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Imran Channa - Badshahnama

Imran Channa belongs to an important generation of Pakistani artists who graduated from the National College of Arts in Lahore, where the tradition of miniature painting is very lively. Among artists like Bani Abidi, Aisha Khalid, Hamra Abbas or Imran Qureshi, he confronts the ancient and the modern in an attempt to renew traditional and popular imagery.

His early works dealt with photographic archives, as a theme and formal element in a contemporary approach of collective identity.

He quite naturally came to question the Badshahnama or Book of Kings, the famous 16th century collection of mughal miniatures. Imran Channa deconstructs the original narratives by introducing new designs and current issues into his compositions. Through fragmentation and sampling he produces parallel versions of History. His almost abstract patterns reveal a thousand tales of power and glory, war and seduction, playfully challenging our beliefs and our reading of contemporary concerns.

“My work is on historical perspectives. I am questioning the authenticity of the history, which is constructed and manipulated by the power. I feel there is a strong need to uncover how history had been falsely constructed and manipulated through ‘knowledge’. Our history books were written on the single perspective, maintaining the piety of state ideology, distorting and concealing many of the facts that threatened the status quo. Accordingly, this propaganda presents a half-baked picture and people begin to believe in that distorted reality.

This body of work is based on historical visual investigation of the most celebrated book on Mughal miniature painting called BADSHAHNAMA (The book of Kings). Basically, the BADSHAHNAMA is known as the great book of Mughal miniature painting. It is written as the official history of Mughal kings in Shah Jahan's reign. The main purpose of this book is to preserve and document the official visual history of Mughal kings. It is a commissioned book of Mughal history in traditional art of miniature painting. This book, on traditional art, was designed as a historical propaganda of the Mughal times.

In this work I have dislocated and manipulated all the images of the book, creating the sense of construction, so as to question the making and authenticity of the history, by digitalizing this traditional miniature to question its conventional and traditional methods of making which is considered as unique and sacred piece of art.”

Imran Channa