Art holds the power of evoking multiple complementing and contrary reactions, sometimes all simultaneously. You could be in awe of the talent, inspired by the execution and sometimes, even be empowered by the reason behind it. When you look at 26-year-old Mahnoor Ahmad’s recent work, you are likely to experience all three emotions at once.
Keeping in mind the age-old but rigorous practice of arranged marriage, Mahnoor attempted to take on the systemic issue of disregarding people’s true worth, and making a lifelong decision for them based on their value as posed on a sheet of paper.
‘Rishta Parade’ is a series of art compositions that tackles the insensitivities of the whole arranged marriage shebang. With not much to decipher, his piece ‘Not Approved’ speaks, and speaks loudly for itself — a man and a woman accompanied by their real and raw qualities that they wish to be out there versus a checklist of ‘desirable’ qualities and aspects they don’t possess. ‘The Blind Trust’ brings to fore all the rishta aunties who play matchmaker out of no real motivation except the need to interfere in the lives of young men and women. The series concludes with a brilliant piece of artwork exhibiting the outcome of a poorly arranged marriage — an unhappy couple at their wedding and some more judgement for the road.
Speaking on why he created art with such a message, Mahnoor says, “This was to depict how the worth of boys and girls are merely evaluated through their wealth, colour or beauty for respective genders.” Everything that a man or woman is, is simply reduced to a few words dictated by our society’s unreal standards. Mahnoor’s art very simply puts forth the question — why do marriages have to be a complex situation involving the expectations of an entire family or community? “Their mutual liking doesn’t play any role in this life long relationship of marriage. Instead, it is only based on the current salary or business of the man and how pretty the girl is,” says Mahnoor, clearly frustrated with this age-old and machine-like process of marriage that should be about love, mutual respect, and growth.
A resident of Lahore, Pakistan, Mahnoor says that his main inspiration is the women that surround him. “When you live in a country like Pakistan, you have to be strong because you face harassment every day. You have to be brave again the next day to step out. So, my mother, my friends and all the daring and independent women around me are my inspiration for my work,” he says. There’s quite an expansive scope for men to be judged and disapproved of in the system of arranged marriages, and yet, women end up having to bear that extra load of adjustment and responsibilities.
‘Rishta Parade’ in all its unapologetic glory highlights the flaws of the system that has raised most of us. After years of believing the fact that arranged marriages are the way to go (and shows like Indian Matchmaking), its thoughts provoked by such art that introduces a clearer, a more reasonable and humane view of how things are and what they must evolve into.
You can find his artwork here.
If you enjoyed reading this, we suggest you read: