If I go back to the very beginning of my thesis process, the challenge was to pick a topic and take a deep plunge into it. The challenge was to find something that was important enough for me to spend a year exploring it as a designer. Eventually I landed on this topic: Searching for Pakistani Visual Identity in the Age of Globalisation. Yes, it was a mouthful. But I realised it was something that had defined my journey from the very moment I picked up a pencil. I had so many questions...Why do we know the world but the world doesn’t know us? Why do creative people in our culture struggle so much? Why did I spend my life learning english only to find no one in other cultures could even pronounce my name correctly? I was determined to find answers to these questions and more.
In a project with this amount of freedom and scope, it is always difficult to keep focus. I had a million directions to go into and that was paralyzing at times. However, one rule helped me keep making progress: Always be making something.
Across the span of a year, I conducted research on what defines visual culture, on Pakistani cultural history, and the history and philosophy of globalisation. I interviewed people from Pakistan to understand how they perceived their culture and shaped their own individual identities. I interviewed Pakistani creatives to understand their processes and the challenges and opportunities in their creative pursuits.
I also pushed myself to conduct visual explorations alongside my research. Some successful, some not so much. I explored Sindhi block printing techniques, Multani pottery patterns, Islamic geometry, and Urdu calligraphy. I played around with the idea of what my final visual exploration could be. Some ideas included book designs, news channel graphics, and public installations
The final visual outcome was a public art installation of Urdu Calligraphy. The idea was to give visibility to my culture without modifying it for a western audience. Giving a chance to my culture to shine and those from other cultures to take a step in understanding my culture better. The text reads, ‘Hum bhi haseen hain’ or ‘We too are beautiful’. This was an attempt to say just that.
Another key outcome of my thesis was the thesis book. This contains all of my research and snippets of my process. It documents the thinking behind my final piece as well as ideas on how we can take the first steps in giving visibility to Pakistani visual culture and strengthen our visual identity.