The Politics of Art by Fauzia Rafique

Throughout the 16 Days of Action Against Gender-Based Violence we honour the women and girls whose lives have been taken from them. We reflect on the many women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, and we challenge ourselves to improve the conditions of equality.

Fauzia Rafique is well-versed in using art and activism in support of equality. Fauzia is a novelist, poet, activist, and author of a piece for this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. She has written for Pakistan Television, and published several titles, including The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’  (2016), ‘Holier Than Life’ (2013) and ‘Skeena’ (2011) Fauzia blogs about Punjabi literature,  blasphemy and honor killings. We are pleased to share her entry on exploring, coping with, and reconciling violence against women through her art in our blog this week.

 

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Fauzia Rafique – Places that have no names

The Politics of Art
by Fauzia Rafique

In 2008, in a province of Pakistan, five women were buried alive by the male members of their families with support of the local government. What came out among other things was a set of about seven poems in Punjabi, and uncontrollable crying. To this day, i cannot deliver a single one of those poems; when i try, i cry. The same happens when reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. There also are characters, images and sounds i cannot express nor can i get rid of them. In other instances, the pain of knowing or experiencing wrestles with me over years to find expression.

Violence against women is only a part of the violence we experience in our daily lives. State violence against pipeline protesters or land/water protectors; word-violence or bullying in schools, on the street, and on social media; hate speeches against Muslims, Blacks, Aboriginals; constant bombings and dronings of innocent people around the world; the ongoing attacks on the dignity of less privileged people;  and, the daily incidences of police violence against the homeless. Of course, women in all groups experience it in its worst forms and to the highest degrees.

My home is in my art where i try to make sense of the perpetual systemic violence, use it as weapon to resist and to fight, inspiration to create beauty and joy, and, as meditation to stand my ground. It embodies me, and i perpetuate it.

My process is not intellectual, cerebral or emotional but instinctive, and it doesn’t require effort from me to be ‘with it’. Art is not my hobby neither it is a commercial enterprise, and so, i don’t experience the famed ‘writer’s block’; art is life, and there’s no stopping it. When not writing with hands, i write with thoughts, feel the ‘feels’, imagine the real, stretch ideas, challenge forms- all to be able to wriggle out of the numerous constructs built around me with the purpose of enslaving my mind in order to obstruct the independent flight of my imagination.

The question for me is not if my art is political or not, because all and everyone’s art is political. The question is what kind of ‘political’ it is. My art must defend me and my virtual home against systemic violence; it must resist and fight; it must be beautiful, lyrical, joyful; it must provide me solid artistic and emotional ground to take a stand and to be able to defend the politics of my art.


You can find more of Fauzia Rafique’s writing at  gandholi.wordpress.com. See her piece, “Places that have no names”,  performed live on March 11th at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over.

 

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