Karachi School of Art is the realization of the idea which I conceived long back when I was about complete my graduation from Lucknow College of Art in India.
After graduation in Art my youngest sister and I migrated to Pakistan in 1963. We found the new place different and only with a small minority of people who understood the language and perspective of Art to its full. Only proper Art education could help out the situation to propagate the required sensibility. I decided to develop a very small centre of Art studies through which we could take start. My younger sister Hajra whom I always treated motherly stood by me in all efforts to materialize this idea of starting Art education that to all around us appeared alien. By the mid of 1964 we had completed our homework to start a small school with as little resource as we had but particularly with an accurate syllabus and strict discipline. Two years later Mansoor Rahi came in contact as he moved from Dhaka to Karachi after completing his graduation in Art. Consented with our ideology, he joined the newly started school with his strong academic background and great passion to teach. The trio, my younger sister, me and Rahi worked harder more than ever to make stronger the foundations of the newly started school, the only one in the province of Sindh. The mission continued with the full zest in the form of untiring long intense sessions of teaching, day and night. Realizing the shortage of resources, besides our all efforts it was nearly impossible to meet the financial necessities of the developing school until we decided to engage in commission works.
Meanwhile Hajra and Mansoor got married and Hajra had to devote an ample time to take care of her family at home. Their growing family demanded more finance. Schools little income proved to be failing to meet our monetary requirements. Rahi started exploring alternative means of income that took much of his time away but the strong structure of curricular activity already in practice helped him manage still the best academic progress although having a brief contact with the students. In-spite of his all labours when financial burden increased to an agonizing level by late 70’s, the young couple decided to move to up country, The beauty of the northern areas they admired since ever and regarded as the purest pleasure to recreate and refurbish creative spirit.
In the absence of Hajra and Rahi I felt alone and under greater responsibility to survive with the future of school. In those difficult days sometimes I felt week enough and thought to shut down the school, stop my mission for a while specially when facing financial brake down and short of faculty. We needed someone as brilliant as Rahi with same dedication along with young teachers.
I feel proud of one of my old student to support the system at those most crucial moments we ever faced. It was Abdul Hafeez who joined me accepting the challenge to help me bring school back to its previous momentum and keep it from shutting down. Abdul Hafeez had best academic skills in drawing and watercolour, gifted with fine creative vision and perseverance. He continued teaching for more than two years with his utmost dedication but without remuneration. After the momentum of studies was restored he joined Pakistan Television as a set designer and now known as one of the best furnishing designer and hold his own well reputed furnishing firm ARTIES.
KSA will remain ever thankful to Rahi and Hafeez for their historic contribution in this on-going mission of KSA.
By 1979, we were able to shift to our present building; the piece of land was acquired in early 70’s. It took my seven years to complete the first story of the building; it was a continuous struggle in which I stood all alone. Slowly and gradually construction continued and two stories were added to house the new departments of graphic Design, Textile Design and Computer graphics added under new curriculum and expended faculty.
I believed since ever that Karachi School of Art must stand as a model art school in terms of its educational and professional output as well as facilities.
The significance of Art and Designs education in general and particularly in perspective of cultural and industrial aspiration and ideals appear to be the most rarely realized fact in our society. The connection between Art & Design education and our identity and socioeconomic stability have been the concerns of least importance in past six decades. I believe that It should have been felt as a foremost responsibility of the state and industrialist, intellectuals and the people with the vision to look into the matter when for a long period of time no centre of Art and Design education existed in the city which had to be recognized as the most important city of south Asia, politically as well as geographically, the gateway to Pakistan, Karachi, the largest diverse ethnic community and industrially growing city of the country.
Until 1964, when Karachi School of Art was founded, the opportunities of Art education were available only in Lahore in entire West Pakistan. KSA was founded with multifaceted objectives and vision in future. Primarily to train young people to make career in the fields related to Art and Design with the basic believe that one’s intellect is rooted in one’s own social identity and environment, depending on borrowed cultural values and trends of imagery, aesthetic and critical evaluation would not lead us anywhere. We also believe that practice of art or any knowledge while restricted to any social class would make its credibility questionable.
Over the period of almost four decades, whist adhering to basic believes, KSA has brought profound changes about the perception and practice of art in Pakistan.
Till early 90’s Karachi School of Art has been a single leading source to provide thoughtful skilled individuals to convene the necessities of industrial fronts in the city and countrywide, such as advertising, textiles, packaging, product, television and print media, security design etc. Besides its vital industrial input, Karachi School of Art has accomplished a distinguished function in inculcating the taste in visual aesthetic and values in Painting, Sculpture, Print and Water Colour in Pakistan. At present most of the nationally celebrated artist like Lubna Agha, Zaheen Ahmed, Mashkoor Raza, Ghalib Baqar, Riffat Alvi, Anwer Jafri Tariq, Jawaid, Najam Pirzada, Anjum Ayaz, Muhammad Kazim, Sumbul Nazeer, Athar Jamal, Danish Raza, Roohi Ahmed hold the educational background of KSA.
In conserving and propagating the tradition of Watercolour in Pakistan, KSA has contributed special efforts. Specific attention and dedication in this medium in regular curriculum has enabled the artists to use the medium of Watercolour as most communicative form of visual expression in most contemporary context.
At present almost dozen Art education centers are working in the city. A large proportion of artist teachers working in these center of Art educations and founders have completed their basic professional education at KSA that unmistakably indicates the vital input that KSA has given in the field of education and the obligation to these education, center owe to KSA. From these institutions a large number of graduates pass out every year to start their careers in growing relevant fields with an ample capacity of employment for many years to come. The other benevolent aspects of the presence and practice of these Art education centers are manifesting in constantly increasing awareness of Art and Design that has made it possible to initiate apprehension of the conceptual and essential issues such as protection of Art Works as National heritage, development of Museums on personal and nationwide level to collect, conserve and need of original research, cultural identity & integrity in the tradition of visual arts, moral obligations of gallery, gallery owners and art critics. In this thriving art activity now Karachi is turning in to a True Art Capital of Pakistan and Karachi School of Art is accomplishing its aims, progressively & steadily.