For art’s sake

Seven remarkable women from Sindh have taken it upon themselves to promote art and artists in the country. Maheen Aziz provides an insight into the efforts of each of these art enthusiasts and their work

Zohra Hussain

A lawyer by profession, Zohra Hussain always had a passion for the arts. This made her lay the foundation of the oldest and most renowned gallery in Karachi in 1985, the Chawkandi Art Gallery. The gallery has been a hub of art discussions, debates, talks, shows and much more since its inception.

Hussain is famous for encouraging young talent in Pakistan. Her gallery has, over the years, provided a much-needed platform to new artists who have gone on to become masters in their chosen fields. Her steady efforts to nourish the art scene in Pakistan are undeniably significant.

Shakira Masood

Shakira Masood is an artist who studied printmaking in the United States and has been running Art Chowk Gallery in Karachi since 2008. The gallery was opened in partnership with her daughter, Camilla Hadi Chaudhary. Art Chowk has gained fame by allowing new artists to showcase their works. The gallery holds talks, discussions, solo and group shows to promote the art discourse. Moreover, it provides a healthy platform to emerging artists from around the country. Masood has represented Pakistan’s art at many national and international art fairs including Art Dubai, London, Beirut and Dakha Art Summit.

Fawzia Naqvi

A renowned media person, Fawzia Naqvi is a respected figure in the art world. She always had a deep passion for the arts, which impelled her to launch the first contemporary online art magazine, Art Now, to provide critical insight into contemporary Pakistani art. As eitor-in-chief of Art Now, Naqvi’s goal remains the promotion of the country’s art through her magazine. The influential magazine is widely read for its valuable content. Monthly and quarterly print issues covering national and international art events, biennales, talks, and shows have added to the magazine’s popularity.

Naqvi has organized countless art events, talks and panel discussions at national and international levels. Her journalism background has helped. She has previously been the publisher and editor of Zameen Publishing, UK, and has worked at South Magazine, New York and for Dawn, Karachi. Fawzia is a member of the Boards of the NAPA and the Lahore Biennale Foundation; and a member of the Managing Committee of Lady Dufferin Hospital, Karachi. She is an honorary CEO and trustee of the FOMMA (Foundation of Museum and Modern Art) and has been associated with several organisations, trusts and companies.

She was a founding member and president of the MWPJO (Media Women Publishers and Journalists’ Organisation) Karachi. Having numerous awards to her name, she has played a pivotal role in documenting art and artists’ history through her magazine. She is currently working on compiling an art book that will set a benchmark in the documentation and become a primary source of historical research in the arts, art events and artists.

Fawzia has worked as media adviser to the National Accountability Bureau chairman. She has contributed extensively through her writings on social and accountability issues. She has also helped organise national and international conferences and seminars at the NAB. Fawzia is also a Trustee of the Murree Art Residency. She is the president of DIL (Developments in Literacy) Karachi. Fawzia has an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from SOAS, University of London, UK. An avid golfer, Fawzia is a member of the Sindh Golf Association (SGA) and Lady Captain of Karachi Golf Club.

Sameera Raja

Sameera Raja obtained her degree in architecture from the National College of Arts, Lahore. After working in the field, she realised that her interest lay in the world of visual arts. The architect laid the foundation of Canvas Gallery, the oldest gallery in Karachi.

Sameera Raja changed Pakistani art and its relationship to the international art world by focusing on modern miniature, new media, and contemporary works by creating awareness about emerging talent, residency programmes, and collaborations.

Raja regularly collaborates with several galleries worldwide to exhibit in art fairs, biennales, and other ventures and hold solo exhibitions of prominent Pakistani artists and emerging artists. She has been the Executive Committee chair and a member of the Board of Governors of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVSAA). She held a position as the Art Chair for the first ADA (Architecture, Design, Art) Awards.

Raja is on the Advisory Panel for IPAF (International Public Art Festival), is the jury chair of the I Am Karachi (IAK) Awards and a jury member of the Toyota Motors Dream Car Competition. In addition, she delivers talks, participates in cultural events, and promotes contemporary Pakistani art at various forums and platforms, art fairs and institutes within the country and internationally, and is an established authority in her field.

Asma Ibrahim

Asma Ibrahim is an archeologist and museologist based in Karachi. She is currently the director of the State Bank Museum. She has also contributed to literature. After completing her master’s in history from the University of Karachi, she served as an editor for the Far Eastern Publication, authored books, and remained an integral member of many English publications. She has served as a consultant for the Oxford University Press Karachi Museum, Thatta Museum, Sindh Police Museum and the Mukhi House museum.

Noorjehan Bilgrami

Born in Hyderabad, Noorjehan Bilgrami is a visual artist, textile designer, researcher and educationist. She established the Koel Gallery in 2009. The gallery changed the discourse on art in Pakistan by providing a dynamic platform for emerging as well as established artists. She is a founding member of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture; and was its first executive director (1990–95). She has also served as chairperson of its Board of Governors.

She has authored Craft Traditions of Pakistan and Born of Fire, a profile of Pakistan’s renowned ceramist Salahuddin Mian, and curated a Retrospective Exhibition on the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.

She was awarded the Japan Foundation Fellowship to pursue research on natural indigo in Japan and curated the exhibition Tana Bana: The Woven Soul of Pakistan in collaboration with Jonathan Mark Kenoyer at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The exhibition travelled to the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, Oregon; the Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California and Mingeikan; the Japan Folk Craft Museum, Tokyo.

She heads art projects like Pursukoon Karachi taking on board designers, artists, and creative heads. Noorjehan’s outstanding contribution to arts and its promotion has taken Pakistan’s art scene to another level.

Amna Naqvi

Amna Naqvi is the founder of AAN Gandhara Art Space and the AAN Foundation. She is an art collector, philanthropist, publisher and supporter of art projects and initiatives, which has led to the development of the Pakistani contemporary art space, locally and globally, for more than 15 years.

Amna aims to bring longer-duration curated museum-quality exhibitions with a public programming component for education and development of the art space in Pakistan. She has been featuring famous artists in Hong Kong and giving a voice to Pakistan’s art scene on the international level. The gallery has over 800 artworks collected from around the world of different contemporary and traditional artists.


The writer is an art, culture and entertainment journalist from Karachi, she can be reached at [email protected]

For art’s sake