Artist Zahoor ul Akhlaq remembered
KARACHI: Remembering their “…most irresponsible friend…” who used to “…come unannounced and leave unannounced…”, friends, former students, patrons, fellow artists, and art fans of Karachi attended Monday’s memorial event for Zahoor ul Akhlaq at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS).The event commemorated the artist’s important role in the creation of IVS, his contribution to Pakistan’s art, as well as marking the 10th death anniversary of the painter, printmaker, architect, professor and sculptor. Considered the ‘Father of contemporary Pakistani art’, Zahoor ul Akhlaq encouraged his students to experiment and find ways to voice the issues of current society through art. He is perhaps best known for pioneering the contemporary miniature movement, in which the symbolism and subjects of our current era are used in executing a miniature painting, an art form dating from the time of the Safavids of Persia.
Founding members of IVS Shehnaz Ismail, dean of the design department, and Nighat Mir, briefly explained Akhalq’s role in not only conceptualising an institute for the study of art in Karachi, but his vision for IVS that continues to be conveyed in the design of the school’s emblem — knowledge, growth, possibilities and promise, and openness towards the world and towards academics — stand as a sculpture placed prominently in the school’s open-air auditorium. Friends of the late artist also spoke at the memorial event, citing how difficult it was to speak of their late friend “…without weeping and without laughing”, according the Dr Ghazala Hasan.
Akhtar Hilal Zuberi and Ardeshir Cowasjee were also present and spoke of their friendships with the artist, retelling stories that showed an off-beat, loving, generous, and at times ridiculously-eccentric Akhlaq, who would appear and disappear from their lives and their homes without notice, all too often, and so much so that it continues to leave them with the feeling that he may show up at any moment.
Akhlaq’s former students also spoke at the event, remembering the artist’s ability to communicate without saying many things. Mansoora Hasan and Noorjehan Bilgrami were students of Zahoor ul Akhlaq who used to teach at NCA in Lahore, from 1962-1994. In the capacity of a professor, Akhlaq was in a position to judge his students’ works and abilities, and verbalise his ideas and opinions to his class, but he did not. Bilgrami and Hasan both noted that it was his presence in their lives and in the classrooms that resonated most and shaped them as the artists they are today.