HM Naqvi in Dawn:
In Ways of Seeing, John Berger, the late, great, British art critic, posits that, “The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. In the Middle Ages when men believed in the physical existence of Hell, the sight of fire must have meant something different from what it means today… History always constitutes the relation between a present and its past.”
…In his opus, Image and Identity, the late, great, Pakistani art critic, Dr Akbar Naqvi, announces, “Pakistan’s history is older than its age… The thesis of this book is that Pakistan is inseparable from [the] heritage of Al-Hind, and without that it has no identity.” Although this might not be news to serious historians, in the ever-evolving exclusionary socio-political ecosystems of the subcontinent, the assertion was like a brick lobbed in the oft stagnant pond of popular discourse. This theme pervades Dr Naqvi’s oeuvre, from Shahid Sajjad’s Sculpture to Sadequain and the Culture of Enlightenment.
“The subcontinent was partitioned,” he writes elsewhere, “but its people continued to share myths, histories, cultures and a multifaceted civilisation.” Consequently, we in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are “joint custodians” of the discourse of the subcontinent. Dr Naqvi observes this shared ethos in the work of Abanindranath Tagore, who responded to late Mughal miniatures, Abdur Rehman Chughtai, who routinely rendered icons from Hindu mythopoetics, Syed Sadequain Naqvi, who distilled everything from tantric symbolism to Arabic calligraphy, and Ustad Allah Buksh. “Buksh’s art was the Indian face of European painting and accepted national art … [i]n this style, local romantic lore and mythological subjects were painted according to Euro-Indian conventions of Raj art schools.” Manifestly, we, demonyms of the subcontinent, “have several histories converging upon us.”
For Dr Naqvi, history is not good, bad, some sort of binary, or for that matter, linear: Picasso’s Cubism, derived from African masks, in turn influenced the likes of Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes or Zubeida Agha and Shakir Ali.
More here. (Note: Thanks to Professor Sadia Abbas)