KARACHI: Ever since distinguished artist Zia Mohyeddin has been elevated to the post of president emeritus of the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa), which he basically founded and nurtured through his exceptional mentoring ability and immense knowledge of the subject, things are a trifle uncertain — at least to the outsider interested in the arts.

A job was advertised in newspapers for hiring a fresh chief executive (CE) of the institution with the condition that he/she should not be over 60 years of age; and until that happened, former information minister Senator Javed Jabbar was made acting president of the academy.

Many believe the age limit sounded a tad unrealistic because in the world of art, most practitioners who become capable of imparting what they have learnt to the generations that follow after they have gained a fair amount of experience. Mr Mohyeddin himself was a septuagenarian when he took charge of Napa. And everyone knows how it all worked out.

That said, to date the CE seat lies vacant. But interviews have been conducted by the members of Napa’s board of directors (BoD) for the job and certain candidates, it is believed, have been shortlisted.

Arshad Mahmud submits resignation

While all of this was unfolding, on Sept 6, the director-programmes at Napa and renowned music composer Arshad Mahmud tendered his resignation. It was a little disconcerting to know because he, along with Mr Mohyeddin, has been instrumental in turning Napa into a noteworthy cultural space of the country.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Mahmud said, “I gave my resignation on Sept 6. I requested them to keep me as visiting faculty.”

It is expected that the board will speak with Mr Mahmud about the issue before the notice period of a month ends.

This should not be construed as if Mr Mahmud is unhappy with the latest developments at the workplace. He thinks that Napa is still working as per its stated mission and believes that governance and delivery of programmes (the latter is largely undertaken by Mr Mohyeddin) are taking place the way they used to be.

Napa’s theatre department has a permanent faculty of seven members and the same is the number of visiting faculty. This year the number of students that have joined the academy is around 150, which keeping the Covid-19 situation in mind is pretty decent.

The music department, headed by Ustad Nafees Ahmad, on the other hand, has faculty strength of 13, five of which are permanent. The rest are working on a contractual basis. The number of students is 70.

Restructuring underway

BoD chairman Syed Jawaid Iqbal said, “We’re carrying out interviews. Pretty soon the board will come to a decision. Right now the restructuring process is on so that each person’s role on the premises could be defined. I think another two weeks and the new team will take over from, hopefully, Nov 1.”

When asked whether the old, rather original, setup is being shaken up to bring about change, Mr Iqbal emphatically replied it’s not the case and that Mr Mohyeddin “is at the helm of affairs”.

Well, on Sept 9, the president emeritus of Napa did direct and put up a play Khwabon Ke Musafir performed by the passing out class of 2021. It was a nice production and if it’s anything to go by, he is still going great guns. In fact, it’s a blessing that Mr Mohyeddin is still there to teach the finer points of performing arts to millennials and Generation Z.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2021

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