Robain Ali Imran — Nazukh Khoon (Fragile Blood)

Composition: Graphite on canvas, deep red acrylic, grey and red water-based paint, 24k gold gilding, broken glass.

Key Themes: Caste/ kinship/class, blood, honour, fragility

Details of note:

  • The blood line in the back represents a blood connection between the three characters.
  • A heartbeat also represents a something that is not forever, something that can fade away.
  • The blood dripping from the dip in the heartbeat is made from broken glass. Broken glass usually represents fragility. Connecting back to the title: the blood is fragile; the rest is for the viewer to reflect on.
  • The gold ring on the father’s hand and the gold nose pin on the daughter represents a connection between the two. It is how you identify that they are related.
  • The clothes they are wearing signify their caste or class.

Artist’s statement:

The title of this art piece is Nazukh Khoon (the title appears in the top left on the piece), which is in Urdu, and it translates to Fragile Blood in English. The piece itself is a transfusion between graphite sketching and minor detailing using various materials like paints, glass, and gilding. It portrays an armed father looking at his daughter running away with the person she wants to marry. The inspiration was drawn from the intersections of the unseen or unnoticed caste-like system in Pakistan and its most violent expression, which is honour killing. It also highlights how employment, class and blood are among the most significant factors in portraying what caste really means.

The caste-system or systems like it divide people into various groups based on their role in society (usually employment: from land owning elites all the way down to farmers/ cleaners). Over time these castes became engrained in society to the point where the blood and lineage you carry became the deciding factors of your caste or social standing. This meant that there is no cross-mobility between the different castes. This piece reflects on and represents these ideas.

The father from an upper caste (land-owning elite, as signified by his garb) does not agree with his daughter marrying from a lower caste (farmer, as signified by his shovel and shabby clothes). The attitudes behind hindering cross-mobility are so strong that he would rather kill his daughter to save his family’s/ caste’s/kinship group’s honour than accept the fact that she wants to get married into a lower caste.

The questions that this piece asks are: 1) is the Is the caste system really that strong, and 2) if your lineage and blood really mattered that much, would you be willing to kill your own flesh and blood to protect that same flesh and blood from becoming “corrupted?”

This piece also examines the social construction of blood. In some ways “blood” is so weak that a father is willing to kill his own daughter, and that the daughter is willing to take the risk of violence for a person with “impure” blood. Meanwhile, the notions played-up in Pakistani society, usually are reminiscent of phrases like “blood is thicker that water.” The sad reality of this piece is that scenes like this are fairly common in Pakistan. What no one realizes is that it is a part of the same caste system that Pakistan prides in not having compared to its neighbouring country, India.

I hope this sketch leaves you with questions and a new found curiosity for the main underlying themes that are present.

In addition to his work on Nazukk Khoon (Fragile Blood), Robain Ali Imran also developed a short film addressing similar themes for another class in the same semester. Find it here —