Alternative Pakistani music and culture magazine
Search

You Will Never Be An Artist in Pakistan, So What’s The Point Of All This?

The other day I woke up at 4am to have a really proper think about what I’m going to do in life. This seems to be a very millennial thing to do, to way way overthink your position in the greater scheme of things. But a 4am panic attack isn’t something you take lightly, so after acknowledging the cliché of waking up covered in sweat, I got to work.

I thought I’d have made a film by now. Like an independent feature film. That obviously hasn’t happened except for a short film I made in college, which doesn’t count because half the shots are out of focus and there is sometimes no sound. Also I play every character, just with a different accent. My mother still thinks I should send it to film festivals. ‘What about that ‘Canz’, can’t you send it there?’, she asks. No Amma, no I cannot.

So the film hasn’t happened. I thought I’d have written a novel by now. I’m only 25 years old but the years seem to be slipping away. I’m losing the ‘young novelist’ points as we speak! Young novelists get so much forgiven in the name of youth and inexperience, but soon my shit writing might just be shit writing! Lack of grammar won’t be a ‘bright voice with joie de vivre’ but instead just like, seriously, you’re using semi colons completely wrong; how have you not got this yet?

 

OUT OF FOCUS
Hey dumbo, it’s out of focus!

So what am I going to DO? What am I going to BE? What am I going to CONTRIBUTE to the WORLD? I drift off into a really uncomfortable sleep with these questions fogging up my mental windshield. When it gets really bad, there’s always the briefly soothing calamine lotion: none of this matters anyway, settle down, get married, have kids, don’t sweat it dude! You’ll be ok!

Brief digression: It’s monsoon season and I live in a basement flat in Lahore. The pipes get flooded sometimes, and so frogs find themselves hopping out of drainage holes in my bathroom. The frog will go out to explore, following the light. It hops around the living room, from one end to the other. Sometimes it feels like a pet, although I haven’t named it and am never sure if it’s the same frog or multiple different frogs that look very similar. It never looks lost (although I don’t know what a lost frog looks like) it just looks like it’s exploring, and I’ve never found a dead frog, and so I let it roam around the apartment.

FROG IN LIVING ROOM
Artist representation of living room frog (not to scale)

ANYWAY, the other week I came back from an interview with a Lahore indie rock band. During the interview, they tell me that they pretty much had their album locked down two years ago, and are now releasing those songs. ‘Oh OK’, I say, ‘that’s a lot of dedication!’ but inside I’m wondering; how haven’t you all bashed your own heads in by now? ‘We’re sick of these songs’, they admit a little sheepishly. Yeah no shit. But I leave the interview feeling happy that people are making things even if it takes two years to make those things, and even if you hate those things at the end of it. The process of creation is beautiful, you have made something out of nothing, turned a 0 into a 1. There is victory in that, I think, no matter how small the product or tortured the process.

Inside I’m wondering; how haven’t you all bashed your own heads in by now?

A week later the band releases the album. It’s good, I really enjoy it. Their Facebook page has a few hundred extra likes than the previous month. There are plenty of likes and shares on the singles. Perhaps this is the start of something, I think. I mean this is probably how things start, generally speaking.

But also, in the vast majority of cases in Pakistani music, this is also the finishing line. It might not get better than this. It might be the last time you see this many likes, shares, comments on your Facebook posts. Maybe only bots and fake accounts will retweet your next tweet? The album launch gig you did at that café? Only your friends showed up, along with the couple who were just trying to eat, and even asked if you could play a little quieter? You’re late for your 4am panic attack.

In my living room I’ve got a poster print of a Salvador Dali painting, the one with the elephants with really long legs. It’s on the floor, propped up against the wall right now because I haven’t had a chance to hang it up yet. Every time the frog hops through the living room, it pauses in front of the Dali print as if it’s taking a long hard look at it. I’m not joking here. Like 30 seconds at least in front of the elephants, routinely. It’s a museum frog. An art gallery amphibian.

Frog in living room (updated)
Artist representation of frog in living room (updated, still not to scale)

You will never be an artist. The chances are so ridiculously slim that they might as well be zero. Making money from your art in Pakistan on the alternative end of the spectrum is close to impossible.

But everything you make is out there. It occupies a space where there was nothing before. And there’s a value in that I think. It may not register with anyone, it might not get any love reacts on Facebook, but it exists. Perhaps it only exists in the same way a Dali poster exists to a frog: just something to look at on the journey.

But it exists, and there’s a value to that, I think.

19 Comments
  1. The optimistic AR

    September 10, 2017 1:42 pm

    People like you will help bring the change. Change comes with hardships but you already knew that. You have to put out more paintings for more frogs (our awaam) to stare at. That’s the only way to bring a change in the frog. Keep in mind, you can’t do this alone. Your magic comes from the people making the paintings. You don’t have to agree with every painting but don’t let the stroke stop.

    • Outdoor Raisin
      Outdoor Raisin

      September 10, 2017 3:27 pm

      haha i love this! Thanks friend, we’ll do it together 😉

  2. Noor Unnahar Siddique

    September 10, 2017 2:18 pm

    It was so BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

    • Outdoor Raisin
      Outdoor Raisin

      September 10, 2017 3:24 pm

      Thanks for reading! Love your art btw, big fan over here! keep creating

  3. Usama

    September 10, 2017 6:42 pm

    What’s the name of that band?

    • Outdoor Raisin
      Outdoor Raisin

      September 11, 2017 2:10 pm

      Hi Usama! It’s actually an anecdote of a collection of a few bands, not one in particular 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  4. Some dude from new york

    September 12, 2017 6:57 am

    :’) “Perhaps it only exists in the same way a Dali poster exists to a frog” -That particularly resonated with me. Great article, much love.

    • Outdoor Raisin
      Outdoor Raisin

      September 12, 2017 8:24 am

      thanks! much love back

  5. Soha

    September 26, 2017 10:20 am

    if you’re writing a novel, (which you definitely should; easier said than done I am sure) I am buying it for sure!
    Could connect very much with the ambition of having made bad short films, lol.

    • Outdoor Raisin
      Outdoor Raisin

      September 30, 2017 5:53 am

      haha thanks for your support and for reading! we’ll keep making bad films until we make a good one 🙂

  6. DrDj

    October 1, 2017 9:16 pm

    Fun to read article, enjoyed the writing and surreal thoughts immensely.

    • Outdoor Raisin
      Outdoor Raisin

      November 2, 2017 9:00 am

      thanks so much! Big fan of what you guys are doing over at Black Peach!

  7. Ayesha

    January 17, 2018 9:51 am

    “So what am I going to DO? What am I going to BE? What am I going to CONTRIBUTE to the WORLD? I drift off into a really uncomfortable sleep with these questions fogging up my mental windshield. When it gets really bad, there’s always the briefly soothing calamine lotion: none of this matters anyway, settle down, get married, have kids, don’t sweat it dude! You’ll be ok!”

    THIS IS SO ME! I’m a girl who loves art and fashion but someone a few years ago made me part from my craft. The result of that separation is anxiety and depression! I can’t live without making art. without sketching even if its really bad or painting even if it’s obscure. it’s hard to be a woman and dream big. I’m 20 and soon they will be getting ready to marry me and this scares me A LOT! No I don’t want to get married without becoming a fashion designer and the thought of living not becoming one is scary. it just doesn’t settle with me.

    • Outdoor Raisin
      Outdoor Raisin

      January 17, 2018 6:06 pm

      Hope everything works out for you, just don’t stop creating!

    • Haig

      April 7, 2018 9:01 pm

      Start small. But start.

      And you should not adhere to the limiting belief that you currently hold: being a woman and dreaming big are not mutually exclusive. Why should you ever think they are?

  8. Dr Halfsane

    February 1, 2018 1:31 pm

    Mere existence is meaningless. Rocks exist. Great art pulls you towards it from the humdrum of routine life and demands admiration by itself. If no one stops to admire it well then its probably just shitty art. Expecting praise for mediocrity is what keeps Pakistani artists where they are, in irrelevance.

    • Outdoor Raisin
      Outdoor Raisin

      February 1, 2018 7:21 pm

      Thanks for reading! I love the line ‘Great art pulls you towards it’ and totally agree! Art cannot be a passive thing. But there are plenty of fantastic and talented artists in Pakistan right now who no one ‘stops to admire’, but that certainly doesn’t make it shitty art. And I also would not suggest praising mediocrity.

      But I can’t agree that ‘mere existence is meaningless’. In fact I think it means a great deal. And it’s that initial act of creation that I’m encouraging. Even if it is shit art, the fact that it exists would be better than if it didn’t. Out of that can come great art. Or at least that’s the hope 🙂 Just my 2 cents!

  9. Sarah

    February 1, 2018 3:18 pm

    Love this!! What about ‘Canz’??

  10. Haig

    April 7, 2018 9:02 pm

    Film. I am stuck on the first one I ever started. So I stare at you in awe, you did complete your fuzzy out-of-focus short film.

Leave a Comment