Pakistan News

From storytelling to animated videos

From storytelling to animated videos

Haider Ali Jan is one of rare visual artistes of Pakistan who employ animated videos as a primary medium of their expression.

He was born into a Kashmiri family, living in Mohalla Shian Kashmirian, Mochi Gate, in the Walled City. He inherited the art of storytelling from his family, carrying the tradition of ‘Noha Khwani’ for generations.

Jan was an average student who was more interested in sports than studies. While doing BCS from the Government College, he joined a private computer college for a couple of courses.

“After a few days, I came to know that I am already familiar with what they are teaching me for a heavy sum of money. I couldn’t have the facility of a refund; therefore, on my friend’s advice I changed my course and started learning photo editing and animation software.

“During the process of learning, I got attached to the aesthetics of visuals and consequently decided to give up BCS for joining an art school,” he says.

The Naqsh School of Arts was the first art college from where he learnt the fundamentals of visual arts before graduating from Beaconhouse National University.

“Going through various disciplines at the university, I felt comfortable with photography and digital arts. Like other students, I was also confused about the subject. My teacher, Bani Abidi, suggested me to evolve artistic expressions from personal surroundings,” he recalls.

Jan has been documenting the activity going around ‘Ashura’ for almost a decade.

“I have an advantage of being raised in this locality. The people are familiar and comfortable with me,” he explains.

His initial works were digitally treated photographs, depicting life, especially religious rituals, in the Mochi Gate area.

After graduation, Jan joined a private TV channel where the team leader, Minhaj Sabri, helped him master the skills of animations.

He started creating animations, derived from the clips of dances from Punjabi movies. They were very short clips ranging from 30 to 50 seconds.

“I work with ‘rotoscoping’ technique. It’s a laborious job to render 24 frames for one second animation. I kept on making short clips till 2010, when I was selected for the Charles Wallace Fellowship in the UK.

“There I got ample time free from worries to earn and meeting deadlines. After a concentrated effort of three months, I made ‘Oath Taking Ceremony’ which was of 7.5 minute duration,” he adds.

This animated video was widely appreciated. Jan became more confident and started producing animations regularly. With one solo and several group shows to his credit, his works have been screened and appreciated at major art exhibitions in Pakistan and abroad.

Deeply rooted in the cultural landscape of the Walled City, his works carry a sharp sense of humour, elements of protest and political consciousness. He keenly observes scenes, and changes the perspective and intensity of narrative by playing with images. Apparently irrelevant and small character remains the focal point of his story. Highlighting the human element and individual characters in each scene adds spice and drama to his visuals.

He is currently working as a curator at the Taseer Art Gallery to support his artistic ventures.

“I would love to do an animated feature film if I get resources and a big team to support,” he concludes.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2015

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