Hammad’s artistic practice spans multimedia, photography, film, installation, video and digital media. He is an Assistant Professor in Islamia University Bahawalpur. He has been a part of academia for the last fourteen years and has participated in numerous exhibitions, seminars and art talks. Alongside his teaching Hammad has also served as thesis juror and thesis advisor for Communication Design Students in IUB and Punjab University.
A tiny invisible virus has forced me to pause and reflect upon my behavior and my lifestyle. Even when I talk about pre-pandemic, interpandemic or post pandemic worlds, the world hasn’t changed around me but my inner reality and my response to it has changed and that has made me look around the same world in a more conscious way or respond to it differently. Covid has affected me by dividing the world for me, into ‘I’ and ‘Them’. Curiosity battles with my inner fear, the absolute necessity of maintaining distance! Venturing out two months after the lockdown, I go down familiar paths, visit familiar places. How has the world changed? My project explored the quest of my identity in this ever-changing world around us that’s still the same. The videos explore how in a bigger sense and in a smaller detail, human interaction and I have come to an unconscious level of alertness and distance. I have set foot on a journey to reconnect myself with the most familiar and comfortable, in my hometown Multan, spaces where I have been before but this time with a purpose to observe them and connect with them in a post pandemic world.
Whenever we start looking for our identity, we look for places of our childhood. This place was one of the most important places I can recall from my childhood. Although we tend to romanticize childhood, I remember reading somewhere that ideal childhood or happy childhood is a privileged concept. The jheel functions as an entertainment spot primarily frequented by the lower middle classes in the city of Multan.
This Bazar runs through the city with many streets, like branches coming out of a tree trunk. It was a fascinating part of my childhood because this bazaar with its streets covered with rugs always reminded me of Alif Laila (Arabian Nights). Though I was not a frequent visitor to this place, its impression and connection with the story never left me. During Covid-19 lockdown I used to wonder what would have happened to this place, how closed shops and empty streets would have looked like. How the women from lower middle class, its most frequent users, are managing their daily buying since the busiest and largest bazaar was closed.
There is a myth associated with this place that nothing will happen to Multan as long as this Dargah is standing at the highest place of the city. I do not believe much in the myths and shrines. The tradition of feeding pigeons at the shrine always fascinated me more than the shrine itself. During my days of Covid-19 lockdown I used to wonder who was feeding the pigeons as there was news from Thailand on how monkeys living in tourist destinations were left hungry and there was nobody there to feed them.
I missed the chai dhaba the most. I missed my activity of going out with friends and sitting in some chai dhaba and having the best of chai and conversation. These places belong to the lower middle class because they are affordable. The dhaba is open even if it is empty! The lights are fascinating, and give me a sudden rush of energy, a kind of reassurance that nothing has been lost or changed.
One of my indicators of normalcy is watching kids playing. Being a sports person watching a sports event and children was such a great combination for me. The idea of a safe society and safety for me is always associated with children being safe and being free to play and walk around. I think it’s my way of recreating or reimagining my own childhood by seeing childhood return to normalcy.
At the same time there is a distance between me and those kids, between me and the crowd because there has been so much fear inside me during Covid-19 lockdown, trying my best to isolate and not to interact with people. So when I am out, I am bringing my own fear in the situation with my own yearning to see the normalcy.