By: Salima Hashmi
Salima Hashmi was born to a renowned poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and political activist and writer Alys Faiz on 14th December 1942 in New Delhi, India. During the partition in 1947 Salima left india and moved to Pakistan with her family and was raised in Lahore. She is a renowned Pakistani painter, former college professor,anti-nuclear weapons activist and former caretaker minister in Sethi caretaker ministry. She represents the first generation of modern artists in Pakistan who carry an artistic identity different from indigenous artists. She is known for condemning the Pakistani and Indian nuclear programsand one of the few Pakistani intellectuals who condemned the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in 1998. She had said, “It would be so much more fruitful if these energies could be used in producing food to eat, providing shelter, freedom from disease and education for all.”
Salima comes from a socially and politically active family. When she was about eight years old her father Faiz Ahmed Faiz was imprisoned for his political views. She remembers visiting him in jail. Later, during the repressive years of General Zia-ul-Haq rule, Salima’s father had to go into self-exile as a result of the harassment he faced by Zia’s government. Therefore, Salima grew up in a politically charged atmosphere and painting became her outlet.
Salima studied at the Lahore College for Women for her intermediate degree in fine arts and in 1962, and completed her intermediate certification course on design from the National College of Arts in Lahore. In the same year, she travelled to London and did her three-year diploma in art education at the Bath Academy of Art in Bristol in photography and painting. In 1990, she completed her MA honors in Art Education from the Rhode Island School of Design in the United States.
Besides being an accomplished painter, Salima taught at Pakistan’s prestigious National College of Arts (NCA) for about thirty years and served as the principal of NCA for four years. She is known to promote a unique intellectual perspective among students, teaching them to appreciate nature, cultural traditions and sacredness of the crafts. She encourages her students to explore the medium as a vital element of art rather than a mechanical tool, in their creative process. She endorses to experience multiple mediums such as pencil, pen and ink, crow-quill pen, charcoal, reed pen, crayon and collage in her drawing classes. Famous for her quick wit and ability to read and analyze artwork with effortless ease Salima is a respected patron of young artists known to have the capacity to make or break a career. She has set up a Gallery at her house in Lahore Model Town Formerly known as “Art-Shart”, Rohtas-2 providing a platform for young artists to showcase their work.
In her work Salima uses the human body as a symbol of resistance against the atrocities of state and society. She indirectly and implicitly employs political content in her work which expresses the idea without making any unnecessary aggravation .Salima excessively uses female figure in her artwork with a symbolic presence. During Zia’s regime and under the military dictatorship which tried to reduce women into a lesser citizen her work emerged as a visual opposition paving way for her contemporaries to refuse that draconian and biased rule. Through her work of that period she presented the importance of women in a society and defied the bigotry of the state. The significance of women as an integral part of the society, without compromising on their physicality is one of the subject which is persistent in her work.
In mid-1965 Salima was married to playwright, writer and artist Shoaib Hashmi whom she’d met on several occasions in Lahore and London, due to their overlapping interests in the performance arts. In 1981, Shoib Hashmi was arrested and jailed at Kot Lakhpat with 400 people for their progressive views. Shoaib studied theatre from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London he has received Tamgha-i-Imtiaz and the coveted President’s Award for Pride of Performance.
Salima authored a critically lauded book titled “Unveiling the Visible: Lives and Works of Women Artists of Pakistan” in 2001. In 2006, Hashmi co-authored a book with Indian art historian Yashodhara Dalmia titled ‘Memory, Metaphor, Mutations: Contemporary Art of India and Pakistan’, published by Oxford University Press.
Salima Hashmi has exhibited her works internationally and she has travelled all over the world and lectured extensively for it. She has organised several international art shows in England, Europe, United States, Australia, Japan and India. In 1999, she received Pakistan’s ‘Pride of Performance for Arts’ award by the President of Pakistan.