Bushra Waqas Khan, a skilled printmaker and seamstress based in Lahore, Pakistan, was recently featured in vogue india for her impeccable skills and craftsmanship in making miniature dresses. However, what sets Bushra apart is the fact that she breathes new life into monotonous, office-specific state documents, such as sworn stamp papers, which circulate in very courtrooms. frequented. Bushra uses them to create flowing, sculpted dresses that are hand-stitched and majestic. The artist’s work is exhibited at the Indian Art Fair (IAF) in New Delhi.
According to vogue, Bushra designs miniature dresses loaded with political symbolism. With their luxuriously flared skirts and cinched waists, each dress is emblematic of the discourse surrounding the female body and colonialism.
Although Bushra Khan fashioned her first miniature dress in 2019, she already has some notable exhibition credentials, including one at London’s famed Grosvenor Gallery. Last year, she also became a Jameel Award finalist. One of her pieces, a gorgeous 20-inch hybrid dress, featuring European gigot sleeves and a pleated mughal jama with a salmon pink hem – was recently exhibited at the V&A. The ingenious design that adorns the dress has been borrowed from the humble stamp paper: designs painstakingly cut by hand and glued to a large block to form new arrangements were then printed onto fabric using transfer paper thermal.
A graduate of the National College of Arts (NCA), Bushra stumbled upon several copies of the affidavit stamp paper hidden in her father’s locker. She was fascinated by the intricate designs printed on the paper, including that of the five-pointed star cocooned within the crescent moon. At the same time, she was shocked to discover that “that piece of paper was worth more than who you are in Pakistan,” she explained in the interview. “It’s proof of possession and our lives are all tied to it in some way.”
The affidavit stamp paper, among other things, signifies ownership of land and property. “While mothers bequeath their family jewelry and clothes to their daughters, fathers give that piece of paper to their male heirs,” she said. Having grown up in a conservative family herself, she wanted to critique gender-biased differences linked to endemic heritage in South Asian family structures through her dresses.
The designs, shapes and silhouettes of the clothes are centered on an imperial past, serving as a strong reminder of the impact of colonialism on Pakistan. “If you look at the patterns on the stamp paper, they don’t seem to be from that area. Remove the star and crescent emblems, remove the ‘Pakistan’ text written on it, and everything else is Western,” she said. “Similarly, clothes are a fusion of cultures. They represent a mix of who we are.
A feminist and aesthete, the artist has also worked on a collection called “Leftovers”, where she reuses unused pieces of fabric from other garments that would otherwise be discarded. “A Well-Loved Slice Of Leftovers,” a silk and organza dress sewn with fabric salvaged from her earlier works, is close to her heart. “I felt ‘left out’ so many times, in terms of being a woman,” she shared in the interview. “It’s a feeling that a lot of women deal with, because they’re often the last people think of.” The collection is therefore a nod to sisterhood, reflecting how “beautiful leftover pieces can come together to create something magical and awe-inspiring,” she said.
Two of her dresses that will also be on display at the fair are ‘Barcode’ and ‘Medallion’.