Originally posted at the Marrie Watt Studio
Blanket Stories: Textile Society, R.R. Stewart, Ancient One is a site-specific installation commissioned by the United States Department of State’s office of Art in Embassies for the new embassy in Islamabad.
The project references the historical significance of textiles in the early Muslim world, often characterized as a having been a “textile society.” R.R. Stewart was a New York-born botanist who spent most of his life traveling on foot throughout Pakistan studying the plants of the region. His impressive collection of plant specimens eventually became the basis of the country’s National Herbarium in Islamabad. The term “Ancient One” refers to the early lands and civilizations that have come to be known as Pakistan. It also refers to the Seneca word Uk’sode Gowan, meaning both “great-grandmother” and “ancient one.”
The installation will be a three-story-tall interior sculpture for the new embassy’s atrium, composed of 400 wool or other natural-fiber blankets, collected from the community and assembled into one totem-like column which will enable the intermingling of diverse narratives including American, Pakistani, Native American, Islamic, and many others from around the globe. In a multitude of colors, textures, patterns, and worn bits, the installation will evoke associations and conversations about the rich history of the textile trade as well as the importance of cultural exchange in the Islamic world.
Originally posted at the RPI Polytechnic
Posted on April 22, 2015 by Aima Malik, Staff Reviewer
West Hall Auditorium was witness to quite a pageant of color and sound this Saturday. The Pakistani Students Association held its annual Jashn show on April 18. ’Jashn’ translates to celebration in Urdu, Pakistan’s main language, and the show is meant to be a celebration of south Asian culture. Part of the show was a Mr. and Ms. Jashn pageant. Contestants are nominated because they are believed to represent a fusion of south Asian and western cultures; the pageant aims to find the contestant that best exemplifies this fusion.
The show kicked off with the Pakistani national anthem, sung by the members of the PakSA, followed by the American national anthem, sung by the RPI Rusty Pipes, who did a great job. After this fitting beginning, the audience was treated to an extremely energetic performance by the RPI Bhangra team, Gajde Sher. Bhangra is a north Indian art form, performed to very fast, energetic beats, and the audience seemed to really get into it. The emcees then introduced the contestants for the pageant as they walked onto the stage wearing traditional clothes from their home country, all colorful numbers. The PakSA vice president then performed an original rap, followed by the talent section for the Mr. and Ms. Jashn pageant. The talents showcased by the contestants included standup comedy, Bhangra, Bollywood dance, singing, and Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance style from south India.
The contestants then headed backstage and there was a poetry reading by Nabeel, an RPI graduate and former PakSA member, who shared a poem about the unique experience of living as a minority and about his many identities: American, Muslim, and Pakistani. It was a touching poem, although it did not have the best execution. A fashion show showcasing different styles of Pakistani clothing followed, and the models—many of whom were first timers—did a great job. The contestants then came back on stage for the final round: questions and answers. Each of the six contestants were asked both a serious and funny question and statements made during this round ranged from the entertaining to endearing:
Q: What problems have you faced due to being a part of Desi culture?
A: I’ve been practicing for a year, and I can’t dunk, and I blame that on my genes.
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: Lightning speed, because I’m always late, and I blame it on being brown.
Q: What is your nickname and how did you get it?
A: Rhea, like the bird, because my parents thought I was a very curious toddler, always flitting about like a bird.
As the judges deliberated, the audience was treated to a performance by an RPI dance team formed earlier this year, which performs classical Indian dance to contemporary western beats. The show was for charity, and a raffle was held after the winners were announced and the contestants came back on stage for a final time. Simrin Kooner ’17 and Ghuraldeen Kaur ’18, who performed a great Bharatanatayam dance, won the titles of Mr. and Ms. Jashn 2015. All the contestants were presented with bouquets and chocolate and the show ended as Bollywood music played in the background.
Overall, the show was quite entertaining, and, as someone who had a backstage perspective, I can say that there were numerous little hitches and glitches that kept popping up. Kudos should be given to the PakSA President Ferheen Qureshi ’16 and Vice President Taha Mehdi ’16 for orchestrating a great show. Speaking of the celebration of culture, the subject of food can’t possibly be left out, and there was absolutely delicious Indian/Pakistani food at the event. Overall, it made for a great evening, and I’m definitely attending next year’s show.