Students from government schools put up a colourful display of creativity at Karachi's Khatoon-i-Pakistan Government School this Saturday afternoon.
On show was a set of student artworks as well as a Creatives’ Roundtable discussing “The Role of the Arts in Girls’ Education.”
The roundtable had creative thinkers from a variety of fields who discussed how to capitalise on the power of art to transform lives.
The exhibition featured a diverse set of student artworks from children enrolled in Classes 1 through 9, ranging from portraits, pointillism, marker art such as zentangle and optical illusion, experimental assignments in merging two animals into one, and much more.
One of the artworks that really stood out were a series of split portraits that were incredibly close to reality – visitors from fine artists and make-up artists to robotics experts and writers alike were stunned that they were made by students of Class 7.
Another artwork that caught the attention of the audience was an installation titled “Fly Free” – a lopsided arrangement of art room stools each painted with a beautiful story of its own.
The installation was one of the creations of the host school’s Art Club, which meets once a week and gives students the freedom to paint what they want. The club session runs in addition to a weekly art class for all students, where they learn a set of basic and advanced techniques, mediums as well as art history and major art movements.
The art programme was introduced to the schools by Zindagi Trust, which employs a subject lead to design a customised art curriculum as well as to train government teachers to teach art.
Hameeda Batool, the curator of the show and art teacher at Khatoon-i-Pakistan School, said she was pleasantly surprised to see so many parents wanting to meet the art teacher as they could see their child showing keen interest in the subject and wanted to learn what they could to do support their children.
" What else can a teacher ask for?" she exclaimed.
The Creatives’ Roundtable featured Tazeen Husain, head of communication design at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, advertising guru Faraz Maqsood Hamidi, make-up artist Natasha Khalid of Natasha Salon, and Anam Shakil Khan, a visual artist and curriculum designer who established the host school’s art programme and developed an art curriculum to be used by all government schools. The roundtable was moderated by architect and interior designer Zain Mustafa. It began with a presentation by Anam Shakil Khan on the remarkable journey of the school’s art programme from an empty room to where it stands today.
The thinkers shared ideas on the value of an art education, making art and art education more accessible, gender biases about and within the arts and, most importantly, the purpose of an art education.
The consensus, as make-up artist Natasha Khalid put it, was that "art teaches you from a very early age that nothing fits in a box." A recurring theme in the discussion as well as from some of the art educators visiting the show later was that art teaches children how to think in a new way and helps them learn how to solve problems creativel.
On the question of gender in art, Summaiya Jillani shared that in her experience of trying to get students together to go paint a mural or start a community art project, it's always the girls that come forward because of a burning passion to express themselves.
Anam Shakil added that in addition to the stereotype of art being just for girls, there were divisions within art about which field was more suited to them (e.g. textiles vs media).
The roundtable ended on a heartwarming note as one of the presenting student artist’s father addressed the parents in the audience and urged them to let their daughters "fly" and pursue whatever it is that interests them.
Other than parents, the show was well attended by college students, private school students, art enthusiasts, activists, and leaders in the government and industry and the larger community.
The art show was inaugurated by Corps Commander Karachi Lt. General Humayun Aziz. Karachi University Visual Studies department head Durriya Kazi, artist and educator Adeela Suleman, Education Secretary Qazi Shahid Pervez, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Ali Shah, British Deputy High Commissioner Ellin Burns, Actors Fahad Mustafa and Ahsan Khan, Sultan Allana Chairman HBL and Director AKFED, Ghias Khan of Engro and musician Bilal Maqsood were among some of the other notables who attended the event.
Zindagi Trust manages the two participating government schools - Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government School and SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School - and has transformed the infrastructure, enrolment, parental engagement and student development at the school.
Singer and Zindagi Trust Founder Shehzad Roy was at the exhibition, showing guests from government and the entertainment industry around: “It is so humbling to see these young girls create such beautiful and creative art,” said Roy.
“For me it reinforces the importance of art in schools - not only does it ignite creative thinking but also positively impacts one’s self esteem and teaches children how to express themselves.”
According to the trust, one of the goals of the art show was to advocate for art to be taught in all government schools. To this end, an advocacy brief for art education was presented by the trust to the Education Secretary on his visit to the school.
“This exhibition is a message from Zindagi Trust to policymakers and the larger public that shows what a government school can and should achieve. Our children’s talent talents are waiting to be found – they need the government’s support through making art an integral part of the curriculum,” said Zara Hasnain, Manager of Programs at the trust.