ISLAMABAD: An exhibition by artists Saad Ahmed and Agha Jandan titled ‘Jamaa, Zarb, Taqseem’ (‘Gather, Hit, Split’), opened at the Satrang gallery on Thursday. The exhibition pays tribute to the children killed in an attack on Army Public School (APS), Peshawar on December 16 last year.

Mr Ahmed’s contribution featured drawings of the children, some carrying school bags and books, while others were depicted in heart wrenching stances, with their arms held above their heads.

The artist had apparently captured them mid-pose during a physical education lesson, or perhaps he has frozen them in the last moments of their lives. They stand either with their hands behind their heads or with them held above, as if they were threatened.

The artist explained: “I create my pieces with varied levels of connection to reality. Within those parameters I probe states of being through involuntary and enforced acts in everyday life.”

Saad Ahmed used various mediums and techniques for his pieces, all linked to the concept of a question mark. The artist explained that in a way, through pixilated and half visible images, he had tried to portray the unresolved questions around the incident, of finding an answer to the all the chaos around.

Saad Ahmed’s bold drawings were accompanied by paintings of blackboards by Agha Jandan. They showed regular classroom activities and chalk markings of lessons on blackboards.

The depictions of classes, math equations, times-tables, drawings and illustrations would have been familiar to anyone who entered a classroom. There was something different though: their unfinished, un-wiped state left an air of incompleteness.

The paintings left a mark on all viewers, as the realisation of the finality of it all sank in.

Talking about his inspiration, Agha Jandan said: “My work is the reflection of my experiences as a schoolteacher and the images I paint offer some hope to society. I paint blackboards in which I portray what happens in the classroom and sometimes, in society.”

The works in the collection are familiar in what they depict, but also remind viewers of the horrific tragedy, of the lives that were taken away too soon.

The owner of the gallery, Asma Khan, said both artists took nine months to prepare for the show. She added: “The works are a representation of what the artists feel and are an attempt to help people come out of the shock of the tragedy”.

She said proceeds from the show will go towards building schools in the name of APS students, which will forever impart education and create tolerance in future generations.

Meanwhile in Rawalpindi, as part of a series of events to be held over the week to remember the martyrs of the attack, the Rawalpindi Arts Council (RAC) and government run schools held exhibitions and prayers.

RAC arranged a picture exhibition, displaying more than 200 photographs of the students of APS and school staff, along with those of army personnel that are part of the Zarb-e-Azb operation.

MPA Raja Hanif, who inaugurated the show, said the attack was an unforgettable national tragedy.

He said those who killed children were the enemies of Islam, of Pakistan and of peace.

Meanwhile, the Government Denny’s Higher Secondary School hosted a prayer event.

Teachers and students said prayers for the children and teachers who lost their lives on December 16 2014.

A similar event was held at Divisional Public School in which students presented speeches, tableaus and other performances to honour APS students.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2015

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