As a female artist, I have always been fascinated with the role of female body in the ancient civilizations. Previous scholarships on women’s involvement in Buddhism in the medieval sub-continent assume that women disappeared from the scene by the ninth century. This view may be rooted in our way of seeing (or not seeing) than in the actual historical reality. This view also generates from the analysis of the ruins of Buddhist art we have excavated over the years. My current work is inspired by the visual representation of Buddha in the ancient Buddhist art. My travels to and explorations of the city of Taxila, home to the ancient Buddhist Gandhara Civilization, led me to interrogate the role of women in Buddhism.
Spending my days in the Taxila Museum, I studied the many sculptures, plates and manuscripts, deconstructing Buddha’s postures, control of body and the presence of female form in Buddhist art. The scarcity of the representation of women in Buddhist art led me to develop my recent works which re-imagine the role and existence of the female body in this ancient civilization.
My drawings depict female bodies in similar postures to those of Buddha as we know them. Apart from drawing on paper, I have also used the Taxila stone, working with which I imagined myself as a craft-person from the similar era. My sculptures, both in Taxila stone and Schist (medium of sculpture and a significant feature of the architecture in the ancient Gandhara), pay tribute to the excellent craftsmanship of Gandhara Civilization.
Other elements of my work are inspired by the distinct jewelry found from the Taxila ruins. Depicting natural beings such as animals, birds, bugs and worms etc, these pieces were worn on a daily basis as necklaces and rings.
“I am the Miracle”, (as exclaimed by Buddha himself) is an ode to the women of Gandhara. Through my drawings and sculptures, I revisit the ancient Gandhara and put forward an imagination of what the existence of a female body could have meant in Buddhist art.
Doctor Sumera Jawad is a seasoned academician who holds a PHD in Fine Arts (Studio Practice). Currently teaching and serving as Principal of Punjab University College of Art and Design, Lahore. Alongside being a pedagogue, she is also a practicing artist with multiple solo and group exhibitions in Pakistan and abroad to her credit. She is very hands-on in studio practice, conducting workshops to share her valuable knowledge with upcoming professionals and students of Fine Arts. She stays abreast of all concepts by attending residencies and workshops herself, considering herself a lifetime student of Arts. She is also an Art researcher and has written many articles in different research journals of Pakistan and abroad. She has 12 solo exhibitions at Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and three solos in England in different galleries on her credit. Apart from that she conducts an artist residency every year with the name of Karbath since 2017. Through her work, Sumera explores the concepts of identity and the Self, using the female form as her preferred medium.