An artist’s endeavour to preserve history
Karachi: The city is dotted with art galleries and there’s hardly a juncture when there aren’t at least three or four exhibitions running concurrently.
Some of these, however, come as a whiff of fresh air, in that they are so different from the present-day trend which aims at just abstractism and modernism, requiring of the viewer to run away with his imagination to figure out what the artist is actually trying to convey, calling for a penchant for mental acrobatics. One such exhibition is running currently at the Fine Art Pakistan Gallery in Defence Phase-V.
The artist Zulfikar Aazeen and the 41 paintings on display are those of all important personages who, since the inception of Pakistan, have made milestone contributions in their respective pursuits and done the country proud.
The list extends over a wide spectrum of pursuits: politics to show business, social service to the academia to poetry, and a host of others.
Aazeen, who is an avowed adherent of the realist school of art, shuns all modern forms, which are Greek to the common viewer anyway. This is amply reflected in his meticulous works.
There are two paintings of a suave Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Then on to a totally diverse field, music and show business, is a coloured portrait of the late Malika-e-Tarannum Madam Noor Jehan.
While there may be differences in opinion and the conservative among us may not favour the lady’s inclusion in the annals of pictorial history, the fact remains that she did make a mark for the country in her respective field.
Another showbiz personality featured in the series of paintings is film and television celebrity Zia Mohyeddin, a person who brought Pakistan into the limelight on the global cinematic scene by having appeared in epics like Lawrence of Arabia and having acted on the West End stage in London and Broadway in New York.
Then another totally diverse dispensation, the realm of science and discovery, and there’s a portrait of Pakistan’s Nobel laureate Dr Abdus Salam, the only Pakistani to have received the highest global award for his contribution to physics, having shared the prize with US scientist Steven Weinberg for the Salam-Weinberg theory of gravitational force.
Then, of course, there’s a painting of a person who is not only a source of pride for Pakistan but for the world at large, Lenin Peace Prize winning poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, a man who, through his verse, brought out the injustices, the inequalities, and the exploitation of capitalism, the exploitation of the poor by the rich.
Faiz, a man who most boldly espoused the cause of the poor, the downtrodden, and the disempowered, is one all humanity could really be proud of.
The intellectual magnanimity of Aazeen could be gauged from the fact that he has included, alongside those known for their conventional and conservative views, people whose views and activities were a clear departure from mainstream thought, like writer Saadat Hassan Manto and poet Ahmad Faraz, absolute non-conformists.
At the other end of the spectrum is the portrait of Allama Iqbal, a devout conservative, one of those whom we owe our freedom and our independence today.
Such an endeavour is most prompt and highly called for against the backdrop of the stepmotherly treatment history has been accorded in our national scheme of things.
Despite the indispensable importance of the pursuit in the life of a nation, it has to be sadly admitted that today, of the 130 universities in the country, only 11 have full-fledged history departments.
Nations learn from their history but, thus far, the truth doesn’t seem to have dawned on the powers that be.
“These people are the memorable legends of Pakistan, regardless of their views and dispensation,” says Aazeen. “They have done so much for the country and brought it on the international pedestal through their contributions in their respective fields. This exhibition is a tribute to them. The memory of them must be preserved for posterity and in all fairness to history.”
The exhibition, which is a must-see for all history buffs, will continue at the gallery until September 7.