It isn’t easy. Going back to writing after a two-year quelling block stamps out every fiber of creativity in you. The writer in you will demand that you compose – even paltry little – to keep the stream from drying out but the block is quite literally a sudden wall and that wall has no mercy. So, for two years I didn’t write like I used to and barely found the witty spirit to doodle. It was as if trying to stand up again after being hammered with ennui.

But here I am, again. To those who kept checking this space for updates, I wish to do two things: Thank you and seek your forgiveness. Thank you for being concerned readers and forgive me for my absence, it wasn’t according to my own will – at least most of it. To those who stopped, I completely understand.

So, updates first. I began blogging in my freshmen year without any idea that I would gain popularity from it. Little did I know that I would be named in Guernica’s “top” South Asian bloggers in 2010 or was it 2011? I barely remember. Four years and a few months added on the top and after a resounding Hajj and another dozen equally important experiences socially and politically, I graduated from university in Lahore with a degree in mass communication while working for The Nation in Pakistan as a staff writer. It was an educating stint for me, those months. I applied to graduate school in the field I wanted to pursue in order to enter academia and perhaps one day, write a book. I was accepted on scholarship to my school of choice in New York. I am writing to you all while sitting in a wonderful friend’s spacious apartment overlooking a park and picnic area where underpaid nannies and shrieking children punctuate the audio card of my day. There’s nothing to complain about. I take in everything as I explore the city.

New York is no Lahore. New York City is crowded and anonymous. Lahore is crowded yet everyone knows you. New York has no maternal warmth to it, and that’s fine. Sometimes it’s important to leave the nest and learn to fly on your own. Lahore glows, New York glowers. When I first came here on May 17, I was coming back to the United States after 15-16 years. People usually assume I am undergoing ghastly currents of nostalgia but for now, I am decidedly neutral and calm. Somewhere in the underbelly of my observation, a part of me knows that I am back where I was raised and it is still attempting to understand how to receive – or even reject – this old-new change. I thank New York for giving me the time I need to decode its urban psychology, which is of a myriad of colors. Some dark, some bright, some utterly grey – always visible and coeval in the best and worst ways. Several things I noticed once I moved here: People walk very fast and for someone who already has a brisk and long-striding gait, it is pleasant to walk here (not that the idle sauntering in Lahore was bad). The weather is a lot cooler than Pakistan (and I know the comparison doesn’t fit most perfectly) but when it gets humid, it certainly does drive you crazy – and July isn’t even here yet. Class and class-based racial differences along gaping chasms are most visible here through the window of the subway, and yet politely avoided in discussion if you’re sitting with the wealthy. Sometimes a complete stranger will be kind to you and the trick, as an elderly New Yorker confided to a “bright transplant” like me on the train, is to know where that kindness is coming from. Sometimes kindness has an unkind goal.

It feels strange writing like this; I am more accustomed to addressing you all in satirical tone and silliness and through the stage of doodles and what not. I have been asked if I’ve “changed.” It’s a big question. The answer is cradled in yes and no. I am still the young girl who posted hysterical doodles after consuming raw chocolate powder in her dorm. I am still the same person who doodled ridiculous caricatures of personality types (and ended up making a remarkable lot of passive aggressive enemies – which is fine). I am still the nine-year-old girl who left America and spent well more than a decade in Pakistan, growing up to love it and hate it and love it even more and who, now, is back in the United States. But that isn’t important. What’s important is that you all were generous enough to accompany me in this journey and with now a new chapter opening, I want to thank you for wishing me good luck and for patiently watching me grow.

It isn’t easy returning to writing. It takes courage and consistency to walk through the terrain of your thoughts and gently weave them into a coherent account. But it’s happening finally. And it wouldn’t have been possible without your encouragement.

Thank you for being.

Sincerely,

Mehreen

Of the Neoliberal Feminist

When Lynndie Rana England, along with eleven other American military personnel, was convicted of sexually assaulting and torturing detainees in Abu Gharib, a peculiar stance surfaced in the contemporary discourse of feminism: Among liberal feminists and a certain strata of radical feminists, this comparatively young, white and Western woman was being heralded as righteous harbinger of justice against the specter of the bearded and brown Muslim man. We were told – aggressively and indignantly – that the acceptable strength of womanhood lies in utilizing the liberal state’s apparatus in spreading ‘democracy’ abroad – specifically in the scary Muslim majority East. It was insisted that England was a feminist icon – just like Laura Bush – for hauling Iraqi men around on a leash and assisting the strappado hanging of Manadel al-Jamadi that led to his death. Conveniently omitted from this prototypical account of American justice was the fact that another female American soldier had also recorded the ‘corrective’ rape of an Iraqi teenage boy.

Back home in the United States, Laura Bush was less a feminist and more of a sidekick of her husband. While terming the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan as a feminist attempt to rescue women from local patriarchal violence, Bush occupied both countries but what he did not mention was how on his very first day in the Oval office, he cut off monetary funding to all international family-planning organizations that offered abortion services to the economically abject and counseling to women suffering domestic abuse. This was nothing new: Former heads of neo-colonial and imperial states have normally hijacked feminist rhetoric for their own nefarious goals. One only needs to throw a cursory glance over the ‘gender egalitarian’ rhetoric of generals from the British Empire that aspired to ‘save’ women from colonies while neglecting the gender violations within their own lands. What did raise eyebrows, however, was the increasingly complicit silence Western feminists displayed while the often-male, often-white heads of states would engage in repressive foreign policy as well as cementing prison industrial complexes in their own countries, which specifically targeted men belonging to the lower socio-economic strata of society.

The theft of feminism is nothing nascent to anyone studying the chronological order of feminist waves but in the past decade – or more now – one cannot help but notice that female liberation has become ensnared in a perilous liaison with neoliberal efforts to construct a free-market society. This is what we call neoliberal feminism; a feminism that finds nothing inherently depraved with the mechanism of neoliberalism. It is not limited to willfully adopting cutthroat capitalist ideals of power that throw families on the fringe of social institutions but it is also, in Foucauldian terms, a ‘conduct of conduct’ that remains pathologically obsessed with individualist achievements attained primarily in the center of neoliberal bureaucracy. The male is, as the author of Saving the Muslim Woman Basuli Deb explained brilliantly, normative in neoliberal feminism and nothing is changed. Under neoliberal feminism, women aspire to corporate ideals of success that – like it or not – largely infringe upon the basic rights of the working class. There is a reason why young women are being purposefully advised by the likes of ex- State Department officials such as Sheryl Sandberg to ‘lean in’ instead of critically questioning the dynamics of elite liberal feminism.

Furthermore, this (quite literally commodified) brand of feminism is produced as the faux discursive modality to portray the West as the bastion of progression and freedom when it is anything but. Let us take into consideration the harrowing fact that the United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with at least 2.2 million people present in the nation’s prisons or jails. Under this neoliberal democracy, a 500% increase over the last forty years has been witnessed as the prison industrial complex grows like a cancer. Absent from the analysis of American liberal feminists fixated on ‘saving women in the Middle East,’ through M16s and missiles is the state-sanctioned precarity that black and brown American women become victims of. You will not hear Laura Bush, or any First Lady of a neoliberal empire, raise this contention and bring international focus – let alone humanitarian intervention – to it. Of course, it gives a bad impression but most importantly, it reveals how hollow the feminist rhetoric of neoliberal feminism is as it only upholds the security of the upper and upper-middle classes while throwing the poor man – and woman – under the roaring bus.

Some would argue that the demise of feminist politics began when Reagan and Thatcher collaborated to promote privatization and deregulation for the sake of safeguarding the freedom of the individual to compete and consume without interference from the state. What many present-day activists for women’s rights forget – or choose to remain blind to – is the mode through which capitalism co-opts all sorts of opposition to its own ends. It’s a slippery and ugly slope. An example of this distressing reality is the emergence of pseudo-emancipating ‘feminists’ who state that pornography – a male-dominated, for-profit exploitative industry built on the flesh of women including underaged girls – is a medium through which women can ‘reclaim’ their sexuality. The irony renders one nauseous but even worse: This liberal understanding of a lone individual’s ‘empowerment’ becomes a tool in the destruction of lives on a macro-social level. Stoya and Sasha Grey, we are told, are the real feminists of modern age while women who refuse to become traumatized objects for male consumers are prudish and ‘anti-liberation.’ Yet again, neoliberal feminism partakes in the physical, sexual, mental and economic abusive profiteering of a woman and her rights.

Material feminism – one that is cognizant of the effect of class on a woman’s life – is vital. A bourgeois variant of feminism serves the bourgeois woman alone, no one else. We have seen the outcome of the imperial feminist and her entrepreneurial sister – both often the same person – and we know what good is the stance to drop bombs on women to save them and the stance that bellows of empowerment meanwhile employing child labor for domestic work. If young feminists of today seek a better tomorrow, they must materialize efforts on collective social justice – instead of individualist advancement – that is exceptionally compassionate to the needs of the overburdened and impaired. It is the only way forward. There is no other way.

Written for The Nation, Pakistan.

Note: On a similar note, it seems as if leftist circles finally see there’s something wrong with Hillary Clinton/militarist feminism. In other news, water is wet.

A Woman of War

As women, when we’re children we’re taught to enter the world with big hearts. Blooming hearts. Hearts bigger than our damn fists. We are taught to forgive – constantly – as opposed to what young boys are taught: Revenge, to get ‘even.’ Our empathy is constantly made appeals to, often demanded for. If we refuse to show kindness, we are reprimanded. We are not good women if we do not crush our bones to make more space for the world, if we do not spread our entire skin over rocks for others to tread on, if we do not kill ourselves in every meaning of the word in the process of making it cozy for everyone else. It is the heat generated by the burning of our bodies with which the world keeps warm. We are taught to sacrifice so much for so little. This is the general principle all over the world.

By the time we are young women, we are tired. Most of us are drained. Some of us enter a lock of silence because of that lethargy. Some of us lash out. When I think of that big, blooming heart we once had, it looks shriveled and worn out now. When I was teaching, I had a young student named Mariam. She was only 11 years old. Some boy pushed her around in class, called her names, broke her spirit for the day. We were sitting under a chestnut tree on a field trip and she asked me if a boy ever hurt me. I told her many did and I destroyed them one by one. I think that’s the first time she ever heard the word ‘destroyed.’ We rarely teach our girls to fight back for the right reasons.

Take up more space as a woman. Take up more time. Take your time. You are taught to hide, censor, move about without messing up decorum for a man’s comfort. Whether it’s said or not, you’re taught balance. Forget that. Displease. Disappoint. Destroy. Be loud, be righteous, be messy. Mess up and it’s fine – you are learning to unlearn. Do not see yourself like glass. Like you could get dirty and clean. You are flesh. You are not constant. You change. Society teaches women to maintain balance and that robs us of our volatility. Our mercurial hearts. Calm and chaos. Love only when needed; preserve otherwise.

Do not be a moth near the light; be the light itself. Do not let a man’s ocean-big ego swallow you up. Know what you want. Ask yourself first. Decide your own pace. Decide your own path. Be cruel when needed. Be gentle only when needed. Collapse and then re-construct. When someone says you are being obscene, say yes I am. When they say you are being wrong, say yes I am. When they say you are being selfish, say yes I am. Why shouldn’t I be? How do you expect a woman to stand on her two feet if you keep striking her at the ankles.

There are multiple lessons we must teach our young girls so that they render themselves their own pillars instead of keeping male approval as the focal point of their lives. It is so important to state your feelings of inconvenience as a woman. We are instructed to tailor ourselves and our discomfort – constantly told that we are ‘whining’ and ‘nagging’ and ‘complaining too much.’ That kind of silence is horribly violent, that kind of insistence upon uniformly nodding in agreement to your own despair, and smiling emptily so no man is ever uncomfortable around us. Male-entitlement dictates a woman’s silence. If we could see the mimetic model of the erasure of a woman’s voice, it would be an incredibly bloody sight.

On a breezy July night, my mother and I were sleeping under the open sky. Before dozing off, I told her that I think there is a special place in heaven where all wounded women bury their broken hearts and their hearts grow into trees that only give fruit to the good and poison to the bad. She smiled and said Ameen. Then she closed her eyes.

Initially written for The Nation anonymously.

Mehreen Kasana:

Thank you for curating that very brief but important exchange of thoughts between us. The responsibility of a post-colonial nation fighting against imperialism to realize the subtle difference between resisting imperialism and creating our own version of it.

More to show up in this place so stay tuned, folks. It’s always good to interact with you all and I assure you I will be regular very soon. Till then, take care.

Originally posted on Greased Cartridge:

Below is a conversation about imperialism, US and Pakistani, and my note about it.

  1. mehreenkasana
    While it is commendable that there is an upcoming documentary (The Invisible War) to highlight the sexual abuse female US soldiers suffer >>


    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:00:28
  2. mehreenkasana
    by their very own American male counterparts, I doubt anyone will make a documentary on the Afghan, Iraqi and/or invaded >>


    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:00:55
  3. mehreenkasana
    country victims of rape by US soldiers. And that hypocrisy or censorship of US military abuse on other civilians is what unsettles me.

View original 921 more words

Cookie

Where do I begin?

Ever since I was a little girl, cats weren’t exactly my favorite animals. I didn’t hate them but I didn’t like them either. I loved dogs, gold fish, turtles, but cats – nah. It probably had to do with Pamela’s kitten who scratched me when I was in first grade in Virginia. I was a kid so I didn’t go through the whole mature understanding that hey, cats scratch too if they feel threatened. I thought: All cats are evil four-legged beings who hate me. It was silly, I know.

We came back to Pakistan a while ago. We kept three beautiful dogs – one after the other – and they all lived happy, enriched lives until one got kidnapped and the other two got sick so they had to be put down. I was a kid so the pain of losing a pet was limited to the pain of losing a friend you’d play with every now and then. I cried, sure, but I never felt my heart fall to my stomach with anxiety or fear. I never lost sleep over it. I didn’t grow desperate while walking through narrow corridors of barely attended clinics.

I met Cookie – my Turkish Angora kitten – a few months ago. The very lovely and generous Hanifa Tareen gifted me her from the bunch of adorable kittens Cookie’s mommy, Moto, had. I remember the first time I saw her sitting on the backseat of the car. She was so tiny and afraid. That’s when our bond began; She was like my baby.

The thing with Cookie – and I know every cat owner says that – was that she was exceptionally intelligent and beautiful. My mother, not so fond of felines, fell in instant love with Cookie. My father, a man known for his reserved attitude towards all living beings, morphed into a little boy with Cookie; He couldn’t stop snuggling her, taking care of her needs, making sure I was doing my best job at raising her. My sisters, fond of animals, had the most amusing, fun-filled, warm relationship with Cookie. She became family.

This little tribute is for her.

-

You were so tiny when I met you! Your little pink paws and your little pink nose. And for someone so delicate and tiny in size, you sure had the nerve of a very naughty monkey. You’d hop on book shelves and push my journals down while meowing happily. You’d run around the house with mama’s chador in your mouth. You’d jump from one couch to the other while papa browsed the newspaper. You couldn’t stop pouncing at us for fun. And my oh my, you really did love taking naps with us in bed. Your little paw on my cheek while I snoozed.

Taking a nap in my sister’s arms in July.

Remember the time when you broke my favorite mirror? Or the time you literally tore pages out of my book and hid your face between the pages. Or the time you ruined the curtains. I couldn’t even bring myself to snub you; You looked so innocent while standing in the door. Remember how silly you looked after a bath, huddled up in a warm towel. You taught me so much. From little things like taking responsibility, making sure everything was okay, teaching you manners, learning to build patience to bigger things like preparing myself for losing you, holding you throughout the night, trying not to cry while you breathed your last.

Sometimes when I’d eat a mango slice, you’d snuggle up against me and meow at me. You really liked mango for some reason. Your furry white mouth would be covered with sweet yellow pulp. You used to hide the mango seeds under the bed!

The street below was a sight for you to behold whenever you’d get the chance. Papa would pick you up; hold you in his arms and walk outside, letting you take in the sights and sounds of the city around you. Today when papa was buried you, he was crying. He said he felt a fatherly kind of joy while holding you, showing you the world around you. Remember how adorably clumsy he was with you initially? He didn’t know how to hold you or pet you even but he wanted to show his love so he tried. And you graciously allowed him to. I still remember how you would hop on his knees while he watched TV.

Mama says you left too soon. We tried everything. Three vets and dozens of recommendations but when someone’s time arrives, there’s no stopping it. You had chronic renal failure – your kidneys stopped functioning, your system initiated a quick shut down. It was painful to watch. In the last few hours we spent together, I learned so much from you. I learned that a baby can be a fighter, a warrior in tough times. That a small kitten like you had the spirit of a lioness. That no matter how many times your legs gave in making you collapse to the ground, you did everything in your fragile heart to bring yourself back up. I learned that love should never be measured in the number of weeks, months spent with a cherished one but in the moments that never die, that continue to live forever in our hearts. I learned that lying next to you, my forehead against yours, taught me how to say good bye far better than any other time I’ve said good bye to someone. And I’ve lost human friends to death – not once, not twice but thrice – but I learned that saying good bye to anything, anyone – regardless of what and who they are – can put a little hole in your heart. I learned you took pieces of me, of papa, of mama, of us, with you to heaven.

Her favorite spot.

Before you left us, I held you in my arms and took you to your favorite place in the world: The terrace. Under the full, milky white moon, I strolled to and fro while you blinked weakly at the azure sky. I can’t remember how many times I kissed you and cried against your neck while you breathed slowly. I don’t know if you’ll ever know that I held your paw to my lips and talked to you while you trembled as your system started to shut down. I even tried bribing you back to life. You could have anything you wanted. If only you could have stayed with me a bit longer.

I woke the other two sisters up to let them know you’re about to go. We sat around you, rubbed your cold paws, kissed your forehead, and talked to you. We wanted you to know that we were here, we were trying. And I think you understood. When you started breathing your last, my youngest sister rubbed your belly to keep your warm. We took a clean towel, placed you in it gently, kissed you and closed your eyes. You didn’t wake up.

It was Fajr time – dawn. It was a cool, quiet time. I have never cried for anyone like this before but your sudden departure broke us all. Before the sun would rise, papa took you and buried you near a tree. He wept when he came home. He really loved you. Home is hollow without you.

I lied down. I couldn’t sleep. I half-expected you to pounce at me from somewhere, like you played with me. When the sun was out, its rays reflected on the marble floor and I saw your little paw prints. I cried and tried to remember you in the best moments we shared.

I just wanted to say: Thank you for coming in my life. You taught me a lot but most importantly you taught me to love. Mama, papa, the sisters and I will always, deep down inside, look for you around the corner, playing with your toys. We will sometimes look at your bowl and think you’ll be here for your snack. Sometimes I will cry to sleep and imagine you lying right next to me. You will live forever in our memories.

I love you, Cookie. Enjoy kitty heaven.

Your momma,

Mehreen.

An Open Letter to Maya Khan – P2

Maya Khan,

I have no personal vendetta with you.

But you’re at it again.

Last time I found you chasing morality in parks frequented by lower-middle class citizens (they make fantastic targets for righteous condemnation); this time I found you cheering a minority into a further marginalized, compromised position. A conversion on national TV? In a country where minorities are forced to convert already? “Appalling lack of ethics” doesn’t even cut it.

I refuse to get into the whole “Secularize Pakistan!” vs. “Islamic Republic remains!” debate. I’ll be frank with you: I am sick of my Twitter and Facebook timeline where self-proclaimed “liberal thinkers” compete with self-appointed defenders of religion in a hypocritical race of selective outrage against issues within the country and around the world. Apparently you’re Muslim – and quite a passionate one (albeit misguided, misinformed). So am I. But, again, we’re universes apart. In your mind, it seems from your constant appearances on TV, Islam is not a sacred faith that has, in countless instances in history, guranteed that minority rights need not be sacrificed to consolidate an Islamic republic but a sickening opportunity to cash in on consumer-based ratings. Let us assume that Sunil did indeed desire to convert by consent, which is fine, but to air it on national TV in a country where minority rights remain a shaming case of state negligence and constitutionally-endorsed subjugation is a testimony of your indifference or, sometimes I hope, your unawareness of the ongoing oppression. Indifference is a lot worse than unawareness, Maya. I’m giving you the benefit of doubt here.

A few days ago at the Social Media Summit in Karachi, you were mentioned at the media regulation panel which I was invited to and someone told me how the backlash that took place after your park-chase episode was misogynistic against you because the internet had an easy target: A woman. To an extent, I agree. You and I will never find the same outrage and nasty memes against a lot worse people like, you know, Amir Liaquat Hussain (I think I owe him a letter too, just to say hi). So before I explain my stance briefly, I want you to know that I sincerely mean you no kind of harm at all. I don’t know you personally. I don’t even think you’re a bad person. I just think you really need to evaluate your sense of ethics and content selection. Could you possibly do a morning show on, let’s say, media content and the lack of moral responsibility exhibited by those working in said sector? People would love you for it, Maya – think big ratings. I would thank you for it. What better a topic than discussing the recklessness reporters, talk show hosts and anchors have shown in the past? You could win conscientious hearts with this, you could even bring a change in our media. So rich with talent and content this country, it’s a shame you would choose dating and conversion as themes for your show.

What hurts me the most, Maya, is how you have – like many others – used my faith for consumerism, for shoddy attempts at gaining more ratings and ravings. It hurts me when a friend of mine – a Christian – confides in me that she knows that most of the Muslim population in Pakistan would be extremely outraged had a Muslim been converted on TV in a country where they were a minority. It hurts me when I read how people instantly start defaming Islam, my faith that has inculcated in me a profound respect and harmony for non-Muslims, despite knowing that it was not Islam that taught you to run a talk show on a live conversion but your greed for more hits and your insensitivity to the fact that minorities in Pakistan are already isolated and marginalized, that people of non-state religion already know when to keep their mouths shut, that these people will never know that there are people like me who resent you for you irresponsibility – people who are Muslims – and will never, ever condone such a blatant misuse of faith under the guise of ‘spirituality’ on a cheesy TV show. You hurt and maim what you claim to love – a faith that does not encourage relegating minorities into public objects for viewership. That their conversions are utmost private. That their forced conversions are utmost inhumane. Your idea has again, subsequently, backfired.

I’ll keep it short. I’m not angry at you; I am disappointed and there’s a list I could go through. I am disappointed in the silence surrounding this act of hypocrisy. I am disappointed in those who automatically jumped to accuse Islam of such idiocy, never realizing that it wasn’t Islam but our talk show host here who needed to re-educate herself immediately. I am disappointed in what you done in the name of religion without understanding that such a display is another blow against minorities in Pakistan – whether Sunil did it by choice or not, remains an equally significant issue but you do know how it feels to see someone from your own community leave for another, right? Especially when you’re a minority. The number looks small, the number looks weak, the number looks endangered. It is a clear sign of moral superiority draped in congratulating messages.

Before I end, I want you to know that this is not a message against you. This is a message against the electronic media in Pakistan and those ‘regulating’ it; for allowing such a program to be aired only shows how unfazed this board is by the real and unsettling cases of minority oppression in this country. I don’t want you to be fired – I didn’t in the first place. I don’t even want you to stop your show. I just simply wish you would try to understand the consequences of your words and actions. You have an audience, Maya. You have the power to sway public opinion. If you open your eyes, you could raise the public opinion into making Pakistan a friendlier, peaceful place for all faiths. I wish you would never use religion again and I mean this for every single TV personality out there. Using morality for ratings itself is an immoral act. Exploiting Islam is not a great idea. Like I said before, it backfires.

Some day we’ll meet. Maybe in a park, maybe in a temple, maybe in a masjid, who knows. I hope by then you have set a precedent for horrible TV hosts that media could be used as a tool of change instead of a shallow device for more ratings, less brains. Till then, please don’t give me another reason to write you a letter.

Amir Liaqat Hussain ne hi kaafi tabahi phelayi hui hai.

Sincerely,
Mehreen Kasana

Interview with Murat Palta – Genius Behind Oriental Remakes of Hollywood Classics

Oriental-esque Godfather by Murat Palta

“It began two years ago,” according to Murat Palta who studied graphic designing at Dumlupınar University Kütahya, Turkey, “with an experiment to blend traditional ‘oriental’ (Ottoman) motifs and contemporary ‘western’ cinema. After a positive response to “Ottoman Star Wars”, I decided to take the theme further, and developed more film posters using the same technique.”

And it turned out fantastic. Making waves all over the internet and various art e-zines, Palta’s oriental illustrations of Hollywood classics has the perfect aesthetic blend of the east and the west. Dressed up in sheikh garb while taking in the scent of a rose, our chubby villain Darth Vader looks pleasantly carefree among his equally well-dressed minions. Jack from The Shining doesn’t look so threatening either.

Considering how the eastern aspect of his digital illustrations meshed well with my (often critical and harsh) academic pursuits of orientalism and its various forms, I decided to take Mr. Palta’s interview – for some art-education and fun. Our digital doodler was kind enough to take some time out to talk.

Mehreen Kasana: So what’s up these days?

Murat Palta: I’m not studying anymore but I have to finish my internship to get my diploma. I finished graphic department of Dumlupınar University (placed in Kütahya) two months ago [but] there’s an obligatory internship that has to be done. All I am doing [right now] is to deal with it.

MK: How did you get this idea? Is there a precedence to it? Because it seems like the first attempt at blending two eras – and that too with quite some eccentricity.

MP: Me and my brother like to talk about movies. Once we were talking about Star Wars, asking each other “What it would be like if it was [the] Ottoman Empire?” and I illustrated what we had talked [about]. After uploading it to a Turkish website, I recieved nice responses. At the last year of university, I decided to carry it further as my thesis for graduation.

MK: Typical question. How long did it take? All that detail! Especially the Oriental re-creation of Star Wars – I see our iconic villain in quite the relaxing sheikh mode.

MP: I don’t remember much about Star Wars but as far as I remember it took like two days with lots of breaks, of course. On the other hand, the other [illustrations] were totally troubling. In the class, everyone was working on their project but the teacher was also giving some side projects which were unnecessary. So I decided that it was not going to be like this and I stayed at home for two weeks, without going to school. I acted as if it was my job. I used to wake up early, have breaks at certain times. After two weeks, they were finished.

MK: Usually artistic folks don’t enjoy sharing the tricks of their trade. I’ll try this on you: What did you use for your graduation thesis other than your obviously fantastic creativity? Tablet?

MP: Hahah, yes and a computer of course. But seriously, there’s no catch. I just went to the school library, examined the characters and everything about style. Also, I found a book with oriental ornaments. So I digitalized them as patterns. Eveything else was regular: I drew them with a tablet. Of course, there were some characters from the movies that I don’t remember [clearly]. So I paused the scenes where they acted, and drew them on the computer. Before that, I made lots of sketches on paper.

MK: Tough stuff, damn. In one of the illustrations – my favorite, i.e. – Jack is raging while his wife cowers in the bathroom – one of the unforgettable scenes from The Shining. There’s some very nice text in the left and right corners of the drawings – and since I can’t read Turkish (assuming that it is the language) – would you mind translating the particular text above Jack’s head?

MP: Sure. At the right top, it says “lunacy”. This is how the movie is named in Turkey. At the left, above Danny it says: Danny sees twin sisters’ illussion. And above Jack’s head: Jack breaks the door under possession.

MK: Creepy. There are dozens of Hollywood classics. What made you pick the ones in your paintings? Was the selection difficult? Or was it made on a pop culture basis considering how our internet is obsessed with Pulp Fiction jokes and A Clockwork Orange, Godfather references?

MP: We can say all of them were the parts for me to decide. I sought for the movies with three qualities: They had to be titled “classic” or “cult” so that everyone could recognise what the miniatures were about, even though he or she hadn’t seen the movie yet. They had to contain some reflections from western culture. They had to be adapted to eastern culture or miniature style. So these movies had these three qualities – more or less.

MK: It’s hard to believe these are digital illustrations, is what someone exclaimed to me. They further explained how the detail and texture looked amazing thus the disbelief. How long has it taken for you to master strokes and angles on a digital medium? Is it a lot tougher than an actual painting on a canvas?

MP: Sometimes. For instance, personally I like working with paper and pencil. It’s more enjoyable for me and it’s easier. To talk about digital medium, its advantage is colouring. Also, if you make a mistake, it’s easy to take it back. Since I didn’t have much time, I had to make them with a digital medium. Honestly, even if I had time I would still make them [on the same platform]. Because my aim was also to prove that traditional can go together with digital. Controlling strokes and angles didn’t take much time but at first, it was little hard for me to control the tablet. I had been using the mouse [before]. At the time I was working on the project, it had been four months or something since I bought the tablet and till that time, I just used it infrequently. But after all, I made it!

MK: I’ll stop pestering you now. Before I stop, got any tips or friendly advice for aspiring artists and illustrators?

MP: I’m too young to give tips but I can give some friendly advice: I think graphic artists shouldn’t try hard to draw great. Instead, they should try hard to find different ideas so that they can take a [different] step for graphic art.

MK: Thanks for your time, Murat. Awesome work.

Check out the whole set here. There should be a book of these.

In other news: The short film Assad Zulifqar Khan wrote and I co-wrote, depicted in Zia ul Haq’s dark era, is receiving interesting reviews from the audience. Make sure you check out the trailer and the review by Saadia Qamar for Express Tribune.