By Qareena Toor
I visited Frere Hall / bagh-i-Jinnah one of the many places where Sadequain’s murals live on, we went in and I lifted my head to gaze at the mural, it covered the entire ceiling of the hall, it took me a while to encompass the whole of it with my eyes and even longer to absorb parts of it, he titled it al-ard-o-wsamawat ( The Earth and the Heavens )
In an excerpt from Dawns Archives article we learn something profound about sadeqain:
“The end came slowly, interrupting his schedule and striking heavily at a source of inspiration for the lovers of art.
His anxiety to complete the greatest undertaking of his life – a mural on the theme of Man and his Universe – was over by 3.30 a.m. on Tuesday when the cruel hands of death snatched him from us.
The mural was to decorate the Bagh-i-Jinnah. He died toiling in the noble cause of art and man and hundreds of times painted himself in the picture of a martyr. Truly it may be said that he died a martyr in the cause of truth and beauty.”
Those last 6 months he lived in-residence at Frere hall painting tirelessly assisted only by his student Anwar, during his stay he would work for 12 hours every day and even continuously for 36 hours that’s not an ordinary thing it’s utterly remarkable.
The fact that the mural is never to be completed now by some other is also quite significant. It was left as is to honor him. Though sadly the measures to properly preserve the place are neglected by the government.
I went there accompanied by a friend, my friend also being an art enthusiast eagerly pointed out some of the depicted meanings in the mural and I did the same. This was the very first work of Sadequain that I saw in-person and I was in awe to say the least.
I noticed Sadequain incorporated ص ق ن in the middle of the mural which I thought depict his name that includes ص ق ن in صادِقین but I realized that it might be alluding to al-hurūf-ul-muqatta’at from Quran.
As I saw more of Sadequain’s work it made me understand something about art. Art is something that fills you in awe of it – it should be something like that I thought.
Mechanically in my mind I compared his striking work to the art pieces I’ve seen at a thesis exhibition recently , I thought well that was art and seeing it did move me and gave me joy that’s what art does but it should be awe-inspiring that one can easily sit down admiring it for a while infact countless artists from history and present are proof that art instills awe.
Maybe this intense opinion of what art is will lead me to my own grand work, my work that ‘yet survives’ like the mastery of the sculptor who carved Ozymandias (reference to the poem)
Sadequain Naqqash was an exceptional /painter/ poet/ individual/artist/ and a ‘holy sinner’ as the label said in Mohatta palace — also a place I visited the same day. He painted calligraphic works of Quranic ayats, Iqbal’s verses maybe that’s why holy? he painted nudity and intimacy maybe that’s why a sinner? nonetheless this title stayed with me as I looked on
I stood there in that huge though mostly empty hall imagining if he was alive rightnow standing close to us (me and my friend) and we could see him from the corner of our eyes he’s also looking up at the mural…
I imagine I would muster up courage to approach him, pointing at the mural, and saying: What do you see? I want to see it from your eyes. Can you explain this in your words to me? or something clingy like that I’ve bothered artists before like that ironically they were never bothered.
I thought about Sadequain and dwelled on the age old idea of immortality through arts I think it’s true when they say ‘art immortalizes you’
He died at the age of 57 in 1987, I’m thinking about him right now in 2023, though I never met him with no idea what his character or habits might be like, but i believe he worked constantly to share what he held inside him, doesn’t that even in the lowest degree of the word immortalize him? I recall him and hundred others too if not thousands or millions endearing his talent though he’s no longer alive to receive that love like many figures from history.
The more I chewed over the idea of immortality and arts, these lines came to my mind, I heard them in a lecture here I paraphrase “ But it’s all leveled by the sands of time whatever you do in this life nothing remains of it but a colossal wreck ( again hinting on Ozymandias) but if only you weren’t building for this world, only that will stand for you.” (Open to interpretation)