For Whom the Bell Tolls… Very Late!

For Whom the Bell Tolls… Very Late!

“I miss her more than ever…”
Said Zara David and then there left no word or gesture that might help the graceful lady with nicely combed straight and almost white hair and glossy Anglo-Indian face, having eyes full of tears and voice jammed in the throat.
It was a tribute from a daughter to her mother who is also known as the mother of Modern Pakistani Art, Anna Molka Ahmed.

We as a nation have never shown great fervor and enthusiasm towards our elders, especially the departed ones. Although this nation is a product of countless sacrifices, continuous hard work and dreams of sleepless eyes of those whom, we usually forget in our busy life. Much has been written and more said on the changing and indifferent behaviour, the modern Pakistan is adopting as a nation. Different deteriorating attitudes are the hot topics for every teacup dialogue, in connection with social, political, ethical and religious dichotomy; we collectively are in practice without knowing the core reason and origin (or actually we don’t want to know).

Art in Pakistan has been under curse owing to the misconception of being anti-Islam practice, without deep consideration and study of the past Muslim tradition of architecture, painting, calligraphy and decorative motifs which were once, the mark of distinction in the hyped periods of Umayyads and Abbasids in Arab, Syria and Egypt while caused a great fusion when arrived in Turkey, Spain and Persia along with many other parts.

Pakistan like a freed bird from cage looked here and there in the early years after the independence with limited resources, divided infrastructure, few academic institutions and almost empty pockets, to start a journey as a sovereign Ideological Islamic state. Punjab University was the only institution to feed almost the entire Punjab with quality education while on the other side of the Mall Road, Mayo School of Arts (today the NCA) was standing in the barren horizons of arts and crafts to skill emotionally wounded young generation of that era.

Although the British Colonial Rule has damaged the roots of South Asian identity in terms of culture, individuality and language, but nature has its own rules when it extracts good out of the worst. A London-born female artist came to combined India in 1939 after marrying a Desi man, Sheikh Ahmed and converting to Islam, and then never went back even after her breakup with Mr. Ahmed.
Professor Emeritus Anna Molka Ahmed, educated in Painting, Sculpture and Design from St. Martin School of Arts, London, was an enthusiastic and motivated artist who decided to establish an art institution in Lahore and put the foundation stone of the ‘Department of Fine Art’ in the Punjab University after letting no stone unturned. She started, administrated and established that institution in early forties and opened the doors that let the whole generation of art students, especially of the new-born country Pakistan, to enter and establish as Zubeda Javed,
Colin David, Zulqarnain Heyder, Dr Khalid mehmood, Aslam Minhas and many others who, later became the torch bearers of academic future of art and design, both at NCA and PU.

“I miss her more than ever…”
A phrase uttered in Anna’s honour by her own daughter might have emotional aspect, but at the same time, as it was said on the eve of a book launching ceremony at NCA Auditorium, it forced the audience to think a little that why we were missing her thirteen years after her demise.

Moreover, the launched book, on Anna Molka’s life and work, under a very poetic and warm yellow title
“the Sun Blazes the Colours through my Window” by Marjouri Hussain
is only the second effort on Anna after a moderate account by Babar Ali.
The Research and Publication Center (RPC) of NCA has got full marks to set forth such an effort to memorize the founder of an art institution whom most of the modern generation students of art, are not familiar with.

The ceremony started by Dr Durre Sameen Ahmed, Director RPC, when she thanked the participants, introduced the book briefly and invited the principal of NCA Ms Nazish Atta Ulla who delivered the welcome address.
Next to the principal, was the ex-principal of the same institution, Salima Hashmi, who in a very reflective and story-telling manner shared the sweet memories of her childhood characterized mainly by two non-Asian women, her mother Alice Faiz and Anna Molka. The smiling Salima with jokes regarding Anna’s problems in understanding of Urdu language and mixing few words with each other made many to share that smile. She referred to Anna’s unclear concepts for a ‘Gadda’ (a matress) with ‘Gadha’ (a donkey); ultimately leading to funny expressions like “Put the donkey on the bed”.

Zarrar Heyder Babri, whose paper was also an account of personal memories, which revolved around few words that Anna introduced him to which cleared the consideration of life, in its true form.
“It is art that makes life worthwhile” Babri attributed this sentence as the essence of his efforts in attaining goals of life in the field of art.

Zara David, one of the two daughters Anna left behind her, was overwhelmed on this occasion of memorizing a great painter, because of the harsh realities and moments she would have seen her mother tackling all alone in an alienated country. She also put light on Anna’s love for art as she always considered Fine Art Department as her first baby while the daughters came at second. Zara, with all the emotions vivid on her face, also talked about the first book of poetry by her mother with fifty-two poems.

Zubeda Javed, Ex-chairperson of Fine Art Department Punjab University recalled the strict but concerned attitude of Anna that was not easily to bear for the students in common, but was actually an expression of a teacher’s deep concern towards the future of her students.

Last was the author of the book, Marjouri Hussain, a well renowned art critic and historian. She in a precise way quoted few words from Anna’s later part of life when she was not well and even then, was more concerned about her work rather than her health. Marjouri also referred to Anna’s dissatisfaction over the non-cooperative, collective attitude of Pakistani nation towards any artist, which Marjouri put in quotes as “bad attitude”.

With this the ceremony was over and there was opening of an exhibition of Anna Molka’s original paintings, sculptures and slide show of non-available work.

No doubt the Research and Publication Center of NCA is doing great job by publishing seriously researched and written accounts on Pakistani arts and artists. This was the 14th book in general and third in the series of Pakistani or South Asian maestros in art and craft. But the number of participants who attended the ceremony was as poor as thirty four which was unbelievable as taking just the faculty under consideration could make a number more than one hundred at NCA and simply multiply by two in terms of College of Arts and Design Punjab University for which, Anna devoted her whole life.
She used to say,
“The beauty of life is in contrast”

But I think that contrast should only be within the frame and with reference to colors, not in attitudes!