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  • Jul 10, 2017

Obituary: Lala Rukh (1948–2017)


In 1981, Lala Rukh became one of the founding members of the revolutionary Women’s Action Forum (WAF)—a seminal feminist group that fought for the rights of women in the time of the military dictator Zia ul-Haq and paved the way for many significant social, cultural and legal breakthroughs. Till her death she remained an active part of WAF.

Lala Rukh was born to Saeeda Khan and Hayat Ahmad Khan, founder of the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC), which is an unparalleled platform for musicians activated annually for the last five decades. Lala Rukh’s interactions with these musicians greatly impacted her own practice. Her final work Rupak (2017)—an installation of drawing, sound and animation commissioned by Documenta 14 for presentation in Athens—is a monumental denouement to every strand of thought that passed through her drawings, photographs, videos and sound pieces. 

After speaking to Lala Rukh about Rupak, I contributed to a collateral publication along with Natasha Ginwala, writing: “Almost the entirety of Lala’s oeuvre employs meditative rhythm as the soul of the work; the mapping of the dimension of time is present not only in the study of music, but also in the oscillation of waves on the shore, and the endless meeting of the sky and the ground at the horizon. It is a study of aspiration that is neither ambitious about reaching a final destination, nor implicated in unravelling the mysteries of a constant illusion. There is, however, a desire to be still in time, lull with the waves, utter absolutely nothing.”

In a way, these words also summarize the gentle tour de force that was Lala Rukh. 

Saira Ansari is a contributor for ArtAsiaPacific.

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