Maryam Baniasadi | Marjan Baniasadi

A Present in Duality

I first met Maryam and Marjan as students at the National College of Arts in Lahore. They expressed a deep interest in history and its relationship to the present and how they navigated their Iranian identity within the Pakistani setting. 

There is precedent for this relationship. There continues to this day a cultural link that Iran shares with Pakistan. The language of the Mughal court, the last empire that ruled over the Indian subcontinent before the British Raj used Persian in the court. The deep cultural links led to a flourishing of miniature painting and architecture that was in conversation with the global Persian world. In unique ways, both Marjan and Maryam evoke and rediscover that language in a contemporary form at the same time as utilizing different mediums and ways of painting. .

Maryam, who is trained in the miniature tradition that has been revived and revitalized in Pakistan, depicts her contemporary reality through this classical language. The location and geography of the National College of Arts, its architecture rooted in a colonial past, are reimagined as if they are present in a miniature painting. Every single detail is painted and preserved. There is a sense of vitality of the present and optimism of the future, which is alive, bold, and continuously evolving.

Marjan, on the other hand, looks at another symbol of the past i.e. the world famous Persian carpet. The object is a symbol of great wealth and tradition. Each carpet is made painstakingly over many months and years and each design is unique. This unique commodity which was perfected in Iran and then inspired other traditions in spaces such as Afghanistan and Pakistan is one of the most well-known symbols of Iran.

The carpet is a sign of civilizational achievement. In some way then, the depiction of worn carpet, breaking and edging at the seams by Marjan, is a depiction of the rupture and turbulent modernity we find ourselves within today.

So as polar opposites, yin and yang, both Maryam and Marjan Baniasadi utilize the power of symbols of our civilizational achievements to present a future that is at once uncertain and at one exciting – which is of course the great truth of our world – the existence of opposites.

Aziz Sohail, 
independent curator, writer
Libraries Manager, British Council Pakistan