Saturday, November 23, 2013

Art Makes You Smart - New York Times article


Art Makes You Smart

Alain Pilon

By BRIAN KISIDA, JAY P. GREENE and DANIEL H. BOWEN (Published: November 23, 2013)
A few years ago, however, we had a rare opportunity to explore such relationships when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Ark. Through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the museum, we were able to determine that strong causal relationships do in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes.
Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.
Crystal Bridges, which opened in November 2011, was founded by Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. It is impressive, with 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment of more than $800 million.
Thanks to a generous private gift, the museum has a program that allows school groups to visit at no cost to students or schools.
Before the opening, we were contacted by the museum’s education department. They recognized that the opening of a major museum in an area that had never had one before was an unusual event that ought to be studied. But they also had a problem. Because the school tours were being offered free, in an area where most children had very little prior exposure to cultural institutions, demand for visits far exceeded available slots. In the first year alone, the museum received applications from 525 school groups requesting tours for more than 38,000 students.
As social scientists, we knew exactly how to solve this problem. We partnered with the museum and conducted a lottery to fill the available slots. By randomly assigning school tours, we were able to allocate spots fairly. Doing so also created a natural experiment to study the effects of museum visits on students, the results of which we published in the journals Education Next and Educational Researcher.
Over the course of the following year, nearly 11,000 students and almost 500 teachers participated in our study, roughly half of whom had been selected by lottery to visit the museum. Applicant groups who won the lottery constituted our treatment group, while those who did not win an immediate tour served as our control group.
Several weeks after the students in the treatment group visited the museum, we administered surveys to all of the students. The surveys included multiple items that assessed knowledge about art, as well as measures of tolerance, historical empathy and sustained interest in visiting art museums and other cultural institutions. We also asked them to write an essay in response to a work of art that was unfamiliar to them.
These essays were then coded using a critical-thinking-skills assessment program developed by researchers working with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
Further, we directly measured whether students are more likely to return to Crystal Bridges as a result of going on a school tour. Students who participated in the study were given a coupon that gave them and their families free entry to a special exhibit at the museum. The coupons were coded so that we could determine the group to which students belonged. Students in the treatment group were 18 percent more likely to attend the exhibit than students in the control group.
Moreover, most of the benefits we observed are significantly larger for minority students, low-income students and students from rural schools — typically two to three times larger than for white, middle-class, suburban students — owing perhaps to the fact that the tour was the first time they had visited an art museum.
Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes. How important is the structure of the tour? The size of the group? The type of art presented?
Clearly, however, we can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition. Expanding access to art, whether through programs in schools or through visits to area museums and galleries, should be a central part of any school’s curriculum.
Brian Kisida is a senior research associate and Jay P. Greene is a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas. Daniel H. Bowen is a postdoctoral fellow at the Kinder Institute of Rice University.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Frieze 2013 and Pakistan

by Artwallaa
Image Source: The Frieze, Little Bird


After four tough years, Amanda Sharp, Matthew Slotover and the rest of the Frieze Art Fair team must be breathing relatively easy. Their strategy of introducing the Frieze Masters seems to have paid off as the recently concluded fair showed the first uptick in the number of visitors (close to 70,000), than in most of the past 5 years and certainly from the 55,000 or so visitors in 2012.

The Frieze Masters clearly was a smart idea as this section looks much better in terms of layout, the quality of works and the general ambiance too. The 'original' Frieze has become too conceptual for our liking. Barring a few good (well-executed) works and a few 'trophy' works, the rest was either poorly executed work or too conceptual and/or both.

Our favourite art work at the Frieze !

Pakistan had a good representation at the Fair but again the works failed to provide any new dimension or execution then the normal works being churned out by artists. From the likes of Imran Qureshi, Aisha Khalid, Shahzia Sikander to younger artists like Waqas Khan and Mehreen Murtaza were represented.

Title #0
L/ Telegram from the Future, Postcard from Karakorum, 2013 - Postcard (back + front)
R/ Telegram from the Future, Letter from Medina, 2013 - Cream colored cotton paper, rubber stamps, postage stamp, quill ink, accompanying envelope, green velvet mount
Source: Grey Noise

Title #0
L1/ Comet Bennet over Delhi, Humayun’s Tomb March 1970; L2/ Telegram from the Future, Radiogram; C/ Floating Stone; R1/ Solstice; R2/ Telegram from the future, Postcards from Karakorum; R3/ Telegram from the future, Letter from Medina. Source: GraeyNoise

Waqas Khan

I was You - Aisha Khalid
Imran Qureshi

Shahzia Sikander

See more images at Pakistan Art News Facebook Page


Monday, November 11, 2013

Shahzia Sikander at the 13th Istanbul Biennial | "Artist to Artist"

Shahzia Sikander at the 13th Istanbul Biennial | "Artist to Artist" | Art21

Source: Art21

October25, 2013

Shahzia Sikander travels to the 13th Istanbul Biennial and speaks with four fellow artists and a two-person design collective about their projects. "There's so much within the art world that happens by word of mouth, by engaging, by making a connection," says Sikander. Artists address not only the concepts that underlie their work, but also the public protests in Gezi Park and Taksim Square—also known as the Gezi Resistance—that began three months before the Biennial opened and impacted its organization. Sikander discusses the palpability of social unrest in Istanbul and describes an "energy and anxiousness" that would occasionally erupt. Diego Bianchi, Gülsün Karamustafa, Basim Magdy, Hito Steyerl, and RAAAF (formerly Rietveld Landscape) are also featured in the film. The 13th Istanbul Biennial was on view September 14--October 20, 2013.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wearing - Imran Qureshi at the Met

The blog below again shows how mainstream Imran Qureshi has become in the American (and global) art world.

WEARING: Imran Qureshi at the Met.
Source: Artfullyawear

Over the weekend, I finally had an opportunity to visit The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  When I first read about this year's rooftop commission, I was surprised to find that this was much more introspective than the usual summertime sculpture shows that take place at the top of the Met.

Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi's And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Clean is in no way obtrusive, essentially becoming an aspect of the surroundings.  Handpainted in the color of dried blood, the work, which resembles Pollock's splatter paintings adorned with organic floral-type forms, calls to mind both the record of a battle scene and new life.

Though Ken Johnson's review in the Times criticized the work as not taking into account its site-specificity with relation to terrorism and the September 11 attacks, he still described the work thus: "A dreamlike carpet underfoot, bound to be scuffed and soiled by thousands of shoes and beaten by sun and rain, it remains generously open to meditative reflection."

I agree with Johnson's assertion that the work illicits reflection, and add that its violence is an ever present reminder of the struggles faced by our own and other cultures.  The rooftop exhibition is open through November 3.

Dress: Vintage, via Beacon's Closet Park Slope
Sandals: Madison Harding
Handbag: Vintage, via Goodwill
Sunglasses: Dolce and Gabbana
Necklace: Belonged to my mother

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Calling all artists, curators, gallerists, art publishers, academics related to Pakistan Arts

Pakistan Art News (PakAN) is looking to consolidate Pakistan art related events around the world. Artwalla is therefore calling all artists, curators, gallerists, art publishers and academics related to Pakistan Arts to contribute.
We are focussing on international events but will try to accommodate local events too.
We are looking for future exhibitions but also want to provide context to our readers for the past couple of years too. So, provide data for 2013-2014 and also between 2010-13 as well.

If you are interested and want to contribute, write to us (at and we will send you a sample of the format in which the information needs to be sent.
If you have suggestions, send them separately via email. For all questions send emails, do not put comments on FB or the blog. We will not be able to respond to those.

Looking forward to more information sharing

Pakistan Art News

Superlatives like 'very hot' and 'super famous' used by International curators for Pakistan?

Source: Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU

When was the last time we saw/read superlatives like 'very hot' and 'super famous' used by International curators for Pakistani artists?

Artwallaa has picked up the below from a local Michigan publication. The article is about the upcoming exhibitions at the Broad Museum (known for its Zaha Hadid design too), over the next 12 months. The list includes an exhibition by Imran Qureshi's planned for April 2014. Below is the description of how the museum's curator Alison Gass talks about Mr Qureshi's work and the artist himself.

Source: FB, Little Birb

Excerpts from the article, "...........   Gass wants to both please and provoke visitors to the Broad, but admits that’s a tall order, if not an outright contradiction. She may have found the perfect mix of visual splendor and tough-minded political content in the work of Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi, who blends age-old painting techniques with violent imagery in a way that reflects his nation's history. Gass has wanted to work with Qureshi for years, and will finally do it for a major show in the Broad Museum’s big Minskoff Gallery, beginning in April 2014.
Qureshi was scheduled to do an exhibit at the Broad in spring 2013, but suddenly became very hot in the art world, with a major exhibition in Berlin and a commission from New York's Metropolitan Opera to create a work on its rooftop garden. For the Met commission, Qureshi painted intricate patterns suggesting angel wings, vegetation and feathers — motifs from traditional Indian and Persian miniature painting. But he used blood-red paint, creating the impression from afar that a slaughter had taken place on the roof of the opera house. Gass is glad Qureshi wasn't available in spring, because after the Met project, the art world is waiting to see what he will do next.
“Now he's super famous, but he’s pushed this idea as far as it can go, so he's going to do something totally new for us,” Gass said. There will be intricate miniatures, a large installation, video art and more. “He’s very powerful,” Gass said. “He hits the space between beauty and horror. You're astounded by his skill but it brings the social and political conditions of Pakistan into the gallery as well.”"


Need I say anything more .......... our own Mr Qureshi is in a completely different stratosphere .......

Pakistan in Hong Kong through Asia Society

(Source: Title, intro and magazine shots at the bottom: Gandhara-art-Space; Main section: Asia Sciety)

Guggenheim Museum NYC's exhibition 'No Country'(Art from South and South East Asia) opens at the Asia Society Museum Hong Kong. Works by Khadim Ali and Bani Abidi represent Pakistan in this exhibition, featuring works from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh.


The Asia Society Hong Kong Center will present No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia, the inaugural touring exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, from October 30, 2013, to February 16, 2014. Featuring recent work by 13 artists from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, No Country presents some of the most compelling and innovative voices in South and Southeast Asia today. The exhibition was first seen in New York at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (February 22–May 22, 2013) as part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, a multi-year collaboration that charts contemporary art practice in three geographic regions—South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa—and encompasses curatorial residencies, international touring exhibitions, audience-driven educational programming, and acquisitions for the Guggenheim’s permanent collection.  All works have been newly acquired for the Guggenheim’s collection under the auspices of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund. Following its presentation in Hong Kong, the exhibition will travel to Singapore.

Bani Abidi

The Ghost of Mohammed Bin Qasim, 2006. Nine inkjet prints, edition 5/5, six prints: 14 1/2 × 18 1/4 inches (36.8 × 46.4 cm) each, and three prints: 18 1/4 × 14 1/2 inches (46.4 × 36.8 cm) each. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012, 2012.139.1. © Bani Abidi


This Video Is a Reenactment, 2006. Color video, silent, 58 sec. loop, and inkjet print, edition 3/5, 18 1/4 × 14 1/2 inches (46.4 × 36.8 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012, 2012.139.2. © Bani Abidi

Abidi explores historical and contemporary representations of the figure of bin Qasim, and the proliferation of this narrative in state history and shared culture, through her fictional depictions of the hero in his emblematic form—wearing the Arabic keffiyeh, brandishing a sword, and riding a charging horse. In The Boy Who Got Tired of Posing, the artist plays on the trend of popular studio photography in 1980s Pakistan, which saw parents encourage their sons to dress up as bin Qasim for portrait shots. In the work’s final image, the subject, tired of performing, mischievously elects to exit the frame. In This Video is a Reenactment, the artist recalls Labbaik, a televisual dramatization of the colonial founder’s conquest, by excerpting a sequence showing the hero’s momentous horseback ride.

In Abidi’s video, however, the act is slowed down, accentuating its histrionic impact on the nation. Finally, in a suite of eight monochrome photographs, The Ghost of Mohammed Bin Qasim, the artist monumentalizes the figure, who appears to haunt various sites of national significance around Karachi including the Lahore Fort, the tomb of Emperor Jahangir, and the National Mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, or Mazar-e-Quaid. Yet on closer examination, these glimpses of the return of the historical figure contain various incongruities and awkwardnesses. A short fictional text reveals the story of how the haunting began with the conversion of a young man, Yusof Masih, to Islam, and his imagining himself as bin Qasim. The figure, juxtaposed with iconic contexts, raises questions of the roles of nationhood, nationalism, and narratives of origin in the trajectory of history.

The Boy Who Got Tired of Posing, 2006. Three chromogenic prints and one inkjet print, edition 3/5, three prints: 40 3/4 × 30 3/4 inches (103.5 × 78.1 cm) each and one print: 18 1/2 × 14 1/2 inches (47 × 36.8 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012, 2012.139.3. © Bani Abidi



Khadim Ali

Untitled 1, Rustam Series, 2011–12. Watercolor, gouache, and ink on paper, 27 1/2 × 19 5/8 inches (69.9 × 49.8 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012, 2012.143. © Khadim Ali

The title of Khadim Ali’s Rustam Series (2011–12) references the hero of the Persian Shahnameh (Book of kings). The protagonist of Ferdowsi’s 11th-century epic poem is recognized for his valor and strength, but Ali’s work recalls only his name; the paintings allude to the persecution of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a community that finds itself displaced on both sides of the border. The work depicts demons, and suggests that the legendary character of the Rustam has been usurped in contemporary times as justification for hostility and bloodshed, his heroism now ascribed to those who perpetrate violence and domination. In a broader sense, the work reflects on the upheavals and crises that emerge from lingering difference.

Untitled 2, Rustam Series, 2010. Watercolor, gouache, and ink on paper, 19 5/8 × 16 3/4 inches (49.8 × 42.5 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012, 2012.144. © Khadim Ali

Successive cycles of violence and aggression are not limited to this particular minority community, but recur in oppressive circumstances elsewhere. In its reference to the narrative and lyrical traditions of the Persian people and the region, Ali’s work recollects both the triumph of civilizations past and the turmoil and aftermath of conquest. Yet in spite of loss, there linger traces of individual and cultural memory, of which the return of the Rustam is one. Layered in these works are excerpts from epic poems and literary references to Persian and Afghan history and culture, keys to meaning that the violence of contemporary conflict cannot efface. Also depicted in the series of paintings are the silent and empty alcoves in cliffs that were once occupied by the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. Though these 6th-century statues were destroyed in 2001, their physical absence, like that of the Rustam, has a haunting aura of its own.

Untitled 3, Rustam Series, 2011–12. Watercolor, gouache, and ink on paper, 19 7/8 × 16 15/16 inches (50.5 × 43 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012, 2012.145. © Khadim Ali

Following the style of miniature painting, and in particular the technique of neem rang (half-color), the artist uses traditional methods of production including pigmentation with gold and silver leaf. This traditional South Asian aesthetic, now also marked by Persian influences, is a form of Mughal painting that was once used in illustrated texts, primarily to represent royalty, battles, and legends. The rich and sensitive detailing of these historical portraits is, like the literary epic, revived in Ali’s work, which accords the traditional practice a contemporary relevance by aligning its cultural significance with the circumstances of today.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Welcome back to the coming age of 'Naeen ree-saan shehr Lahore di-yaan'


Vogue's Blog on Lahore is delightful for multiple reasons

A very good blog on Lahore not only for describing the places to visit and where to eat but also because of a well written description on why they say 'Lahore Lahore Haey' and also because of including our favourite Imran Qureshi, Rashid Rana and Aisha Khalid in the write-up. The inclusion of visual art scene in a 'routine' blog on a city like Lahore (and for Pakistan in general) is a welcome change / sign, as it indicates that the cultural presence and activities have strengthened to a level where they are seen as 'main stream' destination activities, along with the routine architecture and food related descriptions.

Again shows that Pakistan is growing beyond the dark days of Zia-ul-Haq and Lahorites and getting back into their groove of the last 300-400 years - of good architecture, great food and even greater cultural scene - be it visual, performing or literal.

Welcome back to the coming age of 'Naeen ree-saan shehr Lahore di-yaan' (Lahore has no parallel)

PS: To know more on why Artwallaa believes that the Pakistan visual art scene is in an irreversible upward pattern, read the following articles:
2013 is proving to be a banner year for Pakistan Visual Arts
Bloomberg article on Pakistan art - stereotyped, shallow but ......
A Proud Milestone for Pakistan & Asian Art

Vogue's lens on Lahore

Guest Blogger | 30 Oct 2013       
Source: Vogue-In


Wazir Khan Mosque in Old Lahore. Image: Sana Zulfiqar
Suhair Khan discovers Michelin-worthy kebabs, meets major artists in their homes and spotlights Lahore's most popular fashion designers
In the heart of a throbbing city of 10 million people is a walled island where the timestamp seems to be stuck somewhere around 1647 AD.
Bags of saffron, turmeric, fresh peaches and dried tobacco are piled high along shoulder-width cobbled streets. And so while standing in the midst of Old Lahore's Wazir Khan Mosque this summer, in the deepest corner of the Mughal-era Androon Shehr -- as the Asr azaan was called out of the tiled minars -- I held my breath and waited for reality to seep back through my skin.

Inside the Walled City. Image: Sana Zulfiqar
The thing is, as you drive back through those narrow roads and onto lush tree-lined boulevards, Lahore's reality hits you pretty quickly: start-up competitions, art fairs, parties, fashion shows, incessant wedding celebrations, (many) flyovers, abnormally large malls and business conferences.
Lahore is, in every way, an archetypical contemporary city -- peppered with some necessary chaos and flavoured with a fair dose of Punjabi swagger.

Girls make their way through the narrow cobblestone pathways within Old Lahore. Image: Saad Sarfraz Sheikh

Badshaahi Mosque. Image: Ali Khurshid

The city's old architecture. Image: Ali Khurshid


Food: Michelin-worthy kebabs

Evenings in Lahore begin very late and cuisine is considered with an intense collective seriousness.
This place is not for the faint of stomach.My cousin Shahnawaz -- a Ferrandi-trained French chef who has worked with Alain Ducasse and David Bouley and so no slouch when it comes to gourmet food -- declared that he had found Pakistan's only Michelin-worthy restaurant: the kebab specialists at Baking Virsa in Gawal Mandi.

Also always on the list of visiting gastronomes is the somewhat rundown Cuckoo's Café, in the shadow of the Badshahi Masjid. Here, steaming hot tea and meat-laden food is hoisted up via antiquated pulley. Once a brothel, this ornate heritage building is also the childhood home of the proprietor Iqbal Hussain, a painter who is famous for his depictions of the women of Heera Mandi -- the poetically named red light district.

Massive homes in the city's newer, posh districts are decked out with private bars and perma-dancefloors in this extended era of prohibition. Some old Lahori families continue to live in exquisitely maintained old havelis, hosting lavish parties and serving up local culture, food, and music (replete with contemporary DJs).

On the weekends, this crowd heads off to their feudal lands along the banks of the Indus or to farms at the outskirts of the city, where invites to Qawwali nights at the homes of born-again Sufis are highly coveted.

On a foodie tour with Shahnawaz, uber chef and gastronome. Image: Sohaib Athar

The celebrations are never less than lavish. Image: Ali Khurshid

Art: Rashid, Aisha and Imran

But for me, the highlights were easily meeting some of the ambassadors of the city's current story. The artist Rashid Rana -- whose groundbreaking work is coveted by collectors, museums and art fairs worldwide -- and his wife Aroosa, spoke to me about Rashid's ongoing (and incredible) retrospective at Karachi's Mohatta Palace.
Rashid Rana's incredible work. Image: Rashid Rana

Being in their home was a visual feast: amongst industrial furniture, the stark white walls are adorned with pieces by Zahoor Ikhlaq, Quddus Mirza, and Muhammed Ali Talpur. A true Lahori (he gave me tons of local foodie tips), Rashid's crowd includes the writer Mohsin Hamid, artists such as Ayaz Jokio, former art students and young entrepreneurs. He is contemplating an artists' salon; I would love to be a fly on that wall.
At home with Rashid and Aroosa Rana in front of a Zahoor Akhlaq painting. Image: Aroosa Rana

I continued to take advantage of desi hospitality by scarfing down tea and buttery palmiers in the home of Aisha Khalid and Imran Qureshi (yes, the contemporary Pakistani artist whose work is currently on display on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York). The two chatted with immense modesty about Aisha's upcoming shows at the Moscow Biennale and Imran's September talk at the Met with the heads of the Islamic Art and Modern Art departments. Their own dazzling works were dotted among others' pieces throughout their home -- all of it reflective of their city and country -- with all the depth and colour, history, and sometimes frightening uncertainty which has shaped their own identities as contemporary and very present Pakistani citizens.

Tea with Imran Qureishi and Aisha Khalid at their home in Lahore. Image: Sahyr Sayed

Imran is a big fan of current Pakistani cinema (Aisha wryly observed that he's its most enthusiastic ambassador), and he excitedly played the trailer for a new film, Zinda Bhaag, for me on his laptop.
The movie is set in Lahore, and as an artist, Imran clearly relates to the theme -- young Pakistanis confronting the ennui of a complicated and often intense existence. A few weeks later, the film was voted Pakistan's first official entry to the Oscars.

Lahore pulls together so much of what it means to live in contemporary Pakistan. Writers, professors, activists, artists, tech entrepreneurs, lawyers -- there is a dynamism which makes it difficult to leave. And so I left the city reluctantly, carrying as keepsakes Iqbal Hussain's book of paintings and Liberty Market's best meetha paan to the airport. The car drove past a gaggle of young boys splashing around in the muddy waters of the city's central canal in the early morning light. They would dry off before evening, when the city lights up again.

Culture: Lit fests and good museums

Poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's 'City of Many Lights' definitely glitters today. There is a cultural resurgence in a place which can boast centuries of painting, literature and music.
The Lahore Literary Festival last year hosted star writers such as Tariq Ali, Bapsi Sidhwa and Mohammed Hanif, and luminaries from the arts such as architect Nayyar Ali Dada and artist Salima Hashmi.
Of the city's many art events and galleries, my friend Nelofar recommends the annual thesis exhibition at the Zahoor-ul-Akhlaque Gallery at the National College of Arts. The Fakir Khana Museum is another museum worth the trip; hidden away at the Old City's Bhati gate, this private collection contains treasures passed down through generations of the Fakir family, with almost 30,000 items from the Sikh, Mughal and British eras -- perilously preserved and infrequently visited.

A look at Lahori theatre. Image: Ali Khurshid

The MetroPole theatre. Image: Sana Zulfiqar

At a concert. Image: Sana Zulfiqar

Urdu digests. Image: Sana Zulfiqar

Fashion: Lahore's immaculately dressed women

Lahore's women are famously immaculately kept, and beauty parlours named thus sprout at every other corner.
Fashion rules.
Nelofar, who is one of the most chic people I know, recommends the Pakistan Fashion Design Council showroom in the upmarket Gulberg district.
Designer favourites include Kamiar Rokni (who uses traditional fabrics from his native Bahawalpur), Maheen Karim (slinky gowns) and Sania Maskatiya (trendy prêt).
Something that really excites me is fashion girls seeking out older designers and styles as well, reverting from Bollywood bling to sleek chiffon saris, classic cuts, and even muted Parsi-style embroidery.

Kamiar Rokni. Image:

Maheen Karim at the 6th PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2013. Image:

Sania Maskatiya at the 6th PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2013. Image:

Top 10 Lahori must-sees, according to locals Nelofar and Sohaib

  1. Anakarkali's tomb: Explore the cavernous archives in Anarkali's famed mythical tomb, and sift through documents such as the original deed of the sale of Kashmir to the British Empire in 1846. A bit difficult getting in, so plan ahead.
  2. Wagah border: March yourself to the Wagah border to watch the famous Indo-Pak evening staredown -- a flag-lowering ceremony which is a spectacle of colour, sound, and anachronistic bombast and still pulls in the crowds.
  3. The Royal Trail and the Fakir Khana Museum: Walk down the Royal Trail to find everything from antique jewelry to spare motorcyle parts. Weave your way from Delhi Gate up to the Mughal-era Badshaahi Masjid and Lahore Fort, where Emperor Shah Jahan built his beloved Mumtaz a Sheesh Mahal so she could see the stars reflected all around her every evening. Next head to Bhati Gate to check out the Fakir Khana Museum's incredible private collection.
  4. Andaaz Restaurant in the Old City: Divine desi food, phenomenal ambience, rooftop seating overlooking the regal Badshahi Masjid. The Mughals and their courtiers found solace in the arms of the dancing girls in this hood, and although the business has largely relocated to more upscale locales, the spice-filled air remains heavy with centuries of untold stories.
  5. Peeru's Café for live music (they have qawwali night, fusion night, ghazal night) and desi food. Quite an experience.
  6. Baking Virsa in Gawal Mandi: Call 24 hours in advance for a spot -- kebab-centric courses are served and presented by the chef and owner, known to customers as Sufi Sahab.
  7. Pak Tea House: This storied old haunt of intellectual powerhouses such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ibn-e-Insha, Ahmed Faraz, Saadat Hasan Manto and Ustad Amanat Ali Khan was recently re-opened by an activist blogger. Sip tea and engage in lively dialogue on whatever suits your fancy.
  8. MM Alam Road shops: Named after a 1965 wartime pilot, the road received a makeover recently and with it a new kind of invasion; designers like Nida Azwer, Sania Mastikayia, Fahad Hussain and Sara Shahid have boutiques here.
  9. Liberty Market: For anyone on a budget, get everything from chikankari and kaamdani embroidery and fabric, trendy sandals, Lahori khussas, bangles, and lace trimmings here.
  10. The Pakistan Fashion Design Council showroom in the upmarket Gulberg district.