Thursday, December 30, 2010


“Beyond Crisis: Re-Evaluating Pakistan” 

 Edited by Naveeda KhanJohns Hopkins University (USA)

The volume brings together contributions from scholars who engage critically with the categories of analysis typically used for thinking about Pakistan.

The ambition of this volume is not only to complicate standing representations of Pakistan, it is to take Pakistan out of the status of exceptionalism that its multiple crises have endowed upon it.  

This book inaugurates a new moment in Pakistan studies by asking how we are to understand the lives of ordinary people as they work to make their country inhabitale, even in the midst of anxious discourses about a crisis of nationalism and a failed state that is commonly found in academic writings and media reportage.


Venue: Hast-o-Neest Centre for Traditional Art and Culture (10, Commercial Building, at the corner of Anarkali and The Mall; former Croweaters Gallery near Tollington) Date:  Sunday 2nd January, 2011    Timing:  3:00 – 5:00 p.m                                                                                                                                                                                                                 


Khawar Khan Mumtaz: "Rethinking Crisis and Pakistan"
Naveeda Khan: “Pakistan: A State of Exception?”
Humeira Iqtidar: “Religious Nationalism, Islam and Islamism- Questioning the Lineage”

Q&A Session

Tea and Snacks 

For directions & details call:                                                                                                                                042-37-314-316, 03008493170, 03324359211

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ten Day Workshop on Miniature Painting

Last Date for Registration: 7th January, 2011

Course Leaders:
Murad Khan Mumtaz (NCA, BNU, Columbia University-USA)
Ustad Irfan Qureshi (NCA, P.U.)

To offer an introduction to the history and practice of miniature painting in the Sub-continent.

Key Features: 
  • Focus on siah qalam, the most basic technique in miniature.
  • Using siah qalam, students will explore border design and floral patterns, elements essential to understanding the iconographic and formal language of the tradition.
  • By the end of the workshop each student will have had the opportunity to develop a complete border design and have copied a sample from a traditional masterwork.
  • A workshop on paper preparation
  • Historical lectures  
  • A guided trip to the Lahore Museum to view masterworks from the collection.

Monday, the 10th of January  -  Friday, the 23rd of January, 2011
Monday through Friday (No classes on Saturday and Sunday)

4:00 to 7:00 pm

Hast-o-Neest Centre for Traditional Art & Culture, 10 Commercial Building, Mall Road, Lahore

Course fee: Rs.3000/-

For Registration:

Visit Hast-o-Neest or Contact: 042-37-314-316, 03324359211                              

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The First Day at the Islamic Architecture Course

The Mevlana School of Art at Hast-o-Neest Centre for Traditional Art & Culture initiated Module-1 of a three Module course titled "Introduction to Islamic Architecture "  on 27th November 2010.  

The course is held on weekends and is taught by Architect Taimoor Khan Mumtaz and Ustad Jafar Hussein.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lahori Nastaliq & the Inaugural Exhibition of Hast-o-Neest

"One of the most revealing artworks on display was an exercise page written by one of the greatest master calligraphers of Lahore from the early 20th century Ustad Abdul Majeed Parveen Raqam (1901-1946). The ustad was also the founder of the famous Lahori Nastaliq script.

The audience was treated to an exquisite array of rare calligraphic pieces going as far as the 14th century, on the second floor. These were on loan from the Faqir Khana Museum by the generosity of Faqir Syed Saif-ud-din. These masterworks provided the perfect backdrop for a series of short lectures that were given by renowned architect Kamil Khan Mumtaz, calligrapher and teacher Irfan Qureshi, and the caretaker of the Faqir Khana Museum Faqir Syed Saif-ud-din. Kamil Mumtaz inaugurated the lectures with his brief talk which focused on the importance of tradition in the modern world. He explained how sacred art offers us a direct connection with God, here and now. While most of our actions in life are performed on a horizontal, or worldly, plane, the sacred presents us with the vertical or the transcendent plane. Mian Iqbal Salahuddin also lent some masterpieces from his private collection by Ameer Khani the leading contemporary master calligrapher of Iran.  

Irfan Qureshi lecture started with a brief history of Islamic calligraphy and focused on the specifics of the Lahori Nastaliq script. Qari Khalid Usman recited a verse from the Quran and gave a brief yet enlightening insight into the tradition & art of Quranic recitation.

Faqir Saif-ud-din delighted and illumined the audience by giving a detailed history of the rare artworks from his collection. 

The most amazing thing about these lectures was that the audience could witness the masterpieces that were being discussed right in front of them, and not just through slides. This method of imparting knowledge is the most successful one as it shows how our entire culture was once steeped in the understanding of its own worldview, not just cerebrally but also experientially. 

The rare calligraphies on display included works by Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, Akbar’s great general and one of the Nau Ratan’s (“Nine Jewels”) of his court; Mir Imad al-Hassani (17th C) from Shah Abbas’s Safavid court, who was the third great Ustad in the line of those who established the Nastaliq script; Abdur- Rashid Dailimi, of Shah Jahan’s court, appointed as Dara Shiko’s teacher was a student of Mir Imad al-Hassani and so played a pivotal role in bringing Nastaliq to the Sub-continent. Works from the late Muhal and early British Period included those of Mir Ali Harvi, Imam Verdi, Mir Panja Kash and U. Rahim-ullah of Dehli who belonged to a family of Naqqashes (illuminators) and Calligraphers and whose decendant U.Shuja-ul-ullah taught at the NCA and laid the foundation of miniature painting at NCA. 

The lectures were followed by an hour long session of classical music performed by young singers Salman Amjad Amanat Ali and Ali Amjad Amanat Ali, grandsons of Late Ustad Amanat Ali Khan of the renowned Patiala Gharana of classical vocal music.  They sang rare bandishes (compositions) of their gharana. The raga selection was prompted by two original Pahari miniature paintings (18th and 19th C) on display, depicting Raga Basant."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Metal Items

Brass Coasters (Pair)
Muradabadi Marori Work
- Rs.3,900

Mughal Style Small Deg
(Ya Allah Calligraphy)

Old Copper Glass with Qallai coating
- Rs.5,200

Metal Lights

Copper Hanging light
with  Surah Kausar
Satined Copper Light
with Calligraphy

Wall/Ceiling Mounted Metal Light
with Calligraphy
Copper Hanging Light
with Durud Ibrahimi

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Online Registration for Courses November 2010

Hast-o-Neest Courses & Workshops on traditional art are conducted at Hast-o-Neest. The course modules include theory & practice. The courses may result in a student exhibition of work produced. Certificates of Participation will be awarded at the end of each Course/Workshop.

Sign up for the following courses starting 27th November 2010 at Hast-o-Neest:

  • Calligraphy                  3 Months  - Starts 1st Week December 2010 
    • Miniature Painting    6 Weeks    Starts 10th  January 2011 
  • Islamic Architecture  2 Weeks    Starts 27th November 2010 
Duration:                        2-3 days a week
Morning Session:    9:30–11:30am                             
Afternoon Session: 4:00–6:00pm
Evening Session:     6:00–8:00pm.

Registration Open.
Courses begin 27th November, 2010

To Register Click:
Registration Form
Fill & email to: 


 visit Hast-o-Neest 
For further Information call: 0332 435 9211.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Symbolism of Quranic Illumination

Lecture by Syed Tajammul Hussain

There is a common belief that Islamic art is aniconic and non figurative and that the imagery or iconography is prohibited. This erroneous belief is due to the confusion betweeen Sacred and Non Sacred or secular art.

Unlike the art of the West where the split between Sacred and Secular traditions took place in the 15th century AD with the commencement of the Renaissance, this split took place in the world of Islam within its very first century. If the art was secular not only do we find paintings of living beings but indeed statues some of which date from the Ummayad period. Throughout the Islamic world, across the geographical space and time, iconography has been alive and well be it Abbasid period paintings, Mamluk, Saffavid, Ottoman, Mughal or Qajar.

However where the Sacred Art of Islam is concerned and this applies to the Art of the Holy Quran and indeed the Mosque then the art is indeed aniconic, vegetal and abstract being also based on geometry.

The reasoning for this is that unlike Western Christian art which concerned itself with images of Christ and his life and where the Divine Concept is Word made Flesh, in Islamic Sacred art the Divine concept is Word made BOOK. Thus it can be seen why there is so much emphasis on the art of the book. Furthermore there are extensive references in the Quran on Reading and indeed Writing. For example the very first Revelation stated Iqra or Read and the Prophet was commanded to Read three times. Another of the earliest Revelations refers to Nun and the Pen by which they write ( Surah Nun ). So it is with such extensive references that the poeple of the Islamic world developed a civilisation which has never been equalled in the art of reading and writing.

Now generally the Western scholars give very detailed descriptions of the art of the Quran without explaining what is the underlying structure or perhaps language and alphabet of this visual language.

The lecture contrasted the prevalent attitudes and approach of this art with the views prevailing on the language of the Pharoahs which appeared at first sight to be Egyptian wall paintings. These were supposed to represent the life of Ancient Egypt. While this was partially true however until the discovery of the Rosetta stone, this view was misleading and could lead the onlooker to the wrong track.  With the help of Greek and Demotic which is also inscribed on the Rosetta stone it was possible to translate and indeed understand the so called Egyptian wall paintings which turned out to be a written language and herein refered as heiroglyphics.

Similarly the view that since Islamic art supposedly frowns on iconography hence it throws in a few flowers and geometry is reductionist in the extreme.

The lecturer suggested that this was a sacred visual language and which owed its origins and indeed early development to not one but two of the Khulafa i Rashideen, both of whom also were the revered sons in law of the Holy Prophet. For indeed with the evidence so far unearthed it is clear that the earliest Art of the
Quran started with the first son in law, the 3rd Khalifa Uthman bin Affan and then was developed by the 4th Khalifa Imam Ali. Subsquent developments took place in the ensuing centuries with the involvement of BOTH temporal and indeed spiritual authorities of the time. Hence any symbol that was frowned upon or considered heretic was destroyed. Over time rules and regulations developed for both the visual language and on the art of calligraphy.

The lecture discussed the development of the main symbols known as alphabets in this visual language of the Holy Quran. The earliest symbol used is the Shamsa which came to be used in the time of the 3rd Khalifa. This is the symbol of the radiant sun was used to indicate a certain number of verse counts and suggested that the Verses of the Quran were like radiant with light. Since radiance was being depicted, the symbol of the sun was thus used in the Quran in the very early period and still continues to be used even in these dark times for Verse endings.

The second symbol of alphabet which makes its appearance towards the end of the 4th Khalifa and continues to develop in the Ummayad times is the Palmette ( or tree of life ) which is used for Surah headings and always points outside the page. This pointing outwards indicates the heavenly origins of the
Quran and is also inspired by verses 24 and 25 of Surah Ibrahim which state as follows:

"A good word is like a good tree, its root firm, its branches in heaven....
The 3rd symbol is the hexagram which starts being used in the Ummayad times and is known in the Islamic tradition as the Khatemi Sulaiman. The downward movement of the triangle represents the Descent of the Revelation while the upward movement represents the Ascent of the Soul on Receiving the Divine Revelation. Thus this is the  archetype of the man as a mediator between the heavens and earth and is the sign of the Insaan Al Kamil or Perfect Man which by its very defination can ONLY be a Prophet.  The hexagram was inspired from the Roman mosaics found in Tunisia as demonstrated by the mosaics found in Roman ruins. It then passed to the Christian magical traditions during the crusader invasions from the Islamic world and very late in the 19th century passed on to the Zionist movement and only in the 2oth century came to symbolise the Star of David or Magen David. According to the Jewish enclyopedia it had no religious or cultural significance before this time in Judaism.

The 4th Symbol is the 8 pointed star which is also inspired from Roman tile mosaics. This came to represent the Divine Throne which is carried by 8 angels as specifically mentioned in Surah Haqqah. The diagram appears in the Ftuthat al Makiya of the great Sheikh Al Akbar and his books had a very wide influence so much so that it can be argued that the Taj Mahal is based on the symbol of the Throne and is an esoteric prayer in stone which states that may the soul of my wife be taken to YOUR Throne. This symbol of the 8 pointed star also appears extensively in the Quran manuscripts.

The next lot of alphabets of illumination to use the correct term come under the generic term arabesqeus. However, in order to understand these alphabets it would be necessary to read and indeed understand the Kashf ul Mahjoub by Syeddina Ali Uthman Hajweri for these are none other than spiritual states given a visual manifestation in the shape of floral designs.

Other alphabets are the :

The stylised lamp drawn with reference to the Verse 35 of Surah Nur.

yin yang symbol which represents the male and female principles and found in the Mamluk Quran manuscripts as well as the extensive usage of Lotus the very symbol of the reawakened soul.

Yet other symbols are the stylised double swastika which symbolises the
Quran and its archetype in Heaven being the Lahow al Mahfouz. ( the Guarded Tablet) and others like the cloud band motif which are from the Mongol world and originally also Chinese.

Finally the lecture dwelt on the colours which are always blue and gold being the colour of heavens and radiance. The usage of green is a modern construct and is inspired from the Prophet's Mosque whose dome was painted in green ONLY in 1813 AD.  Prior to this the Dome was always blue such is the evidence which goes back to the 15th century. Hence the notion that Green is the colour of Islam is a modern tradition and hence has nothing to do with historical facts.

The above material is copyrighted and subject of a forthcoming book by the author.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Damascus Mosque and Al-Walid 1

"The Sense of a Meeting Place to Which Everyone is Invited"

Documentary: Paradise Found: Islamic Architecture and Arts (part 2/10). Presented by Waldemar Januszcak for Channel 4, U.K. Januszczak is  a film maker of television arts documentaries and the Director of ZCZ Films. He is an Art Critic for The Guardian, Channel 4 and Sunday Times in the United Kingdom.