Using paper made in Shikoku, Japan, with materials such as kozo, mitumata and gampi, and bamboo paper inlaid with gold and silver pigment, artist Sabah Husain has composed a series of “manuscripts” inspired by the works of Jalaluddin Rumi and Noon Meem Rashid. In oral poetry, as she explains, metre, alliteration and kenning served at one time as memory aids that allowed the bards who recited narrative poetry to reconstruct them from memory.
“I use visual symbols, colour, small and large script on textured paper to create a visual narrative. Certain words and stanzas are repeated, like a musical score. And the images are culled from the poetic content, the circle of life and death, seed, flower, fruit. The circular form is the seed and the symbol of the sun.”
“I want the text, the pictograph and the paper, warm and sensuous, to work in unison”
“Certain words and stanzas are repeated, like a musical score”
“Rashid talks about Hassan’s inspiration from the rainbow and its seven colours, butterflies and his lover’s face. So I have these as almost pictographs. I want the text, the pictograph and the paper made from the plant fibre, warm and sensuous, to work in unison in these series […] And I have taken the liberty of using lines from all his four poems on Hassan Koozagar and combining them randomly, emphasising certain strains in the poem […] sometimes repeating a word to show its many literary and visual dimensions.”
Sabah Husain, founder and presently the director of the Lahore Arts Foundation Trust, completed her Masters in Fine Arts (specialising in printmaking) from the Kyoto National University of Fine Arts and Music in Japan in 1988. She has worked in collaboration with the British Museum in London, the National Art Gallery in Islamabad, and the Okinawa Museum of Contemporary Art in Okinawa, Japan. Husain was recently artist-in-residence at the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and currently teaches at the National College of Arts in Lahore.