Saira Waseem narrates Global Traumas – Miniature Painting

Posted on October 15, 2007
Filed Under >Raza Rumi, Art & Literature, People
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Raza Rumi

Saira Wasim is a prominent Pakistani miniaturist. I found a link to her website hidden in my unread emails. Some of her recent paintings are terrific. The image below is borrowed from here. It is dedicated to Queen of Meldoy, Noor Jehan.

Anna Sloan, art historian, writes:

“Teeming with figures captured in mid-action, paintings by Saira Wasim present grand narratives. If it weren’t for their petite size and two-dimensionality, they might be mistaken for Greek mythology, Baroque opera, epic film, or other monumental genres. Yet, these small paintings represent a singular creation, one that transcends any individual medium or genre. In Wasim’s hands, the centuries-old format of the miniature painting has been transformed into a stage for human drama, a jam-packed cinematic space that approaches the grandeur of Cecil B. DeMille and the glamour of Bollywood. Like the protagonists of such grand genres, Wasim’s characters gesticulate, prance, shoot, and fly in majestic style. They laugh and boast in hideous fashion, and morph into grotesque hybrid creatures that hint at transcendent themes of good and evil.”

For instance see this powerful representation displayed on her website with the lyrical title, Lamentation of Innocence (Genocide),2005
One of the paintings – Buzkashi – narrates a tale of contemporary Pakistan.
The depiction of political and social undercurrents may be “subjective” but her work surely adds a new dimension to political art from Pakistan. Wasim’s websites states:

“Buzkashi (literally means “goat-grabbing”) is an ancient game, national sports of Afghanistan and also played in many parts of North West Pakistan. It’s also called wildest game on earth. Here ‘Buzkashi’ is a metaphor of Pakistani politics, where every leader grabs for control of the country and every stronger wants to rule the weaker …”

The image on the left – Friendship After 11 September 1, (2001) found here – contextualizes and comments on the close relationship between Pakistan’s President General Musharraf and the US President after 9/11.

There is an eclectic mix of realism, comedy and circus – there is movement and drama alive in the miniature format.

And this one is my favourite: Mission Accomplished showing George Bush riding a cow with Tony Blair and the Pakistani President. South Asian motifs blended with strains of Western art, this painting cleverly sums up a myriad of perceptions and reactions to this tripartite alliance on the global scene. The image has been reproduced from the BBC website.

Wasim is expanding the frontiers of the traditional genre of miniature painting. It is a tremendous service to keep this art form alive and relevant.

15 responses to “Saira Waseem narrates Global Traumas – Miniature Painting”

  1. khair says:


  2. Ahsan says:

    She is great. Her paintings are not simple two dimensional expressions but they depict the true stories of multidimentional
    events of life.

    I have noticed that there is a new painting at the top of the post. Should I say “man and woman”? I find it very beautiful and clever. Is it also by Saira Waseem?

  3. Raza Rumi says:

    Dear All
    thanks for the comments and liking the images. I think Saira’s work is splendid and she has emerged as one of our best contemporary miniaturists.

    Wasim: I think you can acquite this art by contacting her through the website – the link is given in the post.

    Tina: this is exactly her contribution – the “daring re-definition” of the art form.

    Sadia: thanks for the comment – I think this would be a great idea – let’s hope this can be organized

    Darwaish: you are absolutely right – this is the irony of ironies that the much maligned military rule has actually provided unprecendted space to the arts and the media..
    I am a little confused on why Jamal Shah would accompany the President and yet shy of displaying his work – that’s a little odd –
    thanks for the comments and hausla afzaai..!

  4. Darwaish says:

    Wonderful post :).

    If I am not wrong, some of these paintings are also displaying at National Art Gallery in Lahore. Interestingly, Gen. Musharraf is the one who made the NAG project possible by releasing the appropriate funds (which for frozen by previous governments for years). When he came for the inauguration ceremony of NAG, he saw the paintings with political message (somewhat similar to painting no. 3&4 above). According to Jamal Shah, Executive Director of the Gallery, Gen. Musharraf did not like the message in some of the paintings but, thankfully, made no objection either. Jamal Shah did not put his paintings for display because he thought many would be offended by the strong political message they have.

    Once again, thank you for the lovely post. Please also share with us the work of anyone working on ‘murals’. I only know of one young sculpture Jabbar Gul whose mural is placed in the entrance of Learning Resource Building of the State Bank. I am sure there are others whom ATP readers would love to know.

  5. zaman says:

    This stuff is going to stay for a very long time. its depicts the times we live in.Will follow her work



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