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Pakistan to participate in Venice Biennale for the first time

Pakistan is taking an official pavilion to the International Art Exhibition for the very first time in Venice Biennale 2019, exhibiting the work of multi-disciplinary artist Naiza Khan.

Naiza Khan has exhibited internationally, including an acclaimed solo exhibition at the Broad Museum, Michigan, and at major events including the Shanghai Biennale (2012) and Kochi Muziris Biennale (2016). She is the recipient of the Prince Claus Award (2013).

The pavilion titled ‘Manora Field Notes’ has been curated by Zahra Khan and is presented by the Pakistan National Council of the Arts and Foundation Art Divvy.

Khan, who lives and works between Karachi and London, told Geo News that she’s excited to represent Pakistan at the Venice Art Biennale Vernissage Week which takes place from 6th to 11th May, 2019. The Venice Biennale is considered one of the most prestigious arts event in Europe.

Khan explained that her Venice exhibition draws upon a prolific archive of material collected over a decade on Manora Island, off the Port of Karachi.

“Manora Field Notes showcases a new body of work, including a sound piece, multi-screen video installation and series of cast brass objects, which examine the conflicting narratives surrounding this contested landscape,” she said.

The artist said that she has spent months working at the island, with the local communities and visitors, to document her work. “I have spent the last ten years investigating the transformations of sites including Karachi Harbour and Manora Island. My practice, which involves detailed research, documentation and mapping, looks at how the reshaping of these landscapes reflects wider changes in the Global South.”

Khan’s Manora Field Notes will immerse visitors in life upon Manora Island and its surroundings.

The curator explained that Venice Biennale’s theme ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’ alludes to uncertainty in the modern age and Pakistan’s presentation will engage with multiple bodies of knowledge and narratives including archival material, historic myths, conversations with local communities.

Zahra Khan, curator specialising in South Asian art and the Director of Foundation Art Divvy, said that her organisation along with the Pakistan National Council of the Arts is presenting Pakistan’s first national pavilion at the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

She said: “I am proud and honoured that Foundation Art Divvy’s latest endeavour, which focuses on bringing contemporary art from Pakistan to the public arena, is to organise and present Pakistan’s first foray at the Venice Biennale. Pakistan has a remarkable, vibrant art scene and it is extremely important that it is represented on the world stage, particularly at a prestigious forum like the Venice Biennale. This pavilion is an opportunity to present an entirely different side of Pakistan.”

The curator stated that the Commissioner for Pakistan’s participation in the Biennale Arte 2019 is the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA).

“We are grateful for the support and partnership of the Ministry of Information, Government of Pakistan and The Pakistan National Council of the Arts,” she said.

“This is an important step to increase support – both private and public – for the arts in Pakistan. We hope that Pakistan continues to participate every two years at the Venice Biennale, and that local art events receive the recognition and the support that they require as well. There are many more voices that need to be heard and stories which are waiting to be told.”

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