the 1990s and continue to impact art-making today. Projects focus on collective practice, exhibition making and large scale participatory and ephemeral public installations, combining elements between high art and urban craft, a phenomenon that was informally and retrospectively termed Karachi Pop.

“I have lived most of my life in Pakistan, and to that end, my primary audience continues to be the broader region of South Asia. There is an instant grasp of nuances of language and image. Conceptual and material ideas, humour and tragedy are grasped in a single encounter.”

- Huma Mulji, BA (Hons) Fine Art Lecturer at Plymouth College of Art

Huma presenting on her project Aar Paar

Running parallel to the show, Huma participated in the symposium, titled 'Artistic Innovation and Collective Practice: Karachi in the 1990s and Beyond', in response to 'Very Very Sweet Medina'. The aim was to bring together voices from the generations of artists working in Karachi in the 1990s in dialogue with historians, curators, writers and contemporary practitioners from Karachi. Focussing on a multiplicity of voices and practices that emerged during the time, and ways in which the moment continues to inform contemporary ideas.

“Speaking with artists and other researchers at the symposium, who have an incisive understanding of a city like Karachi, has brought speculative ideas into focus and the potential to form new, intergenerational alliances, opening up collective ways of looking at the city again. It has been an immense privilege.” 

- Huma Mulji, BA (Hons) Fine Art Lecturer at Plymouth College of Art

Huma Mulji's piece Memory of the Pink

Huma was born in Karachi, Pakistan, completing her BFA at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi in 1995 and an MFA at Transart Institut, Berlin. She ran a collective studio in the city from 1996 to 2002, going on to exhibit work internationally.

Having met at a residency in 1999, Huma and Shilpa initiated Aar Paar (through and through) and ran three iterations of it between 2000-2004. During a particularly hostile time between India and Pakistan, they invited ten artists from each country to produce single colour works for posters. These images were printed across the border (such as Pakistani posters printed in Mumbai and Indian posters printed in Karachi, circumventing censorship and visibility) and then pasted 10,000 posters simultaneously in each city on a day in August 2002.

Funland runs from 12 October until 12 January at the Sharjah Arts Foundation, Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

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