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A stroll through the PAF museum: When a soldier takes up brushes, art happens

Updated Sep 08, 2018 08:51am

Soldiering is considered a dangerous, disciplined, rigid and tough line of work; those becoming a part of it are moulded accordingly through rigorous training. However, it’s refreshing to see when someone breaks away from the obvious every now and then and gets acknowledged for doing something creative.

Retired Group Captain Syed Masood Akhtar Hussaini is one such fellow, who is recognised as being an ace aviation artist with more than 350 paintings depicting the history of Pakistan Air Force to his name.

Hussaini, the recipient of Tamgha-e-Bisalat and Pride of Performance award, has been preserving PAF history through paintings for the past three decades. He is also the member of American Society of Aviation Artists.

Describing his paintings, the celebrated aviation artist said he has been making paintings for the air force focusing on the historical happenings over the course of country’s eventful military history.

Last month, an exhibition was organised at PAF Museum in Karachi to showcase the paintings made by Hussaini. The exhibition had 300 paintings and 100 pencil sketches on display.

In his paintings, Hussaini has classified the history of Pakistan Air Force into five different phases. These phases include post-independence era, the wars of ’65 and ’71, the aerobatic heroics of PAF, the role of PAF in other countries, and the latest aviation.

"Aviation art is very necessary to preserve the aerial combat"

Hussaini admits that being a painter and a pilot are two entirely different domains, but asserts that painting is the only way to preserve an aerial combat.

During aerial warfare no one is there to record or film it, no media can cover a battle when it is happening, Hussaini said.

Though cameras have reached everywhere but still during combat it’s only the pilot who is seeing the actual incident, he said. “Aviation art is very necessary to preserve the aerial combat.”


Israeli aircraft shot by Pakistani pilot


Hussaini narrated the story of an incident when a Pakistani pilot had shot down an Israeli plane in Syria, as a Muslim country had sought help and Pakistani pilots responded positively.

An Israeli fighter aircraft Miraj-IIICJ flown by Captain M Lutz was shot down by Fl Lt Sattar Alvi over Golan Heights in Syria on April 26, 1974.

Subsequently, the flight uniform of the Israeli pilot was presented to Fl Lt Sattar Alvi by Syrian Air Force commander as a “War Trophy” and bears testimony to the outstanding professionalism, valour and bravery of PAF air warriors. The uniform of Israeli pilot has been put on display at the PAF Museum.

Fl Lt Sattar Alvi was presented the flight uniform of the Israeli pilot as a “War Trophy”


Painter vs Soldier


Video: Hussain Afzal — Editing: Kamran Nafees

Talking about his paintings, Hussaini said that you can chart out the entire history of Pakistan Air Force through his drawings since he has covered all major events. “I have specifically highlighted the foreign missions taken up by PAF,” he said.

In developed countries, there are art societies which provide training to budding artists and encourage them to take up aviation art so that they can preserve their aviation history.

He cited the example of Great Britain, saying it had preserved the major events from World War I to World War II. They have Guild of Aviation Artists, which is recognised throughout the world as the premier society for the promotion of aviation art, said Hussaini. “Frank Wootton was their pioneer aviation artist who died a decade ago.”

Hussaini also praised the work of Keith Ferris, who is the founder of American Society of Aviation Artists.

You can chart out the entire history of Pakistan Air Force through my paintings, says Hussaini

The celebrated Pakistani aviation artist expressed confident that the future generations in the country will seriously pursue this form of art.


— Photography by Tauseef Razi Mallick and Waqar Muhammad Khan