In Conversation with Zhara Batool, Sculptor

By Stanzin Dasal Kargil, Sep 20, 2023
Kargil :

Q. You are the first woman sculptor from Kargil. Could you tell us more about your story, the time when you realized that you would be an artist? 

I am from the Pashkyum village of Kargil district and during my childhood days I showed a keen interest in drawing and painting. As I grew up I focused more on my academics than on arts and kept painting and drawing as my hobby. Like many other people, I don’t have a story to narrate about my role model or inspiration to be an artist. For me, everything came up naturally. Since I had no idea about Fine Arts subject, I gave up painting and drawing for the time being because I was pursuing BA. In my second year during my graduation days in Jammu, I came to know about the subject of Fine Arts and that there is a separate college in Jammu to study it. If I knew about the course I would have started just after my 12th but I didn’t leave my studies in between, I finished my BA and later got myself enrolled in the Institute of Music and Fine Arts (IMFA) Jammu University and pursued graduation in Visual Arts. Thus, I continued to study further since I have an interest in this particular subject. I did a Master in Visual Arts from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. In 2022, I also cleared NET. 

Q. What is your specialization? Why did you choose this particular subject?

When I first joined to study Visual art, I didn’t know that there would be so much to study. 
I found that there are different types of arts apart from painting, and sculpting, in particular, interested me. Sculpture involves working with clay, molding, and carving to make an art out of it. I chose it because clay, mud, and water are something that I used to play with during my childhood. There is a memory attached to it, thus, I chose sculpture because I already have a bond with the medium and when I work, it freshens up my childhood days and I want to live with it. Thus I did both my Bachelor's and Master's in sculpture

Q. Brief us about the work that you have exhibited in many exhibitions. Share with us about your work.

My first work is very basic and it was all about figurative because I wanted to cope with and deal with different materials used for sculpting such as stone, wood, POP, and clay. I gained most of the exposure and learning during my college days especially while pursuing a master's. I participated in various camps such as waste art, sand sculpture, etc. I participated in the Graduation degree show at Jammu University, several group shows such as the GENESIS group show at Fine Arts Faculty, University of Baroda in 2021, GENESIS 2.0 group show at Fine Arts Faculty, University of Baroda in 2022, group exhibition themed, ‘ Peripheral vision: Journeys of migration and belonging’ at Arthshilla, Shantiniketan in April 2023. I also did one solo exhibition at the LAMO centre, Leh on June 10, 2023.

The exhibitions in Baroda and the LAMO are very important in my art career and also are a turning point in my life because I learned so many things and guidance from many artists. 

Q. You being the first woman sculptor from Kargil how do you feel? How much potential and scope do you see in sculpture for women?

I have no intention of doing something different and extraordinary; all I want to do is do what I love and am most interested in. Later, I came to know that I am the first woman sculptor in Kargil which is a good thing to know but along with it comes responsibility and pressure to keep that name high and work with utmost dedication because I have opened up a new horizon for the girls in Kargil. I have introduced a new career path to many young girls who want to pursue arts as their career. I am happy to share that girl in Kargil started choosing their careers as sculptors which is a very positive thing. There are my two juniors who are currently learning to sculpt.
The scope and potential of art in Kargil are not as active as in Leh. We still have to work hard to get this field popularized among the public. I am also trying my bit to introduce this field by making students aware of the courses, where to apply, what to do etc. Things are getting better and I hope it will get more strong and active in the coming days.

Q. Tell us about your engagement with art in Ladakh. What obstacles or challenges do you face in making and exhibiting your work?

 My artwork is in synchronization with the tradition and culture of Ladakh. Ladakh’s land, history, and culture have always inspired me in my work. The challenge that I face and I guess many other artists from Ladakh also faces is the lack of good space to exhibit our work. An artist needs to showcase their work so that people can understand and communicate with their artwork. Financial constraints can be another issue for many artists thus, I feel the administration or the society needs to have confidence and give them opportunities to exhibit their work.

Q. How important is it to keep the art, culture, and tradition of Ladakh alive?

Ladakh has a very unique and diverse culture and it becomes immensely important to preserve it because in this rapidly growing global world with digitalization people are busy and very keen to adopt new things in life. At this pace, we are losing our rich culture and original things. It’s good to have change but it should be balanced. Giving up our roots and culture for the sake of modernization is never a good idea. The ancient buildings and things are our heritage and we need to keep them intact and preserve them along with other developments. 

Q. What is your plan?

At present, I am working on a commissioned work provided by the Kargil administration under Town Beautification Project. I am also planning to hold a solo exhibition in Kargil so that I can introduce the art field, my work, and about myself. 

Message to the readers

“If you don’t have much understanding and awareness about a particular field doesn’t mean it is wrong or got nothing to offer. Let’s appreciate and welcome new ideas rather than being judgemental and criticizing without understanding. Change the way you look at things and lastly, support the artists of Ladakh.”