KARACHI, Dec 24: “They are scared of our culture, of our little girls, of our society. We are not scared of them. Please keep doing the good work that you’ve been doing,” said President Asif Ali Zardari during his brief speech while launching ‘Tale of the tile: the ceramic traditions of Pakistan’, a book co-authored by Abdul Hamid Akhund and Nasreen Askari at the Mohatta Palace Museum on Monday.

The president began his address going down memory lane. He said: “While coming here I was telling my MS about these streets. These are the streets that I used to bicycle around.”

He said his mother was a conservative woman and would not allow him to go out. But he would sneak out and ride his bicycle from Garden Road to places such as Clifton. Referencing from the book, he said that in a manner the book was ‘a tale of Karachi’.

Then the president switched to the current, pressing issue and said people found it difficult to accept what had crept into our society, especially among our youth. He remarked that they, alluding to extremist elements, did not like our culture, our values and did not like us talking about God.

“I see God everywhere, in everything that moves. Whereas they think God is theirs alone.” He termed it a mindset and iterated that he was determined to fight and win against them. He said they were scared of our culture, our little girls, but we were not scared of anything.

He urged Abdul Hamid Akhund, Nasreen Askari and Hameed Haroon to keep doing the good work that they were doing from the Mohatta Palace Museum platform.

The president said he had seen culture evolve and once he went to Central Asia with Benazir Bhutto where “I could see my culture there.”

The keynote address was delivered by noted architect Kamil Khan Mumtaz.

He lauded the effort of the authors of the book and called it an excellent example of modern art writing. He said the book had put the subject into historical context, examined the material and techniques involved in production of the tiles and taken delight in its aesthetic quality. He said it illustrated the relation between the art of ceramics, calligraphy, poetry and building.

Mr Mumtaz said the book spoke of the connection between idealist world views and craft and fleshed it out by talking about the criteria of utility and beauty in which the former was to do with quantity and the physical world whereas the latter with quality – quality of the divine. To elucidate his point of view, he told the audience about the kind of art used on Sufi shrines and concluded his speech by stressing the need for redefining development and what it meant to be human.

Dawn Media Group CEO Hameed Haroon said ‘Tale of the tile’ was a major contribution to art writing and touched on the history of Mohatta Palace Museum publishing important books.

He told the audience about a major exhibition of Rashid Rana’s works to be held at the museum soon. He said the president of Pakistan frequently inquired about the museum’s endeavours.

After that the book launching ceremony took place. Mr Akhund invited Adibul Hasan Rizvi to present the book to the president.

Earlier, welcoming the president, Nasreen Askari said the book came out of five years of delight and despair. It was a record of ceramic embellishments throughout Pakistan, the first of its kind. She added that the Mohatta Palace Museum was an institution of conservational display and scholarship.

Mr Akhund thanked the president for presiding over the event.

He said the book was a labour of love and quoted Rumi:

“This is the work of the heart, not the work of the mind.

The mind constricts, love unbinds.

The mind says, ‘Don’t let go or overflow.’

Love says, ‘Be free without formality’.”

The president was also presented with a painting made by Mansur Saleem, the artist who is unwell these days. The president promised to help him from his own pocket.PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Bakhtawar Bhutto also attended the event.

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