Surprised, General?

Musharraf approved Pakistan’s new art museum, but not its antimilitary edge.

Ron Moreau in Newsweek International:

Jamilbaloch2To many people, the mere mention of Pakistan conjures up visions of bemedaled generals, gun-toting militants and perhaps the mountaintop hiding place of Osama bin Laden. But the country’s spectacular new contemporary National Art Gallery may help to banish those stereotypes. Set on a hill overlooking the capital city of Islamabad, the imposing brown-brick, for-tresslike building incorporates architectural motifs from the country’s varied cultural past: Buddhist, Hindu, Mogul and British colonial. The four-story structure features plenty of windows of varying shapes and cool Oriental courtyards. It’s topped off with a distinctly modern feature: large, curvy “scoops” of aluminum, which collect and diffuse natural light into the 14 galleries inside. “The galleries are subservient to art,” says Naeem Pasha, 64, the Pakistan-born, Penn State-educated architect who designed it. “Each has its own atmosphere and plenty of natural light.”

The art inside is as innovative as the building. Most of the more than 600 works on display are by living Pakistani artists, two thirds of them women. Much of it has an unexpected edgy quality that seems at odds with the largely conservative Muslim society. Indeed, visitors are confronted with a provocative image even before they set foot inside the museum: just outside the garden entrance, six three-meter-tall black, female figures are draped in all-encompassing burqas, hovering almost like ghosts. The towering statues by Jamil Baloch seem to convey the message that women, even in purdah, are giants, ruling the realm.

More here.  [Thanks to Maniza Naqvi.]