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Photo exhibit highlights Kashmir

Madeline Buckley | Monday, November 5, 2007

Fozia Qazi brought the political plight of Kashmir to Saint Mary’s Friday with her photo exhibit, displayed in the Cushwa-Leighton library. The exhibit opened with a presentation by Qazi. Qazi is a math professor at Saint Mary’s and a fellow in the Center for Women’s InterCultural Leadership (CWIL).

“I was very excited when I woke up this morning because this is something very close to my heart. The people, the conflict, and the impact it has on the people,” she said.

Qazi, who grew up in Kashmir, has personally known the effects of the militarization of her country. “Several of my friends and relatives have been killed,” she said. “My old teacher – who was a wonderful teacher – was stopped by soldiers after grocery shopping, and asked questions. He held out his groceries, saying he was simply shopping, so they said he could go. He took three steps and they shot him in the back.”

Kashmir is a region northwest of India bordered by India, Pakistan, and China. India and Pakistan each claim Kashmir as its own. There is a strict borderline between the Pakistan-controlled area of Kashmir and the Indian-controlled area of Kashmir. Each region is under military occupation. “There are two soldiers for every 10 or 11 civilians in Kashmir,” Qazi said.

Caught in the middle of this dispute, are the people [of Kashmir],” Qazi said. “The civilians are the ones who are suffering now.”

However, Qazi did not want to her exhibit to highlight the violence.

“I did not want to focus on the blood and gore. Kashmiris should be known for their resilience,” she said.

Her photos display colored images of everyday life in Kashmir, from the civilians to the soldiers.

“[Qazi’s] images were beautiful, and the images of the military seemed like a different world than the other images,” curator Shannon Rose-Riley said. “The daily life seems framed by the military, so we had to find a way to portray that visually.”

Some of Qazi’s photos depicted a henna tattoo on the arm of a woman about to be married in a Hindu ceremony and Kashmiri children running in a field. Also, there are photographs of Muslim and Hindu religious practices placed together.

Another segment of her photography, titled Profiles of Courage, does not have the military background. The photos are portraits of women who have aided Kashmir in the struggle. They include a doctor, an engineer, a teacher, and a fisherwoman.

“Those are to show the role of the women in this conflict, that each one is contributing to helping with the conflict,” Qazi said. “Ordinary, daily life. That is the focus. The idea is that these are regular folks just like you and me, living through this horrible thing, but trying to carve out a life for themselves.”

The exhibit will run through February.