Recently one had the great pleasure of welcoming two new books on artists to the fold, both yet to enter the market, they were written in fascinating detail by the children of the artists. One by Danish Rahi, the son of Mansur Rahi and Hajra Mansur, the second book by Anusha Shoro, the daughter Natasha Shoro.
It was a great pleasure to read the very well written books, and to learn more of the artists one admired. One hopes that both books will soon be available to inform and delight the public with the interesting information on the lives and work of these artists, and the beautiful paintings shown in the books.
Though one has been an admirer of Mansur Rahi and his work for many years, there was much one was not aware of and his son has understood that these facts should be known.
The book titled RAHI – The Cubist Legend of Asia: Life and Work of Mansoor Rahi, Danish has dedicated to: “ALL THE STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND EXPLORERS OF ARTS AROUND THE WORLD.”
The book relates fascinating tales of the early years of Mansur Rahi, how his art ability was recognized very early on, followed by his years at the Dhaka College of Arts, where his great mentor Zainul Abedin and Professor Emeritus Mohammad Kibria were in office.
Danish Rahi has included some delightful photographs of Rahi’s student days, and reproductions of his paintings of the Naga, Juma and Chakma tribes living in the forests of Chittagong. The author goes on to inform the reader of how Rahi, the prize winning, top ranking student of his art college, was selected after graduation for a solo exhibition of his work in West Pakistan in Karachi at the Karachi Arts Council.
The exhibition that took place in 1963, was much appreciated by the artists and art enthusiasts who visited the exhibition. It was time in Karachi when no gallery existed, and artists supported each other by attending each others shows. The media encouraged the artists, by writing up shows that took place. The exhibitions usually took place at the Arts Council or the Pakistan American Cultural Centre, but the Foreign Offices such as Goethe Institute and the British Council were also very active.
It was at this time Rahi began to take classes at the Arts Council, and he there met up with the two young sisters who had opened the Mina Academy in their home, Rabia and Hajra Zuberi, where one of the first students was Lubna Agha, followed by Nahid Raza. When the girls asked him to join up with them, Rahi agreed and stayed in Karachi instead of returning home as originally planned. With the eventual opening of Karachi School of Art in Karachi, very important artists’ emerged. Mansur courted Hajra, and with the permission of her parents, the couple married after three years of preparation.
Mansur Rahi contributed greatly to art in Karachi, as a splendid teacher and art enthusiast. He would spend holidays with his students painting outdoors, and gave Karachi its first art movement, that of the work done in water-colour. Under his Principalship, the Karachi School of Art produced some of the best artists in the country.
The author continues to relate on Rahi’s career, his exhibition in Japan, and after some years, how at the request of the Vice Chancellor of the Peshawar University, Rahi agreed to Head the Fine Arts Department of Peshawar University.
Danish Rahi writes with absorbing detail which is extremely interesting. One learns details of art throughout the country in his book, and we learn that Mansur Rahi had his heart set on Islamabad, due to amongst other reasons, its close proximity to the mountains. Rahi and Hajra with their two children moved to Islamabad in 1983. As time passed, Rahi took on numerous projects, and showed his work in joint and solo exhibitions throughout Europe. In 1987 Rahi celebrated his Silver Jubilee Show, and that year he received the prestigious Shakir Ali award. In 2008. Mansur Rahi was presented with the President’s Pride of Performance Award.
This is a book that makes an important contribution to one’s knowledge of the growth of art in the country and Mansur Rahi’s very important contribution, with photographs of the work, artists and places visited. The author has included very important chapters in the artist’s life and his times which lead the reader on a fascinating journey.