I was reading Dawn this morning trying to understand more about the NATO airstrikes that killed 26 Pakistani soldiers. I don't have more insight into that than you can find anywhere else, but I found a column that I wouldn't have read otherwise, and thought it might interest everyone as much as it did me:
Two events trigger this column. One is a visit to New York Metropolitan Museum that puts out a banner in red announcing the ‘Wonder of the Age: master painters of India 1100 -1900’, identifying Indian painters. The second is a personal lamentation after the visit. A loss of inheritance. I look with envy, parents of Indian origin proudly and patiently, explain to their American-born kids the Indian exhibit at the museum. Animation, energy and ethnic pride sucks up the air in the room.
A hundred years from now, I wonder what art will the Met exhibit from Pakistan. As I move in sullen silence with the throng viewing Indian miniature paintings, whose artists are mostly Muslims of the Mughal era, seething anger stirs within me. Ziaul Haq comes to mind. The man who forcibly made us forget our past, consciously replacing it with Kufic calligraphy. The beautiful images of art, culture and heritage of our ancestors were forever shunned. In Pakistan today, on display around homes, shops and public places is mass religiosity.
But soon I cheer up. Art in whatever form, shape, age and century can never die, I assure myself. It will always live, no matter if pillaged, ransacked, looted or ignored by zany extremists or timid governments. My mind plays tricks. From a happy state of hope and celebration, it relapses back to dark despair. Physically I am in New York but my thoughts are grounded thousands of miles away. While we may still have the Lahore, Peshawar, Taxila and Karachi museums, Lok Virsa and Islamabad’s PNCA and National Art Gallery, these institutions are dens of babudom. They lack the oomph, the mojo, the dynamism that is a sign of living, vibrant and progressive societies ...
Political issues aside, a question in art history, for anyone who might know the answer. Why were the Mughal painters unable to master perspective? There was certainly exposure to it, as this painting by William Schellinks suggests.