Celebrating Pakistani Voices

Images of Pakistani artists with their work and around The Phillips Collection

Top: Artists (left to right) Muhammed Zeeshan Younas, Sehr Jalil, Farah Khan, Naira Mushtaq, and Aneela Khursheed, in discussion with moderator Ambassador Stuart Holliday, Phillips Educator Rachel Goldberg, and US Department of State Regional Coordinating Officer Attia Nasar. Middle: At the reception after the panel, artists discussed their work with Georgetown University School of Foreign Service students and VIP guests including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Bottom: Panelists and artists Yusra Muhammad Baig, Sophia Mairaj Malik, Sumbal Mushtaq, Rabia Rabail, Ammar Savul, Ruby Guy Shah, Qurat Ul Ain, and Huma Arshad Warraich, with Pakistani artist, actor, and activist Jamal Shah. Photos: Pepe Gomez

In November, thirteen emerging artists whose work is featured in Pakistani Voices: In Conversation with The Migration Series visited the United States for an 11-day cultural exchange program, touring museums in DC and New York and also visiting one of the Phillips’s partner schools, Takoma Education Campus. Five of the artists participated on a panel at the Phillips to discuss their work with Rachel Goldberg in Pakistan and their trip to DC.

Artist Muhammed Zeeshan Younas shares his thoughts about what the experience has taught him:

  • For me art is not only for the artists—art is for everyone. Everyone should understand what you are trying to say through your artwork. That is why I’ve been learning all kind of tools of art—I started as a sculptor, and then I went to painting, and now I am working on videos and animation. Talking to so many people from kids to elders on this trip has inspired me—I say to them, “What inspires you? Who are you?” and they express themselves. Sometime they tell me about their problems, about what they like, what they dislike. I already know what people in my country think, and when I came here and talked to Americans, I really feel no difference, even from the kids. People are so friendly—they respond to me. And I want to incorporate this into my art because when we use the term social change, it means we need to know what our society needs and how to communicate these problems in art. Because art is for society so we must understand it what society wants and needs.

Sharing Stories Around the World

screenshot of webinar underway

In April, I’ll be heading to Pakistan to facilitate workshops with artists of all ages. We’ll be using The Migration Series (1940–41) by Jacob Lawrence as a springboard for conversation about storytelling, collaboration, and how art can create social change. Last week, I had the pleasure of beginning the conversation with artists in Islamabad and Peshawar. Watch the video of our conversation, and add your point of view by sharing comments!

Words of inspiration on a Post-It at the State Department. Photo: Rachel Goldberg

Words of inspiration on a Post-It at the State Department. Photo: Rachel Goldberg

Rachel Goldberg, Manager of School, Outreach, and Family Programs

Phillips Flashback: The Migration Series Debuts

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel no. 1: During World War I there was a great migration north by southern African Americans, 1940-41. Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1942.

On December 8, 1941, Jacob Lawrence’s Migration of the Negro (today’s The Migration Series) made its public debut at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery in the landmark exhibition, American Negro Art.

24-year-old Lawrence was already an established artist, having shown his “Toussaint L’Overture” series (1937-38) in a 1939 exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The 1941 installation of The Migration Series at the Downtown Gallery elevated Lawrence’s reputation and career. It also resulted in its sale to the then Phillips Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art ensuring visual pleasure and spiritual enrichment for generations of museum-goers.

Mike Owens, Gallery Educator