What we have today is a society split into murderous factions; an interpretation of beliefs which divides rather than unites; an education which engenders parrots rather than thinking humans; an economy that brings forth snarling competing animals rather than humans living in cooperation; a polity that is fast degenerating into an acceptance of the autocratic dictates trampling over rights; a progress that is measured in the numbers of superrich rather than the wellbeing of all; a social inequity that juxtaposes starvation with gluttony and a culture that is confused, devoid of tolerance and patience, adrift like a ship without moorings. Our cultural expressions, art and architecture, having lost self-confidence, seek approbation only from the West and for that either mindlessly ape the Western trends or cater to their esoteric view of the East. This is our present state and that calls out for change. In a structured society there will be a group or class that dominants and rules over the rest… periods in which the ruling class is firmly in power, when its ideology is clear and strong, when the social structure decreed by it is firm and thus, when its culture permeates society, its literature, art and architecture appear to have a style admired by art critics and historians for its clarity of expression and honesty of thought. And, of course, the reverse is also true. 1 The dominant culture in Pakistan is suspended in a comatose state between misunderstood modernization and nostalgic yearning for the middle ages. It is reflected in the confused state of culture, art and architecture in the country, not to mention the tension ridden society with swift resort to violence at the slightest provocation. Clearly the society lives on edge. The vulnerable sectors of the society: children, women, minorities, the handicapped and the poor are under perpetual threat. In a country starved of energy, huge glass-faced structures are built a la Dubai and imitations of paintings of the Renaissance masters adorn the houses of the nouveau riche. The ruling esthetic ethos is simply confused. Alongside there is, nevertheless, a minor stream of caring and tolerant people, a line of thought that engenders buildings that respect their physical and cultural context and an art that reflects the joy and challenges of the new century. There are other streams also that survive alongside the dominant culture and sometimes in conflict with it. These belong to the marginalized ethnic groups, the minority religious sects, the non-Muslims, the handicapped and the poor. Looking to revitalize our arts and culture it is necessary to broaden the mainstream, enrich it and facilitate it to develop a direction and a meaning which can be truly rooted in our traditions and our people. Culture, art and architecture thrive in an ambience reflecting all the people.


Pervaiz Vandal