Earlier this year in March, designer Ali Xeeshan led an art exhibition titled “Exquisite Mistake” which was reportedly sold before it was even on display. The designer’s quintessential eccentric aesthetic was visible in oils on canvas and sculptures inspired by a heavy-bodied middle-aged woman who Xeeshan says had once been his nanny.

Fast forward to this week when Ayesha Shaikh, a 2019 graduate of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, posted a damning message on her Instagram, stating that Ali had reproduced the sculptures that were part of her collection. of thesis. The post includes images from Xeeshan’s exhibit as well as Shaikh’s own work and the resemblance is uncanny.

“WE DON’T DESERVE THIS!” It’s pathetic to see such recognized talents, representing our country, being downright plagiarized from the works of up-and-coming artists! she wrote in a lengthy post accusing Xeeshan of copying her work.

However, according to Xeeshan, he came up with the concept for his exhibit in 2017. “Exquisite Mistake” was inspired by a round, petite woman who was his nanny when he was growing up. “‘Nani’ was very fun and bubbly back then,” Xeeshan recalls. “Then she got married and left work. A few years ago she came back and she looked old and tired. She was now a single mother, raising her two daughters. Around the same time, I had read about how humans were destroying Mother Earth, and felt that in the same way, Nani had been sorely exhausted from life. The analogy inspired me to develop the concept for this art exhibition.

Ali Xeeshan ‘Nani”s nanny. Photo provided by Ali Xeeshan

He continues: “I photographed her in different positions so that I could paint her image and sculpt her. Some of the images are confidential so I can’t make them public but I was working with photographer Abdullah Harris. I have timelines that verify that I had been working on these works for years now. There are a few images that I can post and they show very clearly the source of my inspiration.

Ali Xeeshan ‘Nani”s nanny. Photo provided by Ali Xeeshan

“Throughout the history of art, you will find similar creations inspired by tall women. There are only so many ways a high volume woman can sit and lie down. To say that the poses I had captured were plagiarized is a baseless accusation.

Xeeshan says seeing Shaikh’s message, he contacted her. “I told her I was ready to swear on my one-year-old son’s life that this was the first time I had seen her work,” he said. “I sent her my phone number and asked her to contact me, but she never did. She owes me an apology.

Shaikh, on the other hand, decided not to reach out to Xeeshan. “Of course, he was going to give me justifications and tell me his side of the story,” she says, “but regardless, the visuals of my work and his exhibition are so similar. That’s what I had pointed out in my Instagram post There are works of art inspired by tall women throughout history, but as artists we are taught to be inspired but never to create a photocopy exact.

“What really sparked me and got me to post was when people started asking me if I had created the art for Ali Xeeshan. I decided it was time to speak up. I never thought that a single post on my Instagram profile would get noticed so widely!


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