‘Lala Rukh: In the Round’ at the Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Art Foundation introduces ‘Lala Rukh: In the Round’, marking the first comprehensive international showcase of the late artist, activist, and educator Lala Rukh. The exhibition chronicles three decades of her artistic journey, spanning drawing, printmaking, photography, and video, set against Pakistan’s political turmoil and feminist movements.

Exhibition view: Lala Rukh: In the Round, Al Mureijah Art Spaces, Sharjah, 2024. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation. Photo: Shanavas Jamaluddin

On display are 60 works, including pieces from the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection, original posters from her activism, archival materials, and interviews with her collaborators in the struggle for gender justice. Lala Rukh’s political posters serve as a commentary on protest moments, particularly against patriarchal repression during the rule of Zia ul Haq.

Lala Rukh, Goa 1, 2, 3, 1993. Installation view: Lala Rukh: In the Round, Al Mureijah Art Spaces, Sharjah, 2024. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation. Photo: Shanavas Jamaluddin

As a co-founder of the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) and Simorgh, Lala Rukh played a pivotal role in advocating for women’s rights. “In Our Own Backyard,” a manual she co-published, popularised screenprinting for feminist discourse, fostering workshops and discussions. Her commitment to pedagogy extended to her Lahore home, often a hub for learning.

“Subh-e-Umeed [Dawn of Hope]” (2008) encapsulates Pakistan’s political activism through sound, reflecting the fight for democracy during President Musharraf’s regime. Rarely seen works include photographs from her time in Chicago and Conté crayon drawings.

Lala Rukh’s seascapes, notably “Sigiriya” (1993), capture fluid rhythms at the Sri Lankan fortress. Her works from Gadani address ecological crises, while photographs across South Asia explore water’s tranquillity and change.

“Rupak” (2016), her final piece, blends ink drawings and digital animation, drawing from Hindustani classical music. Curated by Hoor Al Qasimi and Natasha Ginwala, “In the Round” delves into Lala Rukh’s defiance of time’s constraints, reflecting the gradient of experiences in her life.

Lala Rukh, Beruwela 10, 11, 12, 1993. Installation view: Lala Rukh: In the Round, Al Mureijah Art Spaces, Sharjah, 2024. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation. Photo: Shanavas Jamaluddin

About Lala Rukh

Lala Rukh (1948–2017) was a multifaceted figure, known as an artist, activist, and educator, whose creative repertoire spanned various mediums, including drawing, screenprinting, photography, and digital animation. Her artistic endeavours not only mirrored her political and feminist activism within Pakistan but also showcased her profound affinity for nature and calligraphy. Growing up surrounded by Hindustani classical music, she was deeply influenced by the All Pakistan Music Conference, founded by her father, Hayat Ahmad Khan, in 1959. Lala Rukh pursued her artistic education, obtaining an MFA from Punjab University in 1970 and another from the University of Chicago in 1976. Over three decades, she imparted her knowledge as a teacher at Punjab University’s Department of Fine Art and the National College of Arts, where she notably established the MA (Hons) Visual Art Programme in 2000. Additionally, she co-founded several impactful initiatives, including the Women’s Action Forum in 1981, Simorgh—a women’s resource and publication centre in Lahore—in 1985, and the Vasl Artists Trust in 2000, leaving behind a legacy of artistic, social, and educational contributions.

Location: Galleries 1, 2 and 3, Al Mureijah Art Spaces, Sharjah

Date: 24 February–16 June 2024

Caption featured image: Exhibition view: Lala Rukh: In the Round, Al Mureijah Art Spaces, Sharjah, 2024. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation. Photo: Shanavas Jamaluddin

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