ISLAMABAD: An art and cultural gala featuring the work of 10 senior and upcoming Pakistani artists inspired by Brazilian and Portuguese tile art was held at the Nomad Art Gallery and Craft Centre this weekend.

The Brazilian and Portuguese ambassadors, Claudio Lins and Joao Paulo Sabido, and Shah Jamal from the Foreign Office praised the idea of combining art from both countries with Pakistani ‘kashigari’.

They also asked Pakistani artists to visit their countries and witness the exuberant colours, styles and patterns of tiles used in churches, museums and heritage buildings inspired by Muslim art and the Ming Dynasty in China.

“We are indebted to Portugal for popularising the tiles in Brazil,” said Ambassador Lins.

Tile art came to Portugal in the 16th century, and made a lasting impact on its cultural heritage. Azulejo is a Spanish and Portuguese art of painting tin-glazed ceramic tiles that is found on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, ordinary houses, schools, and nowadays, restaurants, bars and even railways or subway stations.

They were not only an art form, but also had function as temperature control in homes, explained Luis Palmeira, a Portuguese citizen working in the capital.

Nomad Director Nageen Hyat in her brief remarks introduced the artists, and said the basic concept behind the event was to highlight similarities between Pakistani kashikari and Brazilian and Portuguese tile art.

Senior artists Ahmed Habib, Zia Zaidi and Riffat Khattak, as well as upcoming artist Ayesha Hassan, have used different patterns, geometrical figures such as triangles, pentagons and hexagons, and leaves and flowers inspired by the ‘kashi’ art of Hala in Sindh, used on shrines and mosques, with Azulejo.

The work of two self-taught brothers from Bari Imam, Ibrar Hussaain and Jazib Ali, has also been exhibited.

“As an artist, I believe in universal values and the importance of art in bringing people and different cultures closer,” Mr Habib said

“Art from Europe or Latin America or any other country is not alien to me. All artists express the same feelings as well as portray the agonies of the downtrodden people and highlight the common heritage of the world in different forms,” he added.

Mahvish Noman praised the Portuguese government for giving importance to its heritage and culture by displaying the tiles and motifs in museums, churches, underground metro stations and residential buildings in Lisbon and other cities.

Inspired by Azulejo art, she painted ‘Ishq-i-Portugal’ in acrylic and soot on canvas, using shades of blue and orange that are very dominant in the art from both countries.

“The emphasis of this painting is the handle of the pot -- represented by two sardine fishes in love, as a symbol of love of wives of the sailors who longed for their husbands. The blue represents the ocean and orange the sacrifices the sailors rendered in war,” she said.

She added that the Urdu calligraphy in the painting represents Pakistan, while the shape of the pot represents Portugal. The piece references the work of artist Maria Keil in Lisbon’s underground metro.

Farah Mahmood, a miniature painter and associate professor at Comsats University, said this was a new experience. She has already participating in a collaborative painting workshop with artists on traditional Austrian art.

Two paintings by Hafsa Zahid were also exhibited, inspired by the famous Pampulha postcard of Mias Gerais as well as the Sao Francisco de Assis churches, while Emaan Raja’s work was inspired by Portuguese tiles and patterns displayed at the National Museum of Azulejo.

On Saturday, the first day of the exhibition, Ambassador Sabido recited selected poems by Fernando Pessoa, one of the greatest modern Portuguese poets, which were also translated into Urdu. Ahmed Habib also read his short story Bisaat, after which famous ghazals by Ghalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz were performed by a musician, Sarah.

Documentaries on famous Brazilian and Portuguese artists, art and museums as well as Nageen Hyat’s documentary about the walled city of Lahore – An Ode to the Mystic City – Androon Lahore – were also screened.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2018