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Omar Gilani

The Prince Claus Fund was established on 6 September 1996 as a tribute to Prince Claus's dedication to culture and development. The Fund believes that culture is a basic need and the driver of development. 

The Prince Claus Fund supports artists, critical thinkers and cultural organisations in spaces where freedom of cultural expression is restricted by conflict, poverty, repression, marginalisation or taboos. Annually, the Fund grants Prince Claus Awards to individuals and organisations for their outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development. The Fund also  provides first aid to cultural heritage damaged by man-made or natural disaster.

From Pakistan, The Prince Claus Fund is supporting the following initiatives:

Culture Connect

The Little Art is a Pakistan based NGO working to empower children and young adults through the arts. Through this grant, they will implement their project, Culture Connect, which broadly seeks to rethink and challenge the ways in which youth engage with heritage sites, galleries, and museums.

Through digital interventions in the form of VR kiosks, Culture Connect aims to reach the youth and enliven the various stories that exist in cultural artifacts and heritage sites. Through engaging new media, the initiative will present challenging narratives concerning literature, poetry, science, music and migration. Additionally, it will include its target demographic in the preparation of the event by organizing multiple workshops for around 40 individuals. This effort is mutually beneficial as it hopes to inspire the youth to participate in heritage preservation and provides them with the agency to suggest how Culture Connect can successfully meet its goals. Two of the workshops will have the youth participants engage with new media artists to creatively rethink the ways in which these sites are relevant to today.

The final exhibitions will revolve around the stories and histories of the Lahore Fort, Walled City of Lahore and Lahore museum.

The exhibitions will be curated after 4 workshops held with a group of youth participants.

Imagine

Mazhar’s project is an installation based on a historically and culturally iconic image of Pakistan that will incorporate movable set pieces that the audience can manipulate. This manipulation aims to stimulate a discussion and promote an alternative narrative that will hopefully counter the dominant discourse around the iconic image. The tactile intervention is key to the success of the project as it encourages the audience to be more than just a passive viewer, instead encouraging immersive engagement with cultural heritage.

The installation takes traditional handmade miniature sculptures and uses them as stop motion props. The incorporation of these traditional sculptures works to rearticulate the way such objects are interacted with and takes steps to making them relevant to a contemporary context.

Mazhar's project is important because it provides a playful way for people to explore different versions of single established narrative, thus opening the door for different perspectives.

The subjects of the works to be displayed transcend ethnic diversities and instead focus on the elements that culturally unite the locals - roadside chess, street cricket, chai etc. By focusing on the things that are common across ethnic divides, this exhibition could be a step in the direction of an inclusive society that is more focused on commonalities than differences.

Pakistan+ : Exploring South Asian Culture Through Futurism and Fantasy

Omar Gilani is a self-taught conceptual artist, illustrator, and designer from Peshawar, Pakistan. Drawing on his educational background in engineering and robotics, Gilani produced a set of works that theorize what a futuristic Pakistan may look like. Through this project, Gilani will exhibit these works in a new media based exhibition that will have digital illustrations, animation videos, ambient sounds, 3-D installations, interactive art, and virtual-reality all choreographed so as to create an immersive experience. In addition to providing the artistic material, Gilani will also be responsible for the VR and interactive elements himself.

The innovative aspect of Gilani’s works lay in the way he imagines the incorporation of Pakistani culture and heritage in the future. His conception of the future is very different from the mainstream western notion of sci-fi futurism. The latter tends to divorce itself from the past completely, creating a futuristic picture where technological advancements are paramount. Gilani’s conception of the future, however, does not cut ties with the past in its entirety. He has recognized certain elements as being intrinsically characteristic of the local culture, such as the dhabbawallas (street food vendors), galli cricket (street or alleyway cricket) and doodhwallas (milk delivery men), and finds a place for them in his imagined future. Gilani’s project undermines the dominant idea that progress necessitates a break from traditional ways of life and inherited cultural practices. His proposed exhibition will also challenge the idea that traditional aspects of local culture are obstacles to progressive future.

Gilani hopes that this will be a transformative experience for the Pakistani youth familiar with western science fiction. Through the exhibition, he hopes that the youth will be able to re-engage with elements of their culture and to see it in a new light.

Gilani’s works also subtly challenge and comment on certain social issues in the region. Warrior Aunty and the female cricket player portray strong independent women with agency while the cyborg beggar illustrates that poverty and inequality still persist in the future. Gilani’s proposed exhibition is not utopian but presents to the audience a cautiously optimistic and thus realistic future. It is this truthfulness that promises to engage and resonate with the exhibition’s audience as it has done so in the past.

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Little Art

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Mazhar Zaidi

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