The Wall of Home
By Hasan Raza
PAKISTAN PHOTO FESTIVAL FELLOWSHIP 2021 PROJECT
I knew so many moments like that it is like standing in the dead end or getting stuck in snow storm. You cannot go forward & do not want to turn back.
میرے گھر کی دیوار
Dasy Kosay Dasy Watan Day Zama
Da Her Dywal Suray Dukhmum Dy Zama
Pa Jung Keh Sok Da Cha Pa Zad Walar Dy Tupuk Zama Dy Hum Badun Dy Zama
Stha Da Barodo Aor May Zra The Thyr Sho
Da Che Awaz Dumra Taaojun Dy Zama
(My country is such that shadow of every wall of its streets is my enemy. Who are fighting against whom? The gun is mine and I am the target. The fire of your arms has reached the core of my heart. That is why my language is ferocious)
Parachinar a city situated in Kurram Agency which is now Kurram District.
Beautiful snowy White Mountains, villages, tombs, orchards, jungles, lakes & meadows makes it one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan & its geographical placement makes me call it wall of our home.
Parachinar has battled through years of sectarian violence in which thousands of people have lost lives. For people of Parachinar Sectarian violence is not an unknown phenomena.
It is one of the most affected area by the sectarian violence in the whole region & its geographical position also plays a very crucial role in keeping peace or control of the region. It boarders with three different Afghan provinces, namely Ningrahar to its north, Paktia to its west and Khost to south west. It comprises of the turi, bangash, mangal, mugbal, parachamkani, masuzai and alisherzai tribes. Turi and half of the bangash tribe are shia, while the rest tribes follow the Sunni sect.
There were times when Shia & Sunni used to live together peacefully in Parachinar but with time especially after reign of Gen Zia, Iranian Revolution & Afghan Jihad things escalated. These events affected the whole country but Parachinar & other Tribal areas were affected on a different scale as at times it turned into tribal civil war.
There have been at least three periods of sectarian violence in the last decades – during 1983-87, 1996-98 and 2001. The present sectarian conflict started in April 2007, and continues to the present.
Hundred & thousands of people lost their lives or got injured & almost everyone living in the region got directly affected by these conflicts.
These conflicts became a major part of their identity & the history of the region is very much the story of the individuals themselves.
“Wall of my home” is about exploring the story of such individuals on a personal & intimate level & the way their circumstances shaped their world.
Maisam Husain is one such individual, a visual artist who graduated from National College of Arts, Lahore in 2020 was born in 1997 in “Zeran” It is one of the villages in Parachinar. Everything in his art reflects back to the harsh reality of his past. His subject, materials & techniques are all part of his past & is now part of his identity.
He could make the subject of his art the haunting beauty of his hometown Zeran, its winters or anything else, but he chose something which he cannot get out of his mind. The wall & holes in it, walls of his home.
As he told me while I was watching him work on his latest piece.
“You must be wondering why I draw bullet holes on wall while there are millions of things which I can paint or draw, It is simple, Everyone draw & make or say the things that they have seen or experienced & the city that belong has taught me a lot about bullets & bullets has thought me a lot about life. I call these (pointing toward his work) “wall of my home.”
My Artworks are very simple It starts with the same thing, a blast with gun powder & then I draw further around that. It smells like the freshly fired bullet hole in a wall. It takes me back to those days. I could have done it in another way too but this make me feel that sensation, fear, rage etc.
“Da sro lambo da ghargharo da zora na de khabar / Da sok che Jang ghwari da jang da zora na de khabar”
(“Thee are ignorant of the wrath of blazing fire / Thee who wage war, are ignorant of its power of obliteration”)
Sahib Shah Sabir
There were times when people asked me if I can forget all this & change the subject of my art, especially when I was working on my thesis project. Then I had to explain them why it is hard for me as I have different life experiences then the people living in Lahore or any other city. It talks about that celebration of violence & is now a part of my identify.
As I had written in my thesis work statement.
Maisam Hussain, Born in (1997) in Zeran,Parachinar.Initialy learned metal work from my father in our own shop. I graduated in Fine Arts Major in Sculpture from National College of Arts with Distinction. My work is mostly influenced by the miseries and harsh realities of Parachinar, where belong to. grew up within the vicinity of war erupted land hearing the horrible sound of blasts, sounds had become used to, which would mark scars on buildings and my fellow humans. I grew up seeing dust filling the air and have witnessed lying on the ground, too shocked to move. The marks of these bullets and bombardments still imprint their marks and scars on the people and places attacked. It has left an immense impact on my own growth and the way I have evolved to think. These sounds of bomb blasts are now are part of me, and the marks left on the victimized building are something look at to reminisce those times, which are undeniably my identity.
My childhood & celebration of Violence.
میرا بچپن اور جشن خشونت
I opened my eyes just a year after 96 clash (chiyanve jang) about which my mother told me multiple times. More than 200 lives were lost on both sides, so we from the very beginning of our life started to perceive that violence part of our lives. A norm.
When you see violence everywhere around you start to enjoy it. It becomes a part of you. You start celebrating the violence. Mostly it would be before the Morning Prayer because the time to attack was mostly after midnight. We used to spend the whole night on the roof, Firing would start, heavy firing on minarets & villages were set on fire, and we would celebrate that because we would know that this particular village on fire belongs to the enemy. Whenever we heard the sound of big guns, we would say that now we will show them who is in charge here.
We used to celebrate violence. We did not know anything about right or wrong as everything was for revenge.
When Taliban attacked the Parachinar city they beheaded people. When some of the fighter took the revenge and brought Taliban fighter’s head in our village. People were throwing those here and there. There are playing fields near in our village where people play football. Just imagine playing football with a human head that is what I saw.”
“This happened as before that Taliban had done the same with the Shia convoy which was bringing food for the city, they had done even more inhuman things with the bodies of the convoy members. They had recorded videos of that.
The most affected by this war has been children. On both sides Shia & Sunni, The next generation is most affected by this ignorance.
When I was in Parachinar, after every lunch & dinner Maisam’s father used to play flute to keep everyone entertained & often there would be Mareed Ali (Maisam’s nephew) Sumait & shumail (Maisam’s cousins) & me.
Mareed Ali loves to try to repair the torch in the house, He imitates his grandfather & his uncle Maisam.
“Mareed Ali reminds me of Maisam’s childhood, Energetic, curious & stubborn. He listens to no one but himself & does whatever his heart says. Whenever I come back from work, He asks me to give him a screw driver so he can open anything he gets his hands on. Sumait is responsible & caring. He tries to be like his uncle Sumait who is with you 24/7 is more mature, He is thoughtful, Inquisitive & responsible. Shumait he wants to get away from this place & I do not blame him for it. He says he will work in Qatar, The way i worked in Kuwait for more than 10 years. He drives motorcycle very fast as it is a plane which will fly him to Qatar. ”
His father started playing again, Mareed Ali was trying to fix his torch, and at one point he stopped & picked it up like a gun & started making the sound guns being fired. Maisam’s father stopped playing, said something to Mareed then looked at me & smiled.
He used to make things, He used to repair electric appliances, good with his studies, sometimes made us bamboozled as we did not understand the purpose of like when he made mortar shells or that drone.
Mareed Ali start to point the screw driver at me and said something in Pashto which I did not understand. Maisam’s father started laughing.
“He is asking you to keep quite, so that he can work”
Everyone was laughing as Mareed was looking angrily.
Whenever violence would start, Schools & colleges would be closed. I think that was the worst thing at that time. As Knowledge is the only thing that can change the mindset of people. My School was one of my favorite places in Parachinar. You can still find my name on honor board as i got the highest score in 2014 exams.
For me the worst thing was school getting closed.
I still remember the 1st blast that I witnessed. It was near Peshawar Adda It 16th Feb 2008. We used to sell fire wood. My father asked me to get some milk for the tea. When I was returning from there. A huge blast happened,
I can’t get those visuals out my head. It is just stuck there. It has become a part of my self. It was my childhood. I was just 300 meters away from the blast & I fell down. When I got near the point I saw people burning alive. Some of the people were moving while their whole body was on fire, There was this person whose backside was completely burned & he was just moving his hands & right in front of that I saw a woman whose shawl was burning but she was pointing at her dead son & screaming that his son was dead.
A human face is very beautiful when it is in complete form but when it gets burned in a blast….. When the wood is burned … Just imagine if a human face in the fire burning. These are some of my childhood memories, it is still fresh up here. It still haunts me.
War of Minarets
Damn that Minaret, It all started on the minarets of a Sunni mosque in Parachinar back in 1980’s, Shia’s were against the construction of that minaret.
It got built & people were right, It became the center of all conflict & still it is considered the same & is called “Sunni’s minaret” You can see it from very far it is the largest minaret in the whole Kurram Agency. I could see them from my home town Zeran.
The interesting thing is that Sunni & Shia grand mosques are very close by their wall almost touch each other & there are points where it is separated by one small street & their main gates are on the same road with very little distance between them. You can see Sunni minaret from Shia mosque as it is too close. At times of war they would fire bullets and mortars at each other’s mosque. Shia mosque has two minarets but they are very small compared to the Sunni Minaret.
Whenever there was a dispute we would see big guns in the village. There is a gun we call “zu ku yak”. That was used on that wall near Peshawar Adda. I heard that it is a machine gun which is mounted on a helicopter. Both sides would use that against each other. Other guns like AK47, pistol etc. was normal.
People would fire that on minarets. Mortars & rocket launchers were used. You have seen the backside of Sunni mosque, the back gate & the house with it is still in that condition.
Way of my home
میرے گھر کا رستہ
This is a beautiful place, beautiful mountains, Mazar & fields but sometimes it feels like that pond we just visited & we are like fishes, Now imagine if we pond was dried up, It is the same when violence escalates, The road gets blocked, After 2007 when road got blocked there was shortage of food & people who needed medical assistance or had to travel to another part of the country had to go through Afghanistan & many were killed & abducted by Taliban there too. We were fish in a dried up beautiful pond.
For years the Parachinar-Thall Road connecting Parachinar to the rest of Pakistan was blocked by the Sunni militants. Many people were killed travelling on this road & it had devastating effect & many people were killed while trying to reach Parachinar. Maisam’s father was once abducted by Sunnis near Sadda while travelling from Peshawar to Parachinar.
I can’t forget the way they beat me & torn my clothes. I thought there was no way I could survive but one of the Sunnis recognized me & in the middle of the night he set us free. That was a miracle by god that he was there & recognized me but I do not remember knowing that person.
Maisam’s father recalled while we were walking in the trees in the morning to be at his shop.
I had to walk in the woods from Sadda to Parachinar which was not an easy, It was cold & i had a constant fear of not seeing my family again, Now sometimes when I go to shop & I am alone, I recall the incident & it fills me with fear.
Maisam look after goats owned by the owner of the house where he lives in Lahore,
He was feeding them when I asked him about the closure of the road & the incidents surrounding the fact.
I think we all should have the right to travel in our own country without any fear. After all we are not goats or sheep we are humans. Our people used to travel from Prewar to Afghanistan & from there they would travel to Peshawar. It would be like asking a Lahori to travel from Lahore to Amritsar to reach Qasoor. They would take it as a joke but for us it was a reality we had to travel into another country just to reach another part of our country. Afghanistan is very close from Parachinar, if you stand on the Pewar Bridge, on a good day you can see Afghanistan from there.
Stuck on the wall of a dead end
Na Da Malooma Shwa Ihsasa Che Cha Wowjulum
Na Da Malooma Shwa Che Cha May Khunbaha Waghista 33
Pa Durdnak Door K Bad Hal Sra Mukh Shway Yuma
Zah D Durduno, Da Zawal Sra Mukh Shway Yuma 34
Dy La Janat Wistalee Insane Tha Kho Ghyrat Pakar Wa
Pa Dagha Zamka Kho Pa Her Surat Janat Pakar Wa 35
(O Ihsas! Neither it is known that who has not killed me nor it is known that who has taken the price of my death. I am facing the worst situation in the most painful time of my life. Helplessness, hopelessness and degradation are all around me. This paradise lost on Adam (human) must have to show some honor and dignity and this earth must need to have a paradise in any situation)
for people of Parachinar violence, bomb blasts & deaths are part of their life.
It is hard to find single family in Parachinar who has not lost someone in a blast or fight. Every family has a history of that. Maisam has lost two of his cousins in those conflict. Hamid Husain & Rehmat Husain.
Maisam : The elder one had a wife & two kids, He used to be security guard in Alizai (Shia majority area near Sadda). One day Taliban attacked, He tried defending himself by throwing bricks & stones at them & then he was confronted by the suicide bomber, He tried to stop that too & then you can imagine what had happened.
The thing is that the ones who get killed in such way have devastating after effects on their loved ones. His mother who comes to our home often is mentally disturbed after losing his sons.
I knew so many moments like that it is like standing in the dead end or getting stuck in snow storm. You cannot go forward & do not want to turn back.
I had so many friends there. Some of them you know about like Kumail & Kamran.
You have met Kumail the hazara boy who had taken you to meet Kamran & his family
I was in 9th class and we had a competition. My Friend Kamran was participating in that, He was very close to me and it was very emotional for me as I have many memories with him. There was a blast and people were protesting so FC personal had taken out tanks and bullet proof vehicles. Our people were emotional as they were saying that the Sunni mosque had Taliban in it. FC were trying to stop the protesters. So Firing started so that friend of mine was shot in that encounter.
Kumail is a Shia Hazara living in Parachinar who had been classmate & close friend to both Maisam & Kamran. When I was in Parachinar he was the one who got me to Kamran’s house which is in Shiblan. Kamran’s grave is near his house so we stopped to say our prayers for the martyr & then we left for his house.
Kamran’s mother : He loved studying, He would mostly secure highest grade in his class. He was organized & fancied cleanliness, He would always carry himself much better than the boys of his age. Once in winter when it was snowing, Kamran & his cousins & friends had gone out to enjoy snowfall, The whole place was covered with snow.
Kamran’s mother : someone had taken a photograph of that day, Let me show you that & I have saved some of his books too.
We were walking back to the car (Me & Kumail) & having casual conversation.
Kumail : You know, I was a closer friend to Kamran then his other friends, I had conversations with him that no one else had. He was disturbed by everything that was happening around & wanted to change but did not know how, after all he was just another human.
There is place “Shatraba” He told me that he would go there or any place where he could find solitude like the ones we saw on our way here.
His thoughts were different & when he used to witness the circumstances & situation that he was in, He used to see all of that in a very different perspective. He would get angry & stressed & question everything that was happening around him. If we see things with our inner eyes, everything that is or was happening, is not right. The circumstances made him go to that place & scream & cry his heart out. These are the personal things that I am telling you. I have told no one. This was the way he used to express his anger, sadness & everything. Maisam did that with his work, with his sketches, paintings, Sculptures & still continues to do so.
In graveyard you will find graves with flags on them. Those are all martyrs.
In every village you will find ton of those. It has now become a norm.
Once I heard in a poem in which poet had said “If you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning.
These things has repeated so much that now it has lost its meaning but with that our people has lost the meaning of life, loss, peace, death, home & many other things.
“Naa poha di da aman aw wahdat na khabar na di / Sukoon zama da qaam bachi la banga raobasi” – (“They are unaware of the fruits of unity and peace / The youth of my nation is trying to find peace in weeds”) Jalal Khalil
Two Parallel Line & Reason to live.
۲متوازی خطوط اور وجہ حیات
We were in Maisam’s father’s welding shop.
Maisam’s father: Do you know this was not my shop at that time, I had another shop in the city, and One day some people in a black car attacked shops in Bazar & started firing. I hid & my brother & a fellow shopkeeper fired in our defense, I hid in the shop, in firing the car driver got shot & he crashed the car in our shop. All of them were killed & I survived. My shop was burned due to that car. I left that shop after some time.
Maisam’s Uncle (Sifat Ali) entered the shop.
Maisam’s father: Here comes my brother, His name is Sifat Ali, He loves fighting (Laughing) and He has his own gun. He used to show Maisam & other kids his gun so they could defend themselves when needed.
Sifat Ali greeted me.
Sifat Ali : Fighting is not my Passion but it is a necessity & I feel the responsibility to fight. if you live in jungle you have to live by its rules. There were times when one group attacked & the people on the other side were not aware of the attack, they would run away & leave their house & belongings while their dinner would be fresh & warm on their table. I imagine if my family has to flee that way in an attack or god forbid if they can’t run. What then?
That is why fighting is necessary for one’s defense.
Sifat Ali explained his point of view.
Sifat is right that fighting to defend one’s self is important & we must do it as without that we would not survive but I will never accept violence as it creates an unending cycle, one person will kill another & the one taking revenge will do the same & it continues. These conflicts has done nothing but increased the numbers of orphans in Parachinar but here in Parachinar fighting & peace are like two parallel lines that may never meet but both are at times important to live.
Maisam is inspired by his father & mother a lot, He has made a bust sculpture of his father & named it “وجہ حیات (The reason to live).
His mother loves him more than her life, The last day when I was leaving Parachinar, She had started calling me “Zoi” (Son). As I was friend of her Son & at the point living in her son’s room.
Last day in Parachinar I took a photograph of his mother too.
When I was showing the photos after returning to Lahore. At last I showed him his mother’s & fathers photos.
Maisam : They are the reason I live, My mother for the kindness & love that she shows & my father who has taught me the most important things in life. They are worth living for.
The war or the fights or blast that we will keep talking about maybe for the whole life is not what we wished for. We do not see any benefit in that, the person loves the war who gains some benefit out of that & we are not the one.
“Pa chaman k ka gulona ka azghi mri / Kho zma da kor khaist zma sparli mri / Da me nura badbakhti na da nu sa dee / Pa pradi jang k zma da kor zmari mree”
(“If it is flower or the thorn which are being destroyed / These all are the beauties of my house, dying / What should I call it if not my bad luck? / The brave men of my home dying in a war of others”).
Sahib Shah Sabir