Nusrat Mangan (Present IG Prisons) believed that colours could harness the untamed characters in prison and started a ‘Fine Arts School’ in the central jail of Karachi in 2007.
Since its inception, numerous renowned artists have been visiting the school to contribute and share their knowledge with the inmates.
Sikandar Jogi, a resident of a village situated near historical Mohenjo Daro, Larkana, was hired as a full time teacher and has taught over 500 prisoners since the school's foundation.
“I was in need of a job and Nusrat Mangan was looking for an art teacher to teach the prisoners. Initially, I got terrified when I entered and saw prisoners with big beards and moustaches, but when one of those prisoners recited a couplet from Faiz’s poetry; I realized they were normal, (essentially) innocent and good people.”
In 2009, Mangan organized the first exposition in the history of Pakistan of the work done by prisoners in jail.
At that time, the French Council General Pierre Seillan readily bought a painting and hung it in his office throughout his tenure in Karachi. He noticed that only a handful of people visited the exhibition in prison due to security threats.
Seillan then offered to hold a two-day display at Alliance Francaise which proved to be successful and was followed by many other exhibitions at prestigious galleries.
Presently, various released students have pursued careers as artists. In fact, one student named Imran, who was accused of murder and spent seven years in jail, studied art for two years and was later granted a scholarship by an art institute in the UK on the basis of the métier he had learnt in jail.
The exhibition will run until March 28, 2013 at Alliance Francaise, Karachi, with the artists' works on sale at affordable prices. All proceeds from sales will go to the incarcerated artists. — Photos and Text by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com