KARACHI, May 23: Noted artist Ali Imam was buried in the Defence Housing Society graveyard after Zuhar prayers on Thursday.

The 78-year-old artist died of a heart attack in the early hours of Thursday. He leaves a widow and two children.

Born in Narsingpur in Madhya Pradesh in 1924, Ali Imam had four brothers and one sister. He went to the Nagpur School of Art in the early 1940s. He studied at the Bombay-based J.J. School of Art for two years. He received his BA from the University of Punjab in 1949. He then went to St Martin School of Art (1959-60) in London and Hammer Smith College of Art (1962-63).

Artist Nahid Raza said she had been devastated by her uncle’s death. “With him went an entire century. He had a complete understanding of the grammar of painting. He also knew how to initiate a person into the fascinating world of art.”

She recalled that her first exhibition at Indus Gallery had been held way back in 1971. “Since then I have been having solo exhibitions at Indus Gallery almost every year.”

Talking to Dawn from Lahore, artist Salima Hashmi spoke about her childhood days when Ali Imam, then a member of the Communist Party of Pakistan, used to visit them while her father was in jail. “At that time people avoided us lest the wrath of the government might fall on them. But Ali Imam used to come to visit us in Lahore all the way from Rawalpindi.”

Ms Hashmi reminisced that Ali Imam used to exhibit the works of those artists who did not want to limit themselves to the art genres that had enjoyed state patronage. “When I came back from England, where I had gone to study, I realized that through Indus Gallery Ali Imam had taught people to appreciate art, enjoy art and, more importantly, buy art works.”

In his last days, she observed, Ali Imam had enjoyed the role of an “elder statesman of art”. After all, she added, he had had a great sense of humour.

Rabia Zuberi, principal of the Karachi School of Art, said she had met Ali Imam for the first time in 1967. “Lubna Agha was the first student of the Karachi School of Art whose works were exhibited by Ali Imam at Indus Gallery. He always promoted promising artists.”

Zohra Hussain, curator of Chawkandi Art, said one of the most praiseworthy contributions of Ali Imam was that he had almost single-handedly created art-appreciating clients. “When I set up my art gallery in 1985, I realized that a lot of visitors to my gallery had been trained at Indus Gallery.”

Artist Quddus Mirza spoke about Ali Imam’s lecture at Alhamra in Lahore at which the knowledgeable artist had spoken about the art of writing on art.

The Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, the Pakistan Art Institute and the Arts Council of Pakistan expressed sorrow over the death of Ali Imam. His Fateha and Qul will be held at Yasrab Imambargah, Defence Phase IV, on Saturday at 5pm.

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