Umber Majeed

Memories Fade...Photographs Shouldn’t

He led me through the brick-laden alleyway.
My hands were trailing the brick walls laying out the street.
The dusty red bricks slowly inch forward, encroaching towards me as I walk further, trying to follow.
I hear him mumbling something in the air.

My feet attempt to race up while my ears are trying to catch onto every bit;
Were these words, syllables, letters, noises, breaths that were filling the space between us?
My breathing grew heavy as the distance increased.
The mumbling became yells and the yells became seconds of silence.


Who was he talking to?
The walk suddenly turned into a sprint.
I could see his kurta tail ends flowing in front of me. His shalwar wrapped around his fragile legs hugging at this tired aged feet. His black rubber slippers were slightly dragging on the dust-filled path. Every move he made created a small dust cloud that further obliterated the trace of his body.
I hear him calling out but far into the distance.
As I stop to catch my breath, I close my eyes and hear his wispy voice call at me.

Those bastards-
Those bas-“

I return to the cricket-filled dark night, sitting on a plastic garden chair on the stone terrace facing him, or more so his shadow. His voice marked him about three feet away through the trail of his tapping cane. The noise of the generators was layered in the suburbia of Rawalpindi. I woke to his recollections of the marketplace of his youth for the fourth time today. He was living the moments of being denied access to the goods of the local fruit vendor as a child. The young Muslim boy in him trailed the alleyways of his hometown in Jalandhar, India. The pacing increased in his voice as he was retracing the day; the moment when the haram-zada not only stopped him from buying the lush, pulp fruit available but even from touching it. This is the moment in the recollection I would notice his eyes glisten and fill with tears. In anger he would exclaim in his mother tongue,

Can you imagine-
Even if I walked by-
Even if I walked by-
they would say that the food is contaminated!-
Haram zaday Hindus!-”

The grip on his cane would tighten as he imagined the splendors of the maltas (oranges) piled in the palace-like fruit stand as his little child- body was looking up-

The flash of light bulbs surrounding the patio highlights the wrinkles on his face, the lines of his many journeys. With the return of the electricity to the neighborhood, I could still see the anger filled in his eyes. His shaking hands were supported by another. He was ushered towards the interior.

I could still hear….


….under his breath.

His camera weighed him down as he limped away. Through the window I saw him sit down to fidget with a roll of film. He continued snapping images of the vase that he passes by everyday to enact a new composition. He retraces the everyday through the lens of a single timeframe. The stillness of the glossy analog prints that lay in his bedroom represents the snapshot of that time. Beautiful blondes and slogans of Fuji-film cover the flora and fauna of the surfaces of his land.

Memories Fade … But Photographs Shouldn’t is a video animation incorporating my maternal grandfather, Pirzada Abdul Waheed’s analog photographic archive. It is hand-selected photographs gathered from trips to visit my grandfather’s home in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. I came upon the piles and piles of Fujifilm paper piles, stuffed in file cabinets in the basement that revealed years of committed daily photographing. I came upon these materials as my grandfather started his journey with Alzhemizer’s. His recollections of the Partition of 1947 and an entire lineage of our migratory family lineage from Jalandhar, India was fading away.

Pirzada Abdul Waheed was a young member of the Muslim League during the Partition of 1947 and sought out the development of modern day Pakistan. The photographs presented in this animation are specific to the late 1970s - early 2000s, where and when he documented the construction and development of the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan (National Mosque of Pakistan). The photographs outline Waheed as a flaneur, capturing moments between the laborer’s body on site as well as the nuances of the Islamic architecture. A main interest I have is blurring the lines between native and foreign and more specifically revealing the Faisal Mosque as a convoluted representation of national identity. The National Mosque was funded by the late King Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz and the government of Saudi Arabia and designed by a Turkish Architect, Vedat Ali Dalokay. The facts outline the influence of a particular kind of Islamization that still affects Pakistan today.

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