The Straits Times
Published on Dec 25, 2012

Pakistan gallery defies dictators


ISLAMABAD (AFP) - It may not seem the most obvious setting, but a squat building overlooking a slum is home to one of Pakistan's leading galleries, which for 30 years has defied dictatorships and fundamentalists to champion cutting-edge art.

Rohtas Gallery was founded in 1981, at the height of military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq's martial law, as Pakistan was undergoing a programme of Islamisation that imposed Draconian restrictions on culture and entertainment.

With all but the most insipid forms of visual art officially banned as "un-Islamic", architect Naeem Pasha and a group of friends decided Pakistan's artists needed a space to express themselves freely.

"Abstract art was unIslamic," said Mr Pasha.