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Noormah Jamal

Noormah Jamal

Meet Pakistani visual artist, Noormah Jamal.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a visual artist currently based between Peshawar and Lahore in Pakistan.  I did my bachelors in Mughal miniature painting in Lahore graduating in 2016. I moved my studio to Peshawar in 2018. My work centers on the personal baggage that people carry. Be that the way they see themselves and cant let go of certain things or how society tends to generalize or group people together based on geography, race, sex etc.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I recently moved my studio to my childhood city of Peshawar. It’s fairly conservative compared to Lahore where I’ve practiced and studied for the past 6 years. Lahore is probably the art and culture hub of the country.

Peshawar geographically is a very important city in Pakistan. It’s the capital of Khyber Pukhtoon Khwa, which is the province situated near the tribal belt and borders Afghanistan. This is exactly why I decided to move my practice here as ,my work has started centering around the oral history of my people, the Pukhtoons.

Peshawar is known as the city of flowers.  Since it’s become overpopulated the flora has practically become non-existent but the people are warm and welcoming as ever.

Fun fact; Peshawar is the oldest living city of the subcontinent.

 

My work centers on the personal baggage that people carry. Be that the way they see themselves and cant let go of certain things or how society tends to generalize or group people together based on geography, race, sex etc.

 

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The worst thing is probably how it’s the first city that takes a hit when the extremist factions decide to act up. The best thing are the people, the food, and the rich history.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Inspiring, humbling and thought-provoking.

 

How did you start your career in art?

At the National College of Art Lahore, your thesis show gives you a boost. It’s a two-week public exhibition, which is open to the public. Which gallery owners and collectors come to religiously. After that, I got calls from a few galleries to exhibit work with them. Because I never stopped working and the community here is pretty small, the calls just continued and my practice just kept growing from there.

 

Because I never stopped working and the community here is pretty small, the calls just continued and my practice just kept growing from there.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

Yes, I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been encouraged to pursue my artistic practice with an exception of a bump here and there. Because I’ve always been a creative since a very young age and it came out in everything that I did my parents couldn’t deny that this is what I was meant to do.

As for the hiccups, I remember my father once, not because he was trying to make a decision for me but out of worry as artists are known not to have a very stable income encouraged me to apply to a leading business school for my bachelors instead. His point of view was that I should have a stable degree to bounce back on and can then pursue art regardless. I, on the other hand, went into the admission exam hall and handed an empty paper so it wasn’t even an option really.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

There are the obvious ambitions like work being acquired by a museum or having a spot at a renowned biennale but I would love it as my work has become very personal as of late if people could relate to it and bring it up in conversations to bring forth a certain point of view and have a healthy discourse. Not that I intend on making sure my work is socially responsible but it tends to focus on marginalized people and for it to be recognized would mean the world to me. It would be very validating.

 

There are the obvious ambitions like work being acquired by a museum or having a spot at a renowned biennale but I would love it as my work has become very personal as of late if people could relate to it and bring it up in conversations to bring forth a certain point of view and have a healthy discourse.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Hayao Miyazaki and David Hockney.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Strong, Independent, Vocal and Driven.

 

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Having been raised in Peshawar my exposure to the art world was very limited. Unless it was folk musicians I didn’t know of any creatives first hand except for an aunt of mine in my direct family. She used to make the most beautiful stained glass paintings. Peeping in her studio and looking at her works while the sun would hit them in the right angle was mesmerizing.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

There are. I feel you have to be extra careful with the way you present yourself because people don’t tend to take you seriously. You have to work non-stop, be very driven and vocal. I’ve actually had a buyer ask me once if I ever plan on getting married before purchasing a painting because he was certain id stop working then.

Your accomplishments are also grouped with how you look. There’s a perception that you must have gotten an opportunity not because you deserved it but because you’re a woman with a nice face/body.

There are amazing people in the community that uplift you but for every one of them, there’s a creep lurking in the shadows.

 

If you continue your practice with conviction and believe in what you’re creating, nothing will stand in your way.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Yes. Do not stop. Persist. Keep working.  When I decided to move to Peshawar I was told by my peers that I’d vanish into oblivion. Because there’s this belief that if you aren’t at every opening or aren’t mingling with the right people you’ll become yesterday’s news. But if you’re determined. If you continue your practice with conviction and believe in what you’re creating, nothing will stand in your way.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Noormah Jamal.

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