LAHORE: The Lahore Museum has opened a new gallery having rare articles donated by known personalities from time to time.

Lahore Museum Director Ijaz Ahmad Minhas told Dawn that the General Gallery contained the objects which had been donated. All these objects, he said, had historical value and belonged to different regions and eras.

“The gallery primarily exhibited the objects of Chinese art, African art, Sikh Period and those associated with prominent personalities of India-Pakistan subcontinent. Later, keeping in view the interest of people and to display the objects in a more systematic and appealing way, the collection was categorised into four groups. The Chinese and Sikh collections are now displayed in new separate galleries while the objects of African art and other collections are exhibited in the present gallery.

“Most of the collections on display are donated by Maulana Hifzur Rahman. Others who donated collections were Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Col Rasheed, Abdul Rauf Khan and Mrs Mahmooda Jahangir,” he said.

The director said the general gallery collection included a large piece of Ghilaaf-i-Ka’ba, a pair of elephant tusk carved with animal figures, semi-precious stones (finished and unfinished), beautifully embossed 19th century’s Paandaan, metallic nut-cutters having different shapes in animals, birds and human figures, antimony pots in different designs and shapes, copper locks, opium pipes, African wooden masks, piece of Berlin Wall and commemorative porcelain plate manufactured on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee.

Elaborating on the background of the Berlin Wall piece, he said the wall was built by the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War to prevent its population from escaping Soviet-controlled East Berlin to West Berlin which was controlled by the major Western Allies. It divided the city of Berlin into two physically and ideologically contrasting zones.

He said: “Segments of the Berlin Wall still exist in modern Berlin, notably on display at the Topography of Terror museum, the Berlin Wall Memorial, and the East Side Gallery. Pieces and whole segments of the wall are also on display in museums all over the world and one of the parts is on display at the Lahore Museum.”

He said wood and ivory had always been the Media in which the African artists found their most perfect expression whether they be their ancestors’ images, magic, statues, masks, amulets, ritual instruments or objects of domestic use. As far as masks and statues are concerned, he said, their most outstanding characteristic is the intentional deformation to which, in comparison with its model in the real world, the image is submitted.

In African culture, the displayed wooden masks are very important and in the local language these masks are called KALAGAMA, meaning, “guardian” and were used both in initiation ceremonies and as a domestic protection for the member of the sect, who hung them up on the wall of their houses. These masks have their specific names and purposes, for example, the mask called “MASHABHOY” is worn by the chief and other dignitaries in memory of one of the clan heroes.

Without the additional information it is quite impossible to guess the meaning of the more stylised works.

The collection at the general gallery also include a bowl and silky handkerchief used by Gama Phelwan and a pocket diary associated with Queen Victoria, he said.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2022

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