Visual artist Naiza Khan (1968, Bahawalpur) is a keen observer of crucial social paradoxes in Pakistani society. Drawing on her own experiences and not afraid of dealing with contentious subjects, her focus is the relationship of identity and place, the interweaving of the personal and the political.
Her strong and consistent body of work includes investigations regarding gender, particularly the female body in relation to public space in a conservative and male-dominated context. In Henna Hands (2003) she imprinted life-size female figures on the walls of public areas such as the railway colony in Karachi, and her exhibition The Skin She Wears (2008) interrogated contradictions around the sensuality and control of the female body in a series of sculptures, made in galvanised steel, of garments that sit between lingerie and armour.
In her extensive project on Manora Island, Khan combined evocative fragments, found objects, recorded impressions, videos, watercolours, mapping and performance to examine conflicting narratives surrounding contested terrain. In the video Homage (2009), she worked with broken furniture and the rubble of a demolished school to eloquently comment on displacement, forced evictions and the power structures that drive people out. Her recent series of paintings, Karachi Elegies (2013), convey the experience of living and working in an urban landscape disrupted by political violence and natural disaster.
A catalyst in the local art world, Naiza Khan is a founder and former co-ordinator of the Vasl Artists’ Collective, which supports artists through residencies, dialogue and collaborations within a regional network. She shares her knowledge with younger generations and promotes Pakistani art through teaching and curating exhibitions such as The Rising Tide: New Directions in Art from Pakistan 1990-2010 at the Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi (2010).
Naiza Khan is honoured for her strong body of work which offers complex, nuanced perspectives on Pakistani society today; for her courage in raising public awareness on controversial social and political issues; for being a role model for women artists in a male-dominated context; and for her significant contribution to the development of arts and culture in Pakistan and the region.