In our country, art is more or less synonymous with being a nikkama because the only ‘appropriate’ career, as per our societal norms, falls somewhere between being an engineer or a doctor. Want to do anything else with your life? Well, you might as well do nothing at all. I might have painted a bleak picture but it stands true to the doctor-engineer centric mind-set of parents in our society. However, over the past few years, there has been an attempt to revive the art and culture scene in Pakistan. Lahore, the city that served as a seat for the Mughal Empire as well as the subsequent British Empire, is unique in its culture. It embraces diversity in its bosom as it provides space to integrate all forms of art and ingenuity. Lahore hosted the first ever ‘Red Bull Canvas Cooler’ exhibition on Saturday and Sunday. It brought together 12 rising stars of Pakistan’s art world: Jibran Shahid, Ayesha Sohail, Samya Arif, Babrus Khan, Raza Bukhari, Sanki King, Osama Khan, Sadqain, Shumyle Haider, Hassan Shah Gilani and SM Raza. The coolers served as canvases upon which the artists showcased their imagination, creativity and skill in a period of two weeks. What struck a chord with me was the unique interpretation behind the designs of the artists. Belonging from a country that is mired and plagued with terrorism, their art work provides a narrative that differs from the one that we have been stamped with. It is the talent and our art that rises above the dominant narrative of our grievances and radical elements of society. There is more to our country than what meets the eye. Ayesha Sohail gained inspiration from the Urdu metaphors such as “chor ki daarri may tinka” as she has provided an abstract interpretation of it in three stages of life: the urban life, the jungle life and the marine life. What a way to resurrect the dying spirit of our mother tongue through the stroke of the brush! Art is largely an aesthetic and who knows it better than Hassan Shah Gilani. The intricate work of his pen with the neon colours to provide a pop of colour caught my attention almost immediately. His minimal design and penmanship, and attention to detail reflects the determination, talent and sleepless nights that go into making a piece of art. Samya Arif, a name that immediately gets me singing “Hymn for the Weekend” by Coldplay whose video featured Samya Arif’s illustrations on a taxi cab. This illustrator and a feminist at heart, aims to advocate women empowerment through her work. Her work essentially focuses on self-discovery and what appears as a strong, independent woman with no inhibitions to hold her back. Every artist leaves a little bit of himself in his art work. And these coolers speak volumes of the depth and creativity that resonates in our society. Curated by the talented, Zain Naqvi, the art work displayed at the Riots Studio knew no bounds. It was displayed in a simplistic yet creative manner. Between the stage lights and the industrial trussing, the display was art itself. The individual coolers served as constituent elements that came together to create one big piece of art. This compilation of varying interpretations is truly the manifestation of the diversity and individuality of Pakistan as a whole. Red Bull provided a platform to these rising stars to push against the boundaries of the art world in Pakistan by providing them the challenge of working on an unconventional medium ie cubed coolers. Needless to say, we need more of such events and opportunities to challenge the minds of the future movers and shakers of our art world.