Bin Laden’s Parrots, Blood Paintings Show Pakistani Artists Confronting Terrorism

Bin Laden’s parrots are the subject of new paintings from an emerging Pakistani artist Amir Raza. But they’re only one example this summer of how Pakistani artists are stepping into the spotlight.

Faseeh Mangi published an extensive report in this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek on the explosive growth in Pakistan’s art. In fact, Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi is currently being exhibited on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It will run there until November 3.

That work looks like bloodstains from a distance. As you move closer, you see natural images like leaves or feathers.

Bloomberg said that investing in Pakistani artists make sense because they’re still cheap.

Yet they’re grappling with some of the most visual and interesting themes of the century, including terrorism and the fact that 9/11 planner Osama bin Laden apparently lived hidden for years in their country.

Of course, Bin Laden is now gone. And that may help artists open up even more.

Amir Raza enjoyed his first showing at Karachi, Pakistan’s Full Circle gallery this summer. He boldly confronted the issue of people just parroting what leaders told them.

The painting I’ve posted here received an extensive discussion at Pakistan Art Review, where you can also find a much larger photo of the image. Raza didn’t shy away from creating a work that called Bin Laden’s followers parrots:

“Raza, in his paintings, projected such a society where thoughts are restricted and free thinking is hampered. Thus we find a hoard of parrots repeating his master’s voice…Like parrots, we do not speak our own language but speak of agendas of others…”

That painting features grim gray parrots clutching guns.

Bin Laden's Parrots painting

In a second painting called “Dry Leaf,” a heavily shrouded woman in traditional dress — but with a colorful parrot’s face — is studying a book in front of a wall of automatic weapons.

It must take courage to tackle this subject matter in Pakistan. Bloomberg noted that 40,000 people have been killed by Taliban attacks in that country since 9/11.

However, the resulting works of art are gaining worldwide recognition. An army of Bin Laden’s parrots appears unlikely to silence the emerging Pakistani artists any time soon.