New photo exhibit at YMCA/YWCA captures experience of life in Pakistan

Students and faculty gathered Thursday night to kick off The Other Pakistan, a gallery display at the Murphy Gallery at University YMCA/YWCA, 1001 S. Wright St. in Champaign. The 40 photographs taken by 13 members of the Pakistan Photographers Group will be on display until Nov. 4.

“I myself was a researcher in Pakistan, so I lived there for several years with my family, so I saw what Pakistan is really like,” said Lars Dyrud, interim associate director of the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security and main organizer of the exhibit. “(Pakistan) is really not how it is portrayed, and I wanted other people to see that and to have that experience.”

Dyrud said he thinks “these photos are a sort of glimpse into the country in a way that you don’t get from the traditional media.”

“(The gallery’s message) is a welcome change,” said Irfan Ahmad, advisor for the Pakistani Students Association and professor in Middle Eastern Studies. “Pakistan has always been in the news; sometimes for the wrong reasons.

This gallery shows the liveliness, innocence, architecture and beauty of a country still recovering from scars.”

Rajesh Karmani, president of the Pakistani Graduate Students Association, also spoke at the exhibit’s opening about both the photos and the many issues that the people of Pakistan are facing and how events, including this one, can raise awareness.

The association is currently in partnership with The Other Pakistan, raising funds to benefit the refugees of the recent floods that devastated the country. They recently raised $80,000 on campus to aid Pakistani refugees.

Aneel Tanwani, graduate student, is Pakistani and has lived in the US for the past four years. He said he felt a connection to some images within the collection and was surprised by some of the other photos.

“Many (pictures) make me quite nostalgic,” Tanwani said. “Though others are of areas I am unfamiliar with. They are all fairly recent, mostly ‘08 and ‘09, which was a very difficult time. Some of the photos really bring emotion, like the one of the man selling fruit on the street or the one with no electricity.”

Tanwani said he was especially surprised by the 2008 photo of the Hazrat Mian Mir’s Tomb by Naeem Ur Rashid.

“It is where both Muslims and Hindus come to worship peacefully. I did not know there was a place like this,” he added.

The University is one of many institutions that has hosted The Other Pakistan exhibit. Photos were first featured at the Washington D.C. opening exhibition, opened by Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani Ambassador to the US at the School of International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.

The Other Pakistan was sponsored by Art @ the Y, an initiative of the University YMCA/YWCA.