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A feast of Pakistani paintings in London

November 02, 2012

-Photo courtesy of TCF

A group of six friends, all in business – young, well educated and affluent – used to meet every weekend and talk of everything under the sun but the one subject that cropped up from time to time was that Pakistan was woefully short of educated people. One day, someone said “Enough is enough. Either we do something significant or stop complaining.” They all agreed and had a brainstorming session, at the end of which they decided to pool in money to open five schools for the poorest of the poor in areas of Karachi where there were no schools, private or government run. That was in 1995, when Rs 12.5 million was a big sum but the target was to be achieved in one year. They may have lacked in experience in the field of education but were amply equipped with professionalism and determination. This was how the NGO, The Citizens Foundation (normally referred to as TCF) came into being.

Today, 17 years later TCF runs 830 purpose-built schools in different parts of the country, providing employment to more than 5,000 female teachers, who are paid reasonably well and a good number of support staff such as drivers and peons. As many as 115,000 students, half of them female, study in co-education schools which have proper buildings and playgrounds. The fees are nominal and the cost of running the schools, thanks to inflation, is quite high. Donations come in from home and abroad.

A group of socially conscious people, who call themselves the Supporters of TCF, are involved in a number of fund-raising activities too. The one forthcoming event that will excite all art lovers is the four-day Exhibition of Contemporary Pakistani Art, will open on November 6 at Mica Gallery in London.

Painting by Ather Jamal.

Two ladies Shahla Shareef and Maliha Bhimjee, who have put their hearts and souls in the project, were able to collect the works of 40 artists. Some of them like Riffat Alvi, who also extended a helping hand in the project, and Samina Raza, gave as many as three of their prize art works. There was at least one artist who made a special painting for the exhibition. He answers to the name of Moeen Faruqi. Of the 40 artists, the one whose is the biggest name in the group is none other than the late Ismail Gulgee. His two calligraphic paintings – both displaying the word ‘Allah’, should be able to attract the most attention at the exhibition. They have been donated by a collector who prefers to remain anonymous.

Painting by Gulgee.

The treasure trove to be put up on display has a wide variety from impressionist work to pure abstract. Some employing exciting bright colours, while some are in brooding monochromes.

Painting by Wahab Jaffer.

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Asif Noorani is a Karachi-based journalist and author of Mehdi Hasan: the Man and His Music.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.