The birth centennial year of the great poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, revered in India and Pakistan, is being commemorated around the world in 2011. The great poet and his vision for peace, justice and humanity, received a particularly unique tribute in the form of the first ever Postcards to Faiz, and Faiz Art Prize, organised by Aman ki Asha, in collaboration with NuktaArt and the Progressive Writers Association.
The Faiz Art Prize competition involved 'postcards' (about the dimensions of an A4 sheet of paper), a size that enabled a large number of artists to participate and facilitate its exhibitions at different locations. The postcards were blank, with only the logos of the supporting groups printed on one side.
Participating artists were asked to write their message (related to Faiz and/or India-Pakistan peace) on the logo side and create an artwork on the other side. After being drawn or painted upon, the postcards symbolised the artist's dialogue with the poet's verse.
The idea was to engage a new generation of artists and give them an opportunity to interpret the message of peace, human endeavour and justice that underpins Faiz's poetry, in the context of their time.
Artists of South Asian origin from around the world participated in the competition.
The award was divided into two categories: the professional artists and student artists. These artists competed with some of the most distinguished names in the visual art of Pakistan, like Saeed Akhtar and Amin Gulgee among others.
Entries for the Faiz Art Prize were displayed at a week-long exhibition in Karachi at the Gallerie Sadequain (named for one of Pakistan's foremost artists, who painted his last mural on the ceiling there), Frere Hall, Karachi. The renowned architect Habib Fida Ali designed the exhibition space.
After the exhibition was inaugurated on Monday, Oct 3, the gallery was opened to the public. Special guided tours were organised for schoolchildren and schools invited at allocated times, and guided by a volunteer through the 150 postcards on display. Rumana Husain, one of the co-founders (along with Niilofur Farrukh, Amra Ali, and Seema Aftab) of Nukta Art Magazine which initiated the Faiz Art Prize, also gave gallery talks to the students and held discussions with them.
"Many of them had never been to this part of the city and were fascinated by not only the show, Sadequain's magnificent ceiling mural but also by the entire experience of coming to an art exhibition," she says.
Approximately 500 students and 50 teachers from 18 schools, and over 1000 other people visited the Faiz Art Prize exhibition during the course of the week. For many, this was a wonderful first-time introduction to the poet.
After the prize distribution for the awards, the works were sold at a 'silent auction' hosted by the well-known actor Rahat Kazmi. The money raised will go towards a sustainable re-building an ancient potters' village, Yarak, near Dera Ismail Khan destroyed by last year's floods.
The panel of eminent artists judging the entries included Naazish Ataullah, former principal National College of Arts (NCA), Mussarat Nahid Imam, director of the National Art Gallery, Islamabad, Saquib Hanif, art critic, Tariq Rangoonwala, chairman of Rangoonwala Trust, and Asif Farrukhi, literary critic.
"It was really a challenge to transform Faiz's verses into a visual medium," said Meher Afroz, the eminent printmaker and painter who was awarded the first prize in the artist's category. The second prize went to Rubi Chisti, a New York-based artist of Pakistani origin.
The student category awards were bagged by: Naureen Rashid (NCA), Uzair Amjad (NCA), Humaira Baloch (University of Sindh, Jamshoro), and Adnan Mairaj Malik (KU). The popular prize, chosen by the visitors to the exhibition of Postcards to Faiz, went to Sheema Khan and Zohra Tanveer of Punjab University.
The Faiz Art Prize was the 94th event celebrating Faiz's 100th birthday this year, noted Rahat Saeed, Deputy General Secretary of the Progressive Writers' Movement (PWA), speaking at the closing ceremony. As he commented, "People from Larkana to Quetta and Gilgit have been celebrating the great poet's birthday since February, which shows the reach and impact of Faiz as a writer and thinker."
Pakistan's leading sculptor Shahid Sajjad designed the award, based on a piece made by the internationally renowned scientist, Dr Salimuzzaman Siddiqui, a close friend of Faiz.
Salima Hashmi, daughter of the great poet and herself a well-known artist, educationist, and a former principal of the NCA, presented the award to recipients.
She said Faiz had had termed artists as "the direct descendants of magicians" because they "fought for the hopes and dreams of people that people could not find themselves, and they sometimes make their dreams come true".
There is a long way to go before the dream of rehabilitating Yarak, the potters' village, can be realised. In that sense, the Faiz Art Prize was not just an event, but part of a process that must continue, until the dream comes true.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
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