Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds

Nusra Latif Qureshi (Pakistani, b. 1973)
Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds
Drawing, gouache on paperboard
14 1/8 x 17 1/2 in.
Collection Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts
Purchased with the Richard and Rebecca Evans (Rebecca Morris, class of 1932) Foundation Fund
SC 2004:6

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Nura Latif Qureshi currently lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. Her work often incorporates the visual language of Mughal Miniature Paintings, appropriated silhouettes from colonial photography, patterns from textiles, and botanical painting. Much of Qureshi’s work–including this drawing–explores the politics of representation and erasure of identity in art historical canons. Her works are “teeming with layers of imagery from the past, meanings from the present, and methods from both.” Qureshi’s choice of medium (gouache) and the scale of her paintings both recall company paintings created in South Asia for colonial supervisors beginning in the late 18th century. She works in ways that evoke her own cultural tradition because it “offers a resolution that has been reached in a particular problem at some point in the past; It is not a definite answer, just an answer.” Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds includes both an sardonic comment on the Western gaze in English (“But the poor Orientals have a collective identity”) and script in Urdu–an attempt by Qureshi to blend both the culture of her native country and Orientalizing Western cultural tropes.

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