Members from all walks of the Pakistan and Kashmir communities were in attendance at the Titan Student Union on Saturday for the unveiling of the Kashmir Interactive Art Installation event.
Muzzamil Ayaz, founder of the event, said the journey to launch the art installation project started last summer when he, along with his friend and co-founder Junayd Banday, were planning a protest and things didnâ€™t go quite as planned.
â€œWe were trying to get people to go to the federal building,â€ said Ayaz. â€œUnfortunately for us we were not as successful as we had liked.â€
Ayaz and Banday wanted to figure out why people didnâ€™t want to come to the protest. â€œWe wanted to know why they didnâ€™t care,â€ Ayaz said.
Three months later after much thought, Ayaz said they came across the website of Altaf Qadri and saw pictures that were â€œriveting,â€ pictures that showed the beauty, the struggle, the travesty and the humanity of Kashmir. They knew they had to bring those photos to an exhibition to show everyone what they had just seen.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t an easy task,â€ Ayaz said, â€œbecause itâ€™s hard, as you can see, to get people together in one place.â€
Instead of having people come to them, Ayaz said they decided to go to the people.
Many people were involved in the creation of the photo-maze display that takes the viewer on a journey through Kashmir, including the general consulate of Pakistan, Riffat Masood.
â€œVery little is known about Kashmir,â€ said Masood. â€œPeople turn a blind eye to it.â€
She gave an opening speech urging people to acknowledge the reality that is Kashmir.
â€œ(Tonight we will) leave politics aside and look at the human side of Kashmir. Everyone has the right to freedom and human rights,â€ Masood said. â€œThis is the struggle for the right of the people to choose their future, to choose their destiny.â€
Ayaz said Masood played an essential role in the creation of the exhibition. â€œShe allowed us to do what we were doing and take our artistic perspective,â€ Ayaz said. â€œSo it wasnâ€™t just a dream, it was a reality.â€
Masood said when Ayaz and Banday came to the consulate with their idea, she thought it was â€œa little far-fetched.â€ Some other things she had to consider were that â€œthe budget was hitting the roof, so we really had to think about this,â€ she said. â€œAs it started to come together and we had our endless meetings and discussions, I found there was a great deal of perspective in projecting Kashmir.â€
â€œKashmir is in turmoil,â€ said Hina Saiyad, an organizer of the event. â€œBut Kashmir is also beautiful with beautiful land and waterfalls. Itâ€™s known as â€˜Paradise on Earth.â€™ We want to travel and spread awareness about the people of Kashmir.â€
For that reason, they chose to mount the photos digitally, and the result is an interactive experience for the viewer that starts with a white canvas and the words, â€œIf there is Paradise on Earth, it is here.â€ The pictures on the white canvas depict the landscape of Kashmir, including snow-capped mountains, lush gardens and lakes calmed by the backdrop of a brilliant sunset.
From there, the viewer is led to walls of red canvas with black-and-white photos illustrating the violence, turmoil and casualties of Kashmir.
Talal Ansari, a journalist and photographer, was the eyes behind the lens of some of the photos, including one of two women grieving after discovering one of their sons was the victim of a â€œfake encounter,â€ or staged killings where police plan gun battles to shoot down suspected terrorists.
Ayaz said the project took 10,000 man hours and they had to deal with â€œseveral hurdles that came our way.â€ They plan to display the event at multiple campuses throughout Southern California starting in Cal Poly Pomona and coming back to Cal State Fullerton on March 7.
The event will be held in the Quad and free to the public. USC, UCLA and UCSD are also on the itinerary.
After walking through the installation, viewers were encouraged to share their thoughts on the â€œreaction board.â€ On a yellow Post-it note in hand-written letters were the words, â€œVery eye-opening. Despite being Pakastani, I knew very little about it. So a display like this is very much needed. -CSUF student.â€
Someone else wrote, â€œWhat affects one, affects us.â€