During the month of December, Pakistani Artist, Summayya Jillani collaborated with HAHAxParadigm to bring her works, rich in color and culture, outside of a gallery setting for the first time. Jillani’s work often carries a whimsical Eastern retelling of the influence of western pop culture. Like her famous painting of Marilyn dressed in classic Pakistani attire (Baar baar dekho, hazaar baar dekho).
HAHA sat down with Visual Artist, Summayya Jillani to discuss her views on community art and to figure out how street art is received in Pakistan.
HM: We’re excited that you’re going to participate in some street art with us before you fly back home. Being that street art is basically an umbrella term for most visual art displayed in public locations, what type of reaction does it receive back home in Karachi? Are there any major differences than the affects you see it have here in the U.S.?
SJ: I think there might be quite a big difference between the reactions we get from people here in the US and what we would get as a reaction on serious street-art back in Pakistan. I’ve been here for more than a month now and I have wandered about in many different neighborhoods of different cities here, which include some very arty areas with a lot of devised street art. People from Karachi would definitely admire it more than any American citizen because they’re not used to seeing such kind of strenuously executed works on the walls of their own city. What I mean is, it is an everyday thing here, while it is still a very big deal, a rarity in Pakistan to see public art. We too have a lot of things happening on our walls but it’s mostly highly provocative stuff like political or religious slogans and people don’t consider it arty.
HM: What would you like to take away from this project or convey to U.S. viewers with it?
SJ: Coming from a country like Pakistan, which we all know doesn’t have a very nice impression on the rest of the world due to its helter-skelter status quo; I have always tried to make a point that nothing in this world is completely bad or good. It’s always in the hands of someone or the other to bring out either a true or an exaggerated image of a place or just anything. I know my country is going through its worst phases but there is always some good in everything. Same is the case with Pakistan, it’s youth despite all the difficulties it has to face every other day, is vibrant, positive and very constructive. They’re hard to demotivate. They like to listen to/make good music, go to cinema, hang out with friends, do all the young things that people their age do in other prosperous countries without much fear. They have dreams and ambitions. They like to make friends across the borders, they’re not hostile in nature at all and they’re always trying very hard to steer up the image of their nation. Through any work that I have done in past or will be doing in future, my intension remains the same, that is to make people see beyond the extreme political or religious sturm and drang going on in Pakistan most of the time. There is a lot of taste, liveliness and love for fun in people’s hearts over there. There is a lot of good co-existing with the bad, but sadly it goes undetected most of the time.
HM: Lastly, what are your thoughts on community art/public art/street art?
SJ: I personally love public art more than any other type of art. My reasons are simple because that way it doesn’t remain exclusive, which I believe is not the actual purpose of art or any other mode of expression. It is meant to be seen and spread as much as it may. Another reason is that I have always enjoyed being surrounded by immense in size imageries. It makes my every-day life experiences a bit more interesting I feel.
Keep an eye out for Jillani’s addition to the vibrancy of Philadelphia’s streets this month. If you’re in Philly, you can check her ‘Pakistani Marilyn’ out at 2nd Street in Old City. HAHA x PARADIGM’s first collaboration was with LA-based artist, Paige Smith (aka a Common Name) who bought her Urban Geodes project to Philly this past October