The simple life: Huma Mulji brings out the ordinary in an extraordinary way
KARACHI: A walk around Huma Mulji’s exhibition titled, ‘The Country of Last Things’ reminds the viewers of the ordinary yet extraordinary lives around us.
By and large, the show depicts the lives of sanitary workers, military men’s servants commonly known as ‘batmen’, and the son of a popular baker in Lahore, Karamatuallah. The show is being held at Koel Gallery.
Bicycles are a repetitive feature in Mulji’s work. The photographs, under the title ‘A Sense of Equilibrium’, showcase sanitary workers riding with bamboo poles balanced on their shoulders. Some of these workers appear old, some turbaned and some both.
While some balance the poles with one hand and ride the bicycle with other, others are busy on cell phones in an effort to multitask.
“Today, almost everyone who is a ‘sanitary worker’ is non-Muslim. Occasionally, Muslims will take on the job, but sub-contract a Hindu or Christian to actually do the work,” reads the abstract by Huma Mulji. It is a reality that has always been there ever since the state came into being.
The layout of the exhibition also tells a story, a screenplay of events. The subject and the object are the same yet, it seems as if there is movement in the story as the viewer looks from one picture to another.
In the picture, titled ‘Drycleaners’, servants of army personnel are shown riding their bicycles with a military uniform hanging off their backs, perched on a hanger. The serene surroundings are a captivating feature in this photograph and it reminds the viewers of the lush lawns of army lodgings.
The third series, titled ‘Conversation with Karamatullah’, depicts the artist’s encounter with the son of a baker in Lahore. “I have hundreds of portraits from this period (2010-2015) of him (Karamatullah) looking straight into the camera, sitting in the same spot, in the same chair,” reads the description Huma wrote for this particular series.
“The only thing that signifies the passing of time, are his clothes: he wears a vest in the summer, and a sweater under his kameez in the winter.”
The pictures of the man and his surroundings are simple and straight. They depict the simple life of a hardworking and humble man. A catchy feature of this particular collection is a motorcycle standing in worn out surroundings, as if an inanimate object like it is sharing the baker’s tale.
The show will continue till February 22.