'Loul': Reflecting Love for Motherland

Kashmir Magazine

Srinagar-born Diba Mushtaq has always processed life through artistic filters and a four-year degree in Fine Arts from Jamia Millia Islamia, gave her a cohesive artistic language. It is during these years that art became a calling for her. For her debut show awash in lyrical black-and-white hues, Kashmir and its layered ethos inevitably became her muse.

She titled the show “Loul” because, as she says, "This is an indefinable Kashmiri word with nuances that are hard to explain. Only a native who has grown up in this soil will fully understand the layers of this emotion. My work is an attempt to capture this yearning, this love for what Kashmir represents in a gentle, warm embrace. An embrace reminiscent of how my father would hug me, saying ‘Loul aaya tha’. I live with my family in Delhi now but every year this ‘Loul’ pulls me back home. This exhibition is an outpouring of love for this beautiful land that I was so blessed to be born in."

For Diba, Kashmir is not just its inexpressible and irresistible natural beauty but its heart and soul and its rich culture. As she says, "I want to capture everything in my art. The alleys of the old city, the monuments, the Sufi shrines, the neighbourhood bakeries, the Jhelum meandering through, the electric poles with innumerable wires enmeshed like our cultural ties, the narrow cobbled streets to the majestic mountains, the wide open skies and memories associated with each of these places. My art is very personal to me because it is my way of sharing Kashmir with the rest of the world."

As to why she chose to showcase her work in Kashmir, she says no one understands Kashmir better than the people who live here. “Yes, a lot of patrons exist in the rest of the country but for my first exhibition, I felt there was no place better than home. Kashmir is my constant muse. This journey of my art had to start from where it all began. I also feel if you are true to your art, you will get your due sooner or later. A good artist cannot be hidden for long. Today a lot of wonderful artists from Kashmir are recognized beyond their homeland."

Diba believes her art is constantly evolving but what remains constant is her need to draw inspiration from everyday life, the mundane and the extraordinary. And through it all, her love for Kashmir continues to grow and expand.

She says Kashmir is embedded in her. “It invariably sneaks into every piece of art that I work on. Even if I am sketching a monument in Delhi, a little bit of Kashmir works its way into it. For me, there is no right or wrong in art. Being an artist is a blessing and so it is important to be authentic and stay true to your style, your expression. And to create for the 'Loul' of it and nothing else."