a visual narrative between the nonhuman, Sufi myth and the urban imaginary (a work in progress)

Naiza Khan

Whales, mythical and actual, populate the waters that lap [Manora] island’s desolate shores and reappear, always dead, sometimes decomposing, in Khan’s paintings, watercolours and small objects. Every year, confused, dying whale sharks are beached in the old harbour leaving the formidable task of disposing of their remains. Khan takes the whale and the traditional story of Morriro and the Treacherous Sea, as related by the Sindhi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (1689–1752) in Risalo, his compilation of local Hindu and Muslim legends. In this Sufi tale of the self and the world, handicapped Morriro stays at home while his six brothers go fishing until, one day, they are swallowed by a giant whale. Morriro asks blacksmiths to build him a giant cage of steel and glass, with hooks and blades on its outside, into which he climbs to be lowered into the treacherous straits between Karachi and Manora [Island]. The whale swallows the cage and the blades hook into its mouth; the fishermen reel in the monster to meet its end. Morriro climbs out of the whale unharmed and cuts open its belly where, deep inside its guts, he finds his brothers’ bones.

2014 watercolour and graphite on paper 46 x 61cm

Whale-under-construction 2012
Brass | 12 x 30 x 12cm

Collapse 2010
Watercolour, digital print and ink
40.5 x 51cm

2015 Oil on canvas 132 x 200cm

Fath-e-Mubarak (Blessed Conquest),1843
Ink and watercolour on Arches. 36 x 51 cm
(see link)

(Objects from the Deep) 2017
Conte, graphite, charcoal and screen print on Magnani paper 70 x 100 cm

Land Hunger 2015, watercolour on paper 46 x 61cm

From the Wreckage 2015, watercolour on paper 46 x 61cm

The streets are Rising 2013
Oil on canvas, 200 x 256cm

Between the temple and the playground 2011
Oil on canvas, 200 x 270cm

Kurraachee, Past, Present, and Future, 2012-13

Naiza Khan

Naiza Khan (b. 1968, Pakistan) trained at the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford and the Wimbledon College of Arts in London. She currently works between London and Karachi, and has recently completed her MA at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. Amongst her exhibition credits is a major retrospective, Karachi Elegies, at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan (2013), in addition to the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane (2018), the Lahore Biennale 02 (2020), Art Basel Hong Kong (2017), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2016), the Shanghai Biennale (2012) and Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan at the Asia Society, New York (2009).

In 2000, Khan co-founded the Vasl Artists’ Collective, Pakistan, which is affiliated with the Triangle Network. She has been part of the Fine Art faculty at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi (1991–2009) and is currently a senior advisor in the Visual Studies Department at the University of Karachi. In addition, she has curated several exhibitions of contemporary Pakistani art, notably The Rising Tide: New Directions in Art from Pakistan, 1990–2010 at the Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi, in 2010.

The artist received the Prince Claus Award in 2013, in recognition of her work in the fields of art and culture in Pakistan. Khan is the first artist to represent Pakistan at its inaugural pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, with the project Manora Field Notes (2019). Naiza Khan lives and works between London and Karachi.