Iqbal Hussain's Women

Bassam Tariq resides in New York City. He is the co-author of the blog 30 Mosques which celebrated the NYC mosques during the blessed Islamic month of Ramadan


Iqbal Hussain is a controversial painter based in Pakistan. Not controversial in the Western sense – he's no Dash Snow or Andres Serrano – Iqbal showcases a side of Pakistan that many Pakistani's would rather not acknowledge.

I'm no expert on Hussain's work, so I'll quote excerpts from a fine article on All Things Pakistan written by Pervaiz Munir Alvi.

Iqbal's women are not nude or semi-naked or involved in some illicit acts as their profession might suggest. They are mostly some unknown and unremarkable women of modest looks and appearance.

What's unsettling about the women he draws is that they are without a dupatta, a scarf worn to cover the bosom, and are barefoot – a visibility most women of respect would never allow. Though the paintings are haunting, there is a gentleness and beauty in these intimate portraits that can't be denied.

Above: Hussain's take on the Red Mosque siege.
At first glance, the women in burqas seem to have a
predatory presence, but the hand on the woman in red's shoulder is at
ease and their eyes are relaxed, not enraged.
Interestinly, the facial expression of the woman in red is one of either despair or hope. The situation painted is intentionally left ambiguous. 

Alvi ends his article with this:

But what troubles us most in Iqbal's women is the fact that they silently poke our conscience and raise questions about the otherwise obvious hypocrisy of our society.They raise the questions that 'respectable' Pakistani society rather not to ask of it self. And that is what makes Iqbal Hussain so 'controversial!'  

(pictures and excerpts via All Things Pakistan)