Tales Of Love

  • 16 Sep - 22 Sep, 2017
  • Marjorie Husain
  • Art

The mystique and beauty of the work of Hajra Mansur is a phenomenon that has cast its spell on audiences globally. Her themes are linked to the romance of a bygone age inspired by traditional schools of Mughal miniature art. By introducing experimental nuances into the work with contemporary media techniques, the artist creates a unique genre. The rhythmic flow of her brush strokes and decorative elements rendered in a transparent luminosity, hold a universal appeal.

Hajra graduated from the Lucknow Art College in 1964, and moved to Karachi with her sister the sculptor Rabia Zuberi, the sculptor. Finding no art school in the city at that time, the girls turned their home into an art school, Mina Academy. There, among the first students, were Lubna Agha and Nahid Raza, both of whom attended the art school after their public school classes.

Both Rabia and Hajra attended events at the Karachi Arts Council, meeting artists and making friends. One of the outstanding artists who had settled in Karachi at that time was Mansur Rahi – a fine inspirational artist and teacher. He joined the girls as Principal of the school and set about restructuring the syllabus.

In 1964, Karachi School of Art (KSA) was opened and named by Shakir Ali and prospered from the outset. The KSA was a school that turned out some of Karachi’s finest artists. Many of its graduates were called upon to become teachers at art schools in Karachi that subsequently opened. In 1968, Hajra and Mansur Rahi were married, and the former’s work began to attract attention in exhibitions held at the Pakistan American Cultural Centre, Karachi Arts Council, and the metropolitan’s newly established art galleries. She has painted continuously through changing times and experience.

Her life encompasses the foundation of an art school in Karachi, marriage, motherhood and changing venues, yet she remained true to her muse. From the beginning, she has been extremely popular both, in Pakistan and abroad. After their marriage Hajra and Mansur moved to Islamabad where they continued to teach and paint; each working in a separate studio, both producing work that was highly appreciated in art circles.

My personal experience came about at an art exhibition arranged in the UK by the Export Promotion Bureau. As Hajra’s work was hung, two young women who had entered argued as to who would acquire it, both wanted the painting, the subject – a beautiful bejewelled woman with a bird. Eventually, one person was fortunate, who promptly paid for the painting, and insisted on taking it home then and there.

Another unusual happening took place in Singapore where, at the large and impressive Singapore Art University, a programme of art in Pakistan had been arranged. It exhibited numerous slides of the work of Pakistani artists. When the programme had finished a young Mandarin-speaking student came on stage where the images had been shown and he mimed the pose of the artist’s painting. One realised at once that he was referring to Hajra’s art and on being presented with her slides, he went off happily hugging them and smiling. She has a universal appeal that is undeniable, and though art is boundless with many exciting developments; still the sheer pleasure of melting colours, graceful forms and echoes of bygone ages continue to weave their spell.

Married to one of the most powerful modern artist’s in the country, in their home in Islamabad, the two artist’s have separate spacious studios where each works from the morning hours. Hajra retains her singularity and Mansur Rahi declares he is soothed by the visual experience of his wife’s work, often breaking off his painting sessions to visit her studio. Both the distinguished artists are recipients of the Pride of Performance Award and continue to share their love of art. •