Pakistani-American artist Mahwish Chishty was originally trained in painting miniatures in her native Lahore. But these days, Chishty is also emerging as a notable conceptual artist abroad, treading the potent line between Pakistani and American culture. Yesterday, in an interview with Mother Jones, Chishty discussed her paintings of American drones — which she covers in traditional Pakistani ornamentation.
More than 2000 people have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since the early 2000s, mostly in the rugged northwest. The proxy war, Chishty says, “triggered her imagination”, and she began a series of paintings that feature the familiar shapes of the MQ-9 Reaper and other UAVs covered in ornate decoration. The patterns are borrowed from a tradition amongst truck drivers in Pakistan, who cover their vehicles in rich ornamentation and colour as a means of pure self-expression. Chishty explained the practice to Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson:
It’s kind of a folk art. It’s a tradition, a culture. People who drive these trucks basically live on those trucks, sleep on those trucks. They kind of make that into their mobile home and they decorate it into something that’s eye pleasing. They’re extremely beautiful paintings… I wanted people to think maybe what would happen if these drones were friendlier looking, instead of such hard-edged, metallic war machines.
The resulting paintings are beautiful, disturbing, and deeply funny — it’s great work, in other words. Check out the full interview on Mother Jones.