Dr Ajaz Anwar gives the lowdown on the happenings at the weeklong annual ceremony that was “a tripartite event”
t was an auspicious moment. The principal of Naqsh School, Mrs Afroza Khan, had graciously agreed to be the chief guest alongside the executive director of Alhamra, at the weeklong annual ceremony at the House of NANNAs, starting November 27, despite the cold and smoggy weather.
It was a ‘tripartite’ event. The participants were even more stubborn, having defied the weather. As the large van approached the venue, this scribe opened the door for the first ones to disembark. It was a motley crowd destined to set Pakistan’s art on a hopefully sound footing.
However, what could have been a very colourful event was rendered quite remorseful by the news of the events happening in Gaza. It was decided that the multitudes of infants, women and invalids who had been denied their right to life, thanks to indiscriminate bombing by the USA-supplied jets and bombers which the taxpayers there hadn’t even consented to, be remembered.
Fatiha was offered with everyone teary-eyed. Later, this scribe announced that two hundred copies of his two books had been donated to the cause of the innocent Palestinians. The books are available at the premises of the National College of Arts at Rs 200/- each. The proceeds will go to the besieged Palestinians.
The constant inflow of news of the killings of premature babies in incubators in hospitals in Gaza is heart-rending, to say the least. One simply cannot accept why even water and food should have been denied to the hapless children of Adam. Bombarded and surrounded by the hateful tanks and killed by snipers, those killed were not allowed to be buried so that their decaying bodies cause disease and more deaths.
The entire humanity is in distress. The list and canvas of this man-inflicted catastrophe is unending. Hoping against hope isn’t going to work. The OIC and the Arab League are in a state of deep slumber. Newspapers are full of reports about meetings between the Israeli president and UAE’s Al Nahyan, hoping for an extension of the temporary ceasefire.
A visitor to the annual ceremony suggested that all products of Jewish origin be banned/ boycotted. As the list was too long to be combed, some thought that the idea was impracticable. At least the list should be made public. Hurting the economy of the adversary is like aiming at the Achilles’ heel that would hurt him the most.
It was revealed that a super-market chain in Karachi, now operating from major cities of the country, had stopped trading in products of Israeli origin.
This was may be the time to promote local products. There’s an alternative to every product. Some of the local alternatives are better and more affordable. Moreover, the local products don’t have to be shipped in from far-off places, thereby reducing the carbon footprint and checking the smog, besides creating jobs for locals. Hence, a comprehensive list of local (alternative) products needs to be made public.
After the formalities, it was time to discuss the main agenda for the meeting. While thanking the presence of all art connoisseurs, this scribe recalled that the Lahore Arts Council, or Alhamra, had been the alma mater of many artists.
Having enrolled in the evening classes, which had no age limit and gender specification, most dedicated artists such as Professors Anna Molka Ahmad, Khalid Iqbal, Naseem Hafiz Qazi, Colin David and Taufiq Ejaz gave instructions in sculpture. Aslam Minhas tutored the children on Sundays.
While cycling on Queens Road, I had spotted a rather plump lady who appeared to be of European descent. Little did I know that she would become my mentor posthumously.
Professor Emeritus Anna Molka Ahmad has already been discussed in a couple of dispatches. One would like to stress the role of Alhamra, the logo for which was designed by the legendary Abdur Rehman Chughtai. It was a sanctuary and nursery for countless radio and TV artistes as well. This was an occasion to recall the contributions of “unknown soldiers” to which must be added a long list of “unknown political prisoners” in barricaded premises during the dictatorship of Chaudhry Nazir during Zia’s dark era.
Not even the much respected Prof Qazi’s Fiat car was allowed to enter Alhamra when she came over to teach. She never attempted to gate-crash, putting the powers that be to shame.
Prof Qazi had served the cause of practical art for well over 20 years. She got a remuneration that would not even buy her petrol for her tiny car. It’s another thing that some dictator paid glowing tributes to her in the presence of her brothers who were all major-general. Such are the ironies of life.
Reminiscing the history of art in Lahore, one cannot possibly ignore the facilitators. One such character was Mahmudul Hassan Rumi. He was one of the founders of Naqsh School of Arts, of which Afroza Khan is the current principal.
Khan gracefully accepted to be the guest of honour on the opening day of our weeklong celebrations. She even brought a lavish lunch for her students, which was also shared by the other guests. The Kashmiri tea, served with rock salt, was donated by a newly established roof-top restaurant.
The art school established inside Bhatti Gate serves not only the old city but also students from some far-flung areas. After an exchange of opinions, a grand tour of the art gallery at the House of NANNAs was conducted by the volunteering guides. It was suggested that this collection be preserved as a permanent display.
What future holds can’t be predicted. The participants signed the comments book and were also invited to the display of classic cars and motorbikes the same Sunday. With group photos shot in front of the bus that brought the visitors, all waved with an arrivederci! (see you again.)
(This dispatch is dedicated to Mr Rumi, one of the founders of Naqsh School)
The writer is a painter, a founding member of Lahore Conservation Society and Punjab Artists Association, and a former director of NCA Art Gallery. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org