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Natasha Jozi- Maneuvering Performance Art to Show the Darker Side of the Death Penalty

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Natasha Jozi- whenever the name pops up, only one word comes to our mind and that is art or to be more precise, performing art. She is a visual thinker, an artist and also a writer interested in the performative self, collective experience, and Eastern philosophy.

 Talking about her vast experiences, she has performed and exhibited her work at International Festival of Video Art 2014 (Venice), MagnanMetz 2014 (NYC), Index Art Center 2014 (NJ), PPL 2013 (NYC), DCCA 2013 (Delaware), LAABF 2013 (NYC), La MaMa 2013 (NYC).

 In 2017 Jozi founded “House”- an independent initiative that works towards generating discourse around performance art in Pakistan.

We recently came to know that Natasha is curating the show ‘We’ve Been Waiting For You’ hosted by Justice Project Pakistan (working to improve the justice system of Pakistan), happening on 10th of October (“The World Day against Death Penalty”) at Bari Studio and our intriguing self wanted to dig into more details and here is what she had to share about her showcase. 

  • Tell us a little about your partnership with JPP and what do you think about Pakistan’s justice system?

It has been great working with Justice Project Pakistan as a partner and especially coming along with an understanding of what they do in terms of their work and what they represent as an organization. I am working with them under the perspective of bringing an art exhibition together. The partnership has been quite interesting in terms of what art does and what JPP does and how does that come together? I feel the complexities of the justice system are always very difficult for a common man to understand or relate to.

I feel JPP is trying to bridge that gap between the justice system and the complexity that it comes with and that is very similar to what I do under House Ltd. So, I expect that partnership with JPP shall be very interesting because we’ve talked about themes, about ideas and how performance art can be used as a vessel to represent themes that JPP works on.

  • You’ve worked both in Pakistan and abroad what difference do you feel in the sense of how art is valued here and abroad?

I would talk about this in terms of two perspectives. One is as an artist and the other as a viewer. As a performance artist, I’ve experienced that there was initially not much of an understanding of the medium in Pakistan.

And I also feel that in terms of the value of the medium, since a lot of the work that is being produced in Pakistan has an element of becoming a product that you can actually monetize on or you can buy or sell. But performance art is something that cannot take the shape of a product because it’s an experience. It happens for a short period of time and then it’s over. So, it’s very ephemeral in that sense.

In the international art market, artists are delving with themes that cannot be put together in a form package that you can buy or sell. It’s very important to realize that the value of art is beyond buying or selling it, but also, to experience it.

As a viewer, I really enjoy some of the artists’ work in Pakistan but I also feel like there is a lot of potential in young artists, the work that they’re doing where they’re not allowing the market or the business to affect their process. I feel it is very important for an artist to liberate themselves from the fear of value is equal to money because we’re living in an age where innovative ideas are of great significance? I definitely feel that with the wake of the internet, a lot of artists are now traveling abroad and are coming back and just sort of exchange that is happening.

Also, in Pakistan, a lot of times we look at something from an exotic lens or we try to mimic or reproduce what’s being done abroad. I don’t really think that is of value. But at the same time, I definitely see that contemporary artists from my generation are trying to create a more balanced or a more contextualized relationship with what’s happening in Pakistan and what’s happening outside Pakistan.

 

  • What do you think about Justice Project Pakistan?

I was not familiar with JPP before I was contacted by JPP for this particular project. Once I got to know about their work, I met the team and I saw the projects that they have been doing in the past. I was sort of intrigued, and a little amazed to see a human rights organization that is so much invested in the people and what is happening in their lives.

I feel that JPP is trying to bring awareness and spark conversations that are around the justice system. I feel why such organizations are so much needed is that they try to create a more humanize and understandable way of looking at the sensitive issues that people are facing in Pakistan. It is great that they are trying to use disciplines that are beyond just law and trying to reach out to a wider audience. It’s a pleasure to work with them. 

  • How has been your experience of curating performances for ‘We’ve been waiting for you’?

The curatorial experience for me is not just about curating an exhibition as an organizer. For me, it is sort of coming together and trying to create an experience that is long-lasting. I’ve been working with the artists under the initiative that I run called House Ltd. and I have cultivated a relationship with them. So, every time we come together, we go into a deep-rooted conversation, look at what we are doing and try to unpack not just the themes but, also how can this exhibition contribute to the larger discourse of performance art in Pakistan.

And so for this exhibition as well, the ideas that we were dealing with were very real. I spent a lot of time just having conversations with the artists and discussing the craft of performance art.

A lot of the work that we do for performance art is not rehearsed. Thus, it is very authentic as an artist and as a curator to go into that space and to get involved in.

  • With what kind of expectations should people come to this event?

The first thing that I would definitely like to say is that space and the venue that we’ve selected for this exhibition, Bari Studio, is amazing for performance art. The moment I stepped into Bari studio I fell in love with it.

 The audience would definitely experience something that they have never seen before in terms of venue and how it’s used.

Also, we are having 10 performances in one venue. It’s going to be a really charged experience for everybody where all of the artists are dealing with themes around the death penalty and doing performances that are very authentic and very raw. The materials that the artists have used in the performances range from, real bones to bricks to sand. Going from one performance to another where all of these have been curated in relationship to one another, each performance will be experienced individually, but then all of them coming together is going to have an impact of its own.

  • What is art for you?

That is definitely a very loaded question. I would say for me art is about an experience, what you experience when you look at something. It is not just a visual experience, but a very sensory experience. That is why performance art is a medium that I’m addicted to.

It cannot be confined. I definitely have a lot of reservations about the way the market dictates the production of art. I don’t think that one should allow the market to dictate what the artist is going to make or what art should be because art is definitely about looking at life and looking at what is around you from an unfazed way.

Art can actually supersede or can reach a point of impacting a larger audience and can eventually become universal and transcend space and time and location.

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Junaid Khan Wins Hearts with His Performance in “Yaariyan”

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The ending of this megahit drama “Yaariyan” couldn’t have been better. The ensemble cast included Junaid Khan, Ayeza Khan, Momal Sheikh, and Muneeb Butt in the leading roles. With everyone essaying their characters to the best of their abilities; there was one person who truly stood out among the rest, and that was Junaid Khan.

“Yaariyan” was a socially relevant drama serial about love and betrayal, directed by Syed Wajahat Hussain and produced by Erum Binte Shahid. It went on to become one of the greatest hits of the season with its power-packed cast and brilliant storyline.

Standing out with his brilliant performance among the rest, Junaid Khan essayed the role of Ahmer; an emotional yet humble character who is married to Sadia, played by Momal Sheikh. He is deeply in love with his wife but because of some misunderstandings, they don’t end up together and part ways. Junaid proves through his character how versatile he can be, he not only portrays Ahmer’s convolutions with dedication and conviction but also did justice to convey the importance of forgiveness in marriage and relationships.

From hit music numbers to blockbuster drama serials and the notable appearance on the silver screen with tons of accolades to his credits, Junaid Khan has accomplished a lot in a very short span of time.  It may be worth mentioning here that Khan commenced his career as a musician with ‘Call the Band’, in mid-2000s, and later grew into acting. Nowadays, he is one of the busiest and highest paid actors on television.

Famed for his distinctive voice and acting chops, this versatile rock star has proved himself one of the finest artists of our industry. This leisure travel lover, cinema-geek and total foodie who is a strong proponent of social media has a charismatic personality and is climbing on the ladder to success and greatness with each passing day.

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Finally! A Childbirth Educator in Town

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Considering the issues faced by women during and after pregnancy, this is high time that we started taking help from professionals. The most important thing is to normalise the concept of seeking therapy during and after childbirth. There are many women who are unaware of their situations and health issues and are hesitant to ask around for help. There are many facebook support groups where women can post openly or anonymously to seek help but there needs to be a formal education system to get them prepared for a time period that can be overwhelming and exhausting at the same time.

We had an informative conversation with Mahvish who is the new childbirth educator in town that can be quite fruitful for new mommies and the ones in the making.

How did you come up with the idea of establishing Bump & Beyond?

I gave birth to my daughter in New Zealand as my parents reside there. The pre & postnatal care I received in New Zealand was beyond my expectations & this led me to research infant & maternal care in Pakistan.

In order to have an empowering & satisfactory birth/ parenting experience, it is critical to learn skills & strategies as it takes you a long way in this life-changing experience. Bump & Beyond has been established with the objective of providing expectant parents with evidence-based choices that exist during pregnancy, labour & early parenthood. At Bump & Beyond, you learn hands-on skills & knowledge which facilitate to make your journey to parenthood a happier, more satisfactory one.

Do you think ante & postnatal care in Lahore is lacking greatly?

Not just in Lahore, all over Pakistan! I come from a family of gynecologists & obstetricians and had an idea of the services that are lacking here prior to getting on this venture. Quite often, doctor’s lack the interest or time to educate patients around their and their baby’s well being. Simply put, a doctor’s objective starts & ends with a baby being delivered (hopefully safely).

Pre & postnatal education is an integral part of all prestigious international health care systems. Historically, our governments’ investment in the health sector has always been poor/low, hence no such facilities exist at a public or private level – I find this extremely unfortunate because Pakistan has one of the highest infant & maternal mortality rates in the world

What do you hope Ammi’s will take home with them after a session at Bump & Beyond?

There is too much information out there on the internet & too little given by doctors, often misleading us. My aim is to allow every expectant and new mother to feel more empowered & aware of the many choices they have as a new parent, for themselves AND for their baby. This will not only allow them to be more confident parents but also look after themselves in the process of this life-changing journey.

Where do you hope to see Bump & Beyond in the next 5 years?

Within my private practice, I envision Bump & Beyond as an institution which is a one-stop shop for pregnant women & new parents – this is where they come to learn evidence based choices, and is a platform that is considered both safe & reliable for women to voice/discuss their thoughts & concerns during their journey.

I also hope to integrate Bump & Beyond with the public health sector & be able to reach out to the masses in order to provide them with the much needed awareness during pregnancy & parenthood.

Do you feel pregnant women are particularly vulnerable during gestation?

Absolutely – pregnancy is a time of phenomenal transition and a woman’s physical & mental health is subject to changes.

How was your own personal experience of being pregnant in Lahore?

I was lucky to have a non-complicated pregnancy, for the most part, however, I ended up having SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction), which is considered common pelvic/pubic pain in pregnancy for some women. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness & support here, I was unable to manage it safely. I still suffer from pelvic pain and have been undergoing physiotherapy for a year now!

Do you think the quality of antenatal care a woman receives increases her chances of postpartum depression?

100% – postpartum depression is a function of 2 key factors; (i) your physiological tendencies/history of depression + (ii) your support system during pregnancy/postpartum. Good antenatal & postnatal care (along with a supportive husband!!) can go a long way.

What certification did you do to become a childbirth educator?

I acquired a Diploma in Childbirth Education from Childbirth International.

How long was the certification?

1 year

Do you think the market is ready for such services or are people a little confused about what you offer?

The market is definitely very information hungry and I can see that through my social media. However the concept of disciplined antenatal sessions is new here and I understand it’ll take time for people to understand its exact relevance, given that our culture has largely relied on information & totkas passed down from ‘saas’ & ‘mother’. Having said that, I see a lot of women now wanting to access more update-to-date, evidence based information now and that is where the opportunity lies.

How long does a woman have to enroll in the program for?

The antenatal classes span over 4 sessions – I encourage pregnant women in their 2nd or 3rd trimester to sign up for all 4. However, I also offer the choice of signing up for individual sessions.

Do you also offer postpartum support?

Yes – currently I am doing one on one support sessions which encompass breastfeeding, postpartum blues or depression management, and transition to parenting. Going forward I will be introducing group sessions for postpartum support also.

What certification did you do to become a childbirth educator?

I acquired a Diploma in Childbirth Education from Childbirth International.

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UNDER THE COVERS: With Saba Aqeel

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Saba Aqeel Ahmed has worked tirelessly to set up her home-based bedding business. She strives to deal as fairly and honestly as possible (with the help of her refund and exchange policies) and always makes sure to provide the best quality products so as not to disappoint her customers. She is the mother of four young daughters, a dedicated and honest businesswoman; and a loving wife all wrapped up into one person.

 

  • What pushed you to set up your own business?

I set up this business as a means to support my 4 daughters and husband. I realized that the extra income generated by my business could be put towards my daughters’ higher education and to improve our current standard of living. I also chose to start this business because of my inability to sit idle and my desire to become an economically productive member of society.

 

  • What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in setting up this home-based business?

There were many challenges that I came across while I was initially setting up my business. One of the main problems was transport. I didn’t have a car or driver! This made it quite difficult to commute and get things done. Moreover, my in laws weren’t very supportive of the idea of a working woman either. This became quite worrisome as I wasn’t receiving the kind of support I needed and it lowered my morale quite a bit. In addition to this, one of the hardest things to accomplish was building recognition for my brand.

 

  • There are so many different types of businesses out there. Why did you decide to take up bedding?

Originally I hadn’t decided that I wanted to produce and sell bedding. I had already been contemplating setting up a small home-based business and a close friend suggested that I should pursue bedding. Her husband already owned bedding store so I thought “why not?” I was inexperienced at the time so it was nice to be able to rely on someone who knew what they were doing. Through them I was able to learn a lot about how to grow my business and was able to expand my network of contacts too. Working in bedding textiles is also very unique as not many entrepreneurs have thought to enter this field yet.

 

  • Once you re-started your business for the second time how did you manage to expand it?

Initially, when my business launched I only circulated the news amongst my family and close friends through a Whatsapp message. Then orders started to come in, and as I sent out more products I began to receive positive feedback. From there I was recommended to potential customers outside my immediate family and circle of friends. However, I had to take a short hiatus to focus on a few family matters. Once I re-launched my business I explored new avenues of self-promotion such as online pages, Instagram, and Facebook and that is how I was able to expand my customer base.

 

  • What advice would you offer to someone looking to start their own business?

Give it your all! Don’t pay too much attention to what other people say about you, keep your head down and just keep going. Inshallah, all your efforts will be rewarded if you put in the maximum amount of effort into what you do and keep your intentions clear.

 

  • Was your family supportive of your ambition to run a home-based bedding business?

In all honesty, my family has always been quite supportive of everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I got married at quite a young age only having done my FSC at the time and was very financially vulnerable. It was a blessing to have a supportive husband that encouraged me to take up entrepreneurship and my daughters that pressed me to my get BA degree. However, my in-laws are more conservative and weren’t too keen on the idea of me setting up this business. In this case, I took the executive decisions to carry on and with the support of my husband and daughters I was able to set up a successful career.

 

  • What are some of the most important things you’ve learned as a result of managing this business?

Running this business has in fact been an invaluable learning experience. I had always led quite a sheltered life, but after starting this business my eyes were opened to some very harsh realities. I learned to observe people closely and realized the importance of being polite. People working as sales representatives or offering any goods or services are often wrongly criticized for things beyond their control. Even if they make a genuine yet minor mistake. On the other hand, I also learned how kind and considerate people can be and what the lengths people will go to support you if they care about you.

 

  • Being a working mother can be quite difficult. How do you manage all your responsibilities?

Being a working mother is quite hectic. My children are my number one priority and the whole reason that my entire business is set up at home. This way I am able to look after them while getting on with my work as well. I do all my designing first and only visit the bazaar on selected days to pick out the fabric so that my kids aren’t left alone for too long. It’s a huge responsibility to make sure your children and house aren’t neglected while you work. Especially for me, since I live in a joint family system, and need to be extra vigilant so as to avoid any criticism. At times the routine gets very tedious and work does pile up but at the end of the day, it’s also quite rewarding.

 

  • What is your main focus for the future at this point?

My main focus at this point is educating my 4 young daughters.

 

  • Is there anything you’d like to say to the audience that reads your interview?

Yes, I’d like to take this opportunity and use the Scary Ammi platform to say that every working mother has a lot of responsibilities to shoulder. So it’s important that we do our best to support the work that these mothers do because even the smallest bit of encouragement can do wonders for their morale.

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