Color is an important part of everyone’s life. It’s obvious that we derive a lot of personal meaning from our favorite colors. However, we can learn a lot by taking a moment to consider why colors provide us with so much meaning. We all know that certain colors resonate with us on an emotional level. Many colors are sure to have a similar impact on almost everyone in your social circle. But how can something as subjective as artistic preferences be shared by so many other people in the world?
The easiest answer is that we often derive shared meaning through our culture. No human being is an island. We’re all shaped by the culture around us and the waves of distant history. But what about other cultures like Pakistan? How does an equally rich, but still quite distinct, history impact their view of colors? To find the answer we’ll take a look at some of the most significant colors in Pakistan as well as early cultural influences.
The History and Culture of Pakistan
Before taking a more in depth look at Pakistan’s artistic spirit we need to consider how the country took form. Artistic traditions usually weave throughout a country’s history. But Pakistan is a region with considerable governmental and social fluidity. Pakistan as the national entity we know today has only been around since 1947. Meanwhile there’s still a rich cultural exchange in the area which goes back about 5,000 years.
Constant social change, as well as an abnormally large percentage of younger citizens, tends to strengthen the bonds of both family and friends. Meanwhile social identity from past influences or governmental bodies is usually less significant than within other cultures. On top of this what social traditions do manifest are often heavily influenced by other areas. For example Punjabis in Pakistan may well have aesthetic preferences more in line with India.
All of these factors mean that Pakistan often shows a more fluid and dynamic approach to art and color than other areas of the world. When we look at the history of art in Pakistan there are tremendous examples of cultural flux. Modernism and abstract takes on various subjects have been a mainstay of Pakistan’s artistic identity. Likewise we see a great deal of multinational influence from artists who’ve lived or studied abroad. In addition to all of this, Pakistan borrows heavily from Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern traditions. This sometimes allows us to trace color preferences to traditions which arose in distant geographic regions.
It’s important to keep all of these factors in mind when looking at the understanding and symbolism of color in Pakistan. The meaning and significance of color tends to vary in the country more than we’d find in other lands. But with that said, we can still find cultural preferences which give some shared meaning within the universal language of color.
Color Symbolism in Pakistan
We often think of blue when imagining vast expanses. The blue sky and equally blue waters both conjure images of immense spaces and distances. This ever present color is also sometimes seen as a force of good luck in Pakistan. It’s sometimes even used as a protective charm. A Nazar is a blue bead worn on a necklace. The Nazar is believed to ward off evil and bring good luck.
Brown is a common color in Pakistan. The various nuts and grains of the region have a distinct brown hue. And of course all cultures associate brown with the earth itself. As such Pakistan tends to see brown as an earthy color which suggests stability.
Like brown, most cultures tie green in with the natural world. Pakistan certainly has its share of brilliant green fields. As such it should come as little surprise to find that many people in Pakistan associate green with growth, fertility and nature. However, it’s also the central color of Pakistan’s flag. This lends it a special significance for Pakistanis.
The green in Pakistan’s flag symbolizes the Islamic religion. Of course not everyone in Pakistan adheres to this faith. But it encompasses about 95% to 98% of the population, so the color green takes on a special meaning of religious unity for much of the population.
Most countries and cultures celebrate the color red. We all recognize how important red is due to our own blood. This ensures that most cultures will consider red to be tied in with life in one way or another.
Pakistan shares its view of red with India. In these cultures red can symbolize fertility and love. Likewise, we see the sunrise and its reddish hue as a sign of good things to come. This often makes it a favored color for wedding dresses in Pakistan.
Yellow often symbolizes happiness and warmth due to an association with sunlight. We can see it used within some of the mosaic tiles of the Shalimar Gardens. We also see yellow in many of the tastiest treats in Pakistan. For example, jalebi and other snacks made of fried flour usually have a rich yellow hue. This too lends a feeling of happiness and joy to the color yellow in Pakistan.
Pakistan shares a somewhat dour view of the color white with China and India. When we see human bones, we’re often struck by their pristine white color. This tends to be how white is seen in these regions. White often suggests death and mourning in Pakistan just as it would in China or India.
Of course white can also have a more literal use. For example, it’s used as coloring for the moon and star on Pakistan’s flag. Where the green part of the flag represents the religion of Islam, the white stripe represents the non-Muslim minority religions. The white moon stands for progress and the white star is a symbol of knowledge and light. Together, the green and white colors symbolize prosperity and peace.
If you’re interested in learning more about flags, here’s a post that uncovers the hidden symbolism of popular flag colors.