KARACHI: Bashir Mirza was an iconic artist. It has been 12 years since he breathed his last, and his art has not lost any of its provocative appeal.
In 1997, on the eve of Pakistan’s golden jubilee celebrations, Bashir Mirza (or BM as he was fondly known) started to paint a mural on the campus of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. Those who were there at the time say BM was not well and yet used to come regularly to the campus and draw the mural. He tentatively titled it ‘The Last Train from Amritsar’ highlighting the 1947 mass migration and the subsequent journey that Pakistan embarked on. The striking work of art was put on display on Wednesday for students of the institute.
The mural is a 12-panel piece each of which is 8x5ft in size. According to the curator of the Indus Valley School gallery, chipboard was used in the mural and deterioration can be noticed in it. It has become a bit of a storage nightmare.
Looking at the big work of art makes the viewer realise how diligently the great artist worked on it and what message he was trying to convey. The Last Train from Amritsar is written in white over sky blue background and spans three panels. A burnt train can also be seen in the setting, indicating the volatility of the whole migration process. However, it does not end there. The artwork is a story told in a certain progression. Phrases written in the Urdu language depict the fact that the (Pakistani) dream has gone sour. Habib Jalib’s famous line ‘Main nahin manta’, along with the reference to Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem ‘Hum dekheinge’ are there symbolising that the journey has not ended. This can be vindicated from the prosaic, in-your-face sentence suggesting the nation has been divided into ethnic groups (Sindhi, Punjabi, etc) and it does not seem to take pride in being Pakistani.
The colours used in the mural are bold and vibrant. The profuse use of red and black is deliberate. The darkness and violence that has engulfed Pakistani society is evident. Having said that, the mural is also a celebration of sorts — a tribute to those who work hard to keep the country how its makers had envisaged it. The display will run for three days.