Originally published in Youlin Magazine
Art is used to highlight various themes, social contexts and personal experiences. However, it takes a thrilling turn when it materializes a concept such as homicide – the fictionalized murder of Shumaila, in this instance. The curious case of Shumaila began when she went missing, and later turned up dead. No one is certain who the killer is, and none ever will be. However, eight young, mid-career artists interpret the possible causes of her murder through their fascinating art.
An investigation on a horrific crime such as murder can be off-putting, not to mention discomfiting for many. Turning it into a source of inspiration for a contemporary art display may also be unsettling and rather confusing for the audience. Hence, it is all the more challenging to do justice to such a concept, so that the viewer not only comprehends the depth offered by the work, but also appreciates how contemporary art can express even a morbid idea in a visually appealing manner.
Let’s begin this exploratory journey with the prolific display of ‘clues’ by Samina Islam. Her frames include butterflies, handkerchiefs and shoes, accompanied by knitted red roses. Linked together with threads, her wall gives a detailed, magnificent display of artistic insight into Shumaila’s murder. She chooses to inquire about the poor girl by exploring her hidden sensitivity and her feminine side. The victim’s story is further personalized by using photos of her family; her tale is threaded as the lifelines in her handprint. Samina also uses a picture of her mother as she knits motifs on her eyes and clothes in a photograph titled ‘Clue Honeymoon’. It is very refreshing to see this form of evolved art from Samina, whose previous body of work has also been in fabric and threads.
Next, I saw three paintings using the same motif of an eyeball by Razin Rubin, all visualizing the concept of witnessing the crime. A painting showing fifteen symmetrical eyeballs with one missing to complete the frame caught my attention. Could this be the final string in this knotted web of clues? We cannot say for sure; however, Razin, as an aspiring artist, has a long way to go. Her three canvases portray the same idea and motif in different hues. Perhaps this represents the shift in the number of witnesses that often occurs in crime scenes. Unfortunately, what begins as fascination in the first canvas, vaporizes into a dim mist by the third.
Further along the gallery are jewelry pieces, inlaid with semi-precious stones, fashioned by Affan Baghpati. Items in metal, broken down and reformed into crafty pieces depicting a horse, a rider and what seems like a buggi (chariot), as well as earrings and a choker necklace, add a touch of glamour to the investigation of this unsolved crime.
Roohi Ahmed’s two empty chairs, connected by a red thread, represent a connection between two invisible occupants. It is unclear whether they both share the same views or one interrogates the other, but the installation is a fine demonstration of Roohi’s treatment of the medium and the theme.
Who Killed Shumaila? is a fresh and intriguing display of murder investigations in the form of painting, metallic jewelry, threadwork, and the transformation of personal memorabilia into pieces of art, video and installations. Other participating artists include Feroza Gulzar, Mir Dostak, Mudassir Sheikh and Rabia S. Akhtar.