Rukhe Zaidi is a practicing female painter from Pakistan, with a teaching experience at university and school level of more than 25 years. Recently Rukhe devoted herself only to creating art. Today she is creating unique carpet paintings.
She tells the story of becoming an artist in Pakistan in the light of restricting and oppressing history:
Being an art student in the 80s was an interesting experience in Pakistan. It was the time of General Zia’s Islamic dictatorship and the religious Islamic student groups had a strong influence on the campus. Nude paintings, sculptures of human and animal figures, and anything else designed to be ‘indecent’ was removed and destroyed from our classrooms by these groups.
These restrictions on my artistic freedom infuriated me and strengthened my resolve to pursue my fascination with the female form. All around me I saw women being exploited and oppressed, and the more I saw, the more I wanted to paint them; strong women, beautiful and resilient despite their conditions and status. The background of my paintings was usually covered by traditional carpets/rugs motifs. The interest in detailed patterns of these carpets/rugs was totally in contradiction of the turmoil in my personal life at that time. I felt soothed, peaceful and perhaps, in control while working each and every detail. Also, I aimed to make my work expressive and visually interesting by balancing the intricate designs with the flat and 2 dimensional areas female form.
Intrest in painting carpets
Before applying for a residency in Tartu, Rukhe wanted to know more about Estonia; the differences or similarities between Estonian and Pakistani cultures, the hopes and fears of people and their values and beliefs. Rukhe’s research on the Internet led to discovering how the Estonian Open Air Museum invited people (April 2017 – February 2018) to weave a giant rag carpet for Estonia’s centenary. In order to become a part of the celebration, Rukhe decided to paint a carpet during the residency in Tartu. The painted carpet would be a mark of friendship and appreciation.
The history of carpets date back to Neolithic age. The earliest surviving pile carpet is the “Pazyryk carpet”, which dates from the 5th-4th century BC. It was excavated from a Pazyryk burial mound in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Afghanistan, Persia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Scandinavia, India, Turkey, China and Spain are some of the countries where carpet weaving has been in practice since ages. Though the designs appear to be different in these carpets, one can still find commonalities.
Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan has established that the Indus Valley civilization first developed the use of woven textiles. Hand-knotted carpets are among Pakistan’s leading export products.