Pakistan diplomat takes centre stage at Rothwell
For diplomat and amateur artist Naela Chohan, a citizen of the world by virtue of her day job, it’s fitting the struggles of women around the globe has prompted her creative calling.
“I’m not a commercial artist; I don’t sell my art,” says Chohan, the locally-based deputy high commissioner for Pakistan, of her motivations and main subject matter, which centres on women’s struggles and triumphs. “I try to reach out. I try to create awareness, but also create solidarity. The crux of the problems really remains the same (in every country).”
The self-taught canvas-and-oil painter – who became commissioner last year after her husband, Musa Javed Chohan, retired from the position – further unveiled her creative side at Gloucester’s Rothwell Gallery last week, as part of an evening to help raise funds for women in her native country.
Art From the Heart was launched on Tuesday, July 21 at Rothwell to a full house, including Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The work, which was on display until Saturday, July 25, is a retrospective of Chohan’s 12 years in the painting world.
“I realized the universality in (women’s) issues,” she recounts of her start in the art world. “I started training myself.”
Her newest piece, entitled In Search of Peace, was sold via silent auction this past weekend at Rothwell, with all proceeds going to support the women of Pakistan’s Swat region, who are currently internally dislocated.
“It’s art from the heart,” Chohan explains with a laugh. “It’s my emotions that lead me to use a medium.”
Though Art from the Heart is her first full exhibit, Chohan has previously hung work at UNESCO – whose headquarters has one of her pieces on permanent display – as well as the Museum of Islamic Art in Malaysia and gifted one painting to Governor-General Michaëlle Jean.
The decision to show at Rothwell and make it home base for the charity fundraiser comes in part because of owner Rehana Mufti’s ties to the Pakistani-Canadian community, Chohan explains, as well as a goodbye to her home of four years, as she and her husband depart for another diplomatic assignment.
“I feel (Canadians of Pakistani origins) are doing a great job in Canada,” she says. “They’re forming bridges.”
Unfortunately, Chohan continues, Pakistan is “little-known in the Western world,” other than for sharing a border with Afghanistan and making news related to extremism and violence.
“There are artists and culture coming from Pakistan,” she adds.“(I wanted) to show the softer side.”
For her part, Mufti – who was born in Pakistan, but has lived in Ottawa for the better part of four decades – says raising awareness is key to why she decided to partner in the exhibit and charity auction.
“There’s been a lot of things happening in Pakistan where women and children are being displaced from their homes,” she explains. “We have so much in Ottawa. For us to even imagine what they go through is very, very difficult. I want to give something back to my birth country if I can.”
The idea for the showcase evolved via her friendship with Chohan, Mufti continues, pointing to her “amazing,” evocative paintings and the awareness they’ve created.
“The friendship has really built (through this initiative),” she recounts. “We feel extremely strongly about women’s issues … we wanted to do it from our hearts.”
For more information, pleas e v isit www.rothwellgallery.com.
Laureen Harper greets Rothwell Gallery owner Rehana Mufti as Naela Chohan, Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner to Canada, looks on.