The recent inauguration of the Nigaah Art Awards at the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi is a welcome addition to the Pakistani art scene. In our 70-year history we had not seen a serious art award ceremony in Pakistan, resulting in a lack of recognition for the tremendous efforts artists, curators, critics and gallerists have put in during this time. This new initiative fills that gap and helps legitimise Pakistani art both nationally and internationally.
The ceremony that took place recently, brought to fruition a process mere months after the first jury meet. The editor and publisher of the Nigaah Art Magazine, Tauqeer Muhajir, inaugurated the event with a welcome address, stating that the awards were a tribute to every Pakistani artist for the last 70 years. He went on to say that one of the objectives of the awards was to put Pakistani art at the forefront internationally and showcase it to the world.
Hameed Haroon, the chairperson of the jury, also addressed the audience, commending the efforts of the jury in tackling a “not-so-easy award” and putting up something that was “credible and meaningful.” He said, “The awards were not about money. They were about recognition and I think that the jury has tried to reflect that sentiment in going for what is a super appraisal.” He said that these artists “need to be recognised as it would be unfair to have a scale that doesn’t include them as points of comparison.” It is true that such initiatives help provide a frame of reference for budding artists to gauge their own performance and set standards towards which they can strive.
The Nigaah Art Awards seek to recognise the efforts of Pakistani artists and to promote their art internationally
However, Haroon criticised the award categories, stating that there is a need for much clearer definitions and labels rather than loose terms that are marketable globally, so that artists working in new mediums and styles can be recognised for the complexity of their work. “We need to widen our horizons in a way that is meaningful for the future of art,” he said.
The event was attended by all the big names in the art community which included art patrons, art gallery owners, painters, sculptors, photographers and artists. The jurists who selected the winners were included Amra Ali, Adil Salahuddin, Marjorie Husain, R.M Naeem and Taimur Ahmed Suri, from the entries of works displayed in public domains from January 2016 till June 2017 in 13 categories, as well as four special prizes. The winners included Shakeel Siddiqui (still life painting), Muhammad Ali Talpur (abstract painting), Irfan Hassan (portrait painting), Adeel-uz-Zafar (drawing), Ghulam Muhammad (khatati/calligraphy), Arif Mahmood (photography), Aasim Akhter (art critic), Muhammad Zeeshan (curatorial work), and Huma Mulji (printmaking/digital prints). The Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Salima Hashmi and Marjorie Husain for their tremendous contributions to the documentation and promotion of Pakistani Art. The programme was interspersed with entertainment that celebrated a variety of art forms, including sitar and tabla performance by Shehroz Hussain and Wajahat Ali, Dastaan Goyee, an Urdu narrative by Fawwad Khan, and live painting by artist Farrukh Shahab which was later auctioned, and the proceeds of which will be used for providing scholarships to art students.
The awards are planned as an annual addition to the art calendar, acting as an important milestone for Pakistani art on its way to wider recognition and relevance in the international art scene.
The Nigaah Art Awards took place on August 26, 2017 at the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi
Published in Dawn, EOS, September 10th, 2017