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Artist of the Day | Rubaba Haider

Rubaba Haider

The stitch is lost, unless the thread be knotted X


Gouache and acrylic on wasli paper


Rubaba Haider is a contemporary artist born in Quetta, Pakistan. Haider holds a BFA (Miniature Painting) from the National College of Arts, Lahore (2008) and recently completed a BA in Criminal Justice from RMIT University Melbourne. Her works have been shown in group exhibitions both in Australia and overseas and is held in a number of private collections in Europe, the Subcontinent and Australia. Some of these exhibitions are Personal/Universal at Hinterland Galerie, Vienna (2016),Chronicles of Place at RMIT University (2016), Burqas, veils and hoodies: identity and representation at Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre, Melbourne (2013), Intimate Pictures – Pakistani Contemporary Miniatures at Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, Tokyo (2011), Intricate Contemplation and Nostalgia at Alhamra Art Gallery, Lahore (2010), Parallel Lines – Contemporary Art from Lahore, Pakistan at Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, London (2008) and Connect at Anant Art Gallery, New Delhi (2008).

In 2014, Haider held her first Solo Exhibition; The stitch is lost, unless the thread be knotted at Niagara Galleries, Melbourne. She has been commissioned as an art consultant for public art projects for the City of Melbourne (2015) and RMIT University (2016), as well as a site-specific installation at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Perth (2016). Rubaba currently resides and works in Melbourne and is represented by Niagara Galleries in Melbourne, Australia.

Artist Statement

I am a Hazara woman. My recent forebears lived in Afghanistan where they suffered severe oppression, genocide and pogroms, carried out by the predominantly ethnic Pashtun Taliban. In recent years the Taliban openly declared that the Hazara would be targeted, which led my family to leave Pakistan and move to Australia. Throughout these upheavals, the Hazara have maintained strict social mores and customs that are split strictly along gender lines.

Through my work I am trying to create a space where these gendered issues are explored. The use of threads, fabrics and needles symbolize intimate wounds and tears as well as the upheavals to various relationships throughout my life. The personal, familial and community conflicts are shown through the use of unraveling threads, different types of knots, and needles. The word ‘thread’ in itself has so many meanings in so many different contexts. A ‘thread’ is defined as a fine cord made of two or more filaments twisted together. In a practical context, it is something that can be used to mend fabrics and used for sewing, but in a lateral context, it is a thread of human affairs and relationships.

Historically, the Hazara women were expert weavers of rugs, especially kilims. Weaving rugs was a main source of income for the Hazara women. As a girl, it is expected traditionally to master the techniques of sewing, knitting, stitching and weaving. Even though I learnt the techniques through on-going practice, as it was a requirement, I stopped doing it once I got older. Instead, I spent all of my time painting and drawing.

I want to redefine the traditional techniques of weaving and embroidery through my practice. I have incorporated cultural metaphors from my everyday life like embroidery techniques, needles, knots and various fabrics to depict the fragility of relationships on a micro level. Relationships, like threads, can be so sensitive that they break easily, and on the other hand, it can be so strong they can hold everything together. I choose to subvert these traditional crafts through using traditional materials in an unorthodox way.

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