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Huma Mulji

Pakistani Contemporary Artist
Born 1970, Karachi, Pakistan
Lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan

Huma Mulji is a visual artist who works with sculpture, photography, drawing, painting and digital imaging in order to address notions of failure, neglect, the forgotten and lost, and the dysfunctional. Her art works are imbued with political as well as cultural undertones that play out both ironically as well as humorously. As an artist, she is popular for using the low tech method of taxidermy whereby through the art of preparing and stuffing the animals, she reinvents and reanimates not only the objects but in the process gives shape to a serious thought or idea of great concern.

Education

2010

MFA, Transart Institute, Berlin, accredited by Donau-Universität Krems, Austria

1995

BFA, Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture, Karachi, Pakistan

1991

B.Com (Business Administration), Govt. College of Commerce & Economics, Karachi, Pakistan

VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Videos      Awards      Selected images      View all

LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Huma Mulji

Huma Mulji's cultural positioning gives her a unique status

Huma Mulji is an artist with a unique cultural positioning. She was born in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1970, and completed her Bachelors in Fine Art from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in 1995 and an MFA in New Media Arts, from Transart Institute, Donau-Universität Krems, Austria, in 2010.

She has an elevated sense of national identity, and longs to improve her country’s reputation in the international arena. She has strong views related to the history of artistic practice in Pakistan, and the idea of artistic responsibility.

As she herself says - “My works broadly address the visual and cultural overlaps of language, image and taste that create the most fantastic collisions. Looking at this phenomenon with formal and conceptual irony and humour, the works are surreal juxtapositions of images. Rather than dwell on existing theoretical issues of living and working in a post-colonial country, the work for me is research into the realities of living in Pakistan.”

Huma Mulji, Pardesi Pride, 2008, C-Print, 29 x 45”

Mulji adopts taxidermy as her technique

Taxidermy refers to a low-tech process where art-works are stuffed with cotton wool. Mulji adopts this technique in order to infuse a life and a story in lifeless forms such as in animals that are used in her works.Camel is one of the animals bought at the time of Eid-ul Azha, the festival which commemorates Ibrahim’s sacrifice.The animal not only becomes a cultural symbol but also emerges as a metaphor against the politics in Pakistan. Since the tragedy of 1971, Pakistan has been trying to construct its own culture, but due to the influence of Islamic heritage and culture on the government of Pakistan, the latter thought of replacing its South Asian identity with an Islamic one. The work ‘Arabian Delight’ showcases a low tech taxidermy camel stuffed in a suitcase. On the surface level, the camel (Laila) in the suitcase appears hilarious, but Huma Mulji’s art transcends the literal level and embraces myth, uncertainty, as well as original narrative.

Huma Mulji, Arabian Delight, 2008, rexine suitcase, taxidermy camel, metal rods, wood, cotton wool, fabric, 105 x 144 x 155 cm

The emotion of love and its dangers speak upfront through Mulji's dolls

The photographic series “Sirf Tum” (only you) deal with issues related to intimacy in public spaces. Mulji uses dolls as metaphor for humans to depict the complications faced by youngsters in a relationship. What happens when love between couples is not respected by family members? Mulji answers this question through the photographic narration of intimacy shared by the couple. The dolls are naked and the camera’s eye acts as a voyeur probing and scrutinizing the act of intimacy. Huma questions the entire tradition of orthodoxy that not only hampers the emotion of love but is also responsible for provoking fights between and among family members leading to fatal tragedies.

Huma Mulji, Sirf Tum, 2004, C-Print, 30 x 40"

Mulji's works are surreal juxtapositions of images

Mulji’s works broadly address the visual and cultural overlaps of language, image, and taste that create the most fantastic collisions.Looking at this phenomenon with formal and conceptual irony and humour, the works are surreal by nature.

Heavenly Heights and Her Suburban Dream - two very well-known works of hers - both attempt to juxtapose these colliding metaphors, to envision this surreal reality. The work avoids easy taking of sides, in imagining a future urban landscape of Pakistan. Sculpturally too, the work underscores the conflict. The suspension of volume and weight, and the pushing of anatomical possibilities to emphasize the tension, are tropes used by Mulji to question contemporary media images, and the phenomenon of “photoshop”, where the fine line between truth and untruth becomes a matter of belief.

Huma Mulji, 1001 Storeys, rexine clad fiberglass suitcase, electroplated muslim showers, audio circuit, wood and fabric, 45 x 32 x 26”

Mulji's works mirrors the pain and agony behind the modern architecture of Pakistan

“Sanctuary” and other works of Huma Mulji comment on architecture of fear and insecurity in the context of contemporary urban cities particularly Pakistan.Mulji comments on the social stratification arising due to the dominance of upper classes. These barriers not only stand for the alienated and an all-exclusive status of the elite classes in Pakistan, but also refer to their selfishness in terms of seizing that which belongs to the public. The parks that are for the children to play have been usurped by the rich people for their own whims and fancies.

Thus, Huma Mulji through her work “When the boys came out to play…” undercuts the urban makeover of the city because it only can shatter dreams and restrain freedom.

Huma Mulji, Sanctuary, 2011, laser cut mirror acrylic, adhesives, steel reinforcement