NWFP’s artists feel left out (February 21, 2007)

painting.jpgArtists complain of lack of art galleries; minister says govt doing enough for arts’ promotion

PESHAWAR: Gone are the days when people did not know about arts, as people around the world recognise the work of artists who express their emotions through colours and pictures.

However, the case is different in the Frontier province where artists complain of numerous problems they are facing, thanks to the NWFP government’s apathy towards the promotion of arts in the province.

The NWFP government has done enough for the construction of museums, but the province lacks art galleries that are necessary for the development of fine arts and the artists say they get nothing in exchange for their work, except some medals that do not sustain them.

The Fine Arts Department, University of Peshawar, teaches subjects in three major fields, i.e. Fine Arts that includes paintings, sculptures and drawings, Advertising Arts that includes advertisements and calendars’ designing and the Textile Arts that includes clothes’ designing etc.

Fine Arts Department Assistant Professor Saeed Ullah Khan told Daily Times that in NWFP, there was only one art gallery called Abaseen Arts Council, “that is not sufficient for the requirements of the modern age.”

To encourage art activities and artists, Saeed Ullah Khan said, the government should provide the artists with financial assistance, in addition to giving them other awards and medals.

“The Culture Department is not short of funds and it can provide artists with cash prizes,” he said, adding that the Fine Arts Department students had proved their mettle in all cities of Pakistan, but “The problem is that the artists mostly work in Islamabad or other parts of the country, as they cannot make the most of their talent in NWFP where they are not paid accordingly.”

Asked how to promote art in the province, the department’s assistant professor said the government should take an interest in the promotion of arts and that “If the government does not give artists cash rewards for their work, they will stop working, which will be a setback for the province’s art.”

Zahoor, an artist who did Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Fine Arts Department, said that the work of artists was a source of their livelihood, but they could not get enough in exchange for their work in NWFP.

“Well known artist Imtiaz Hussain, the former PTV chief designer who later worked as a visiting professor at the National College of Arts in Rawalpindi, died few months back but the government even failed to condole with his family,” said the 45-year-old artist, adding, “The government and non-government organisations should have arranged condolence references and seminars in memory of the late artist.”

Abdur Rehman, the director of Harfun Design Studio, said: “The artists’ future is not bright in NWFP.” He said that exhibitions were not arranged regularly and that the media were not playing their due role in promoting art activities in NWFP.

“Two major fine art exhibitions called SS Haider and Gul Jee awards are arranged annually, but the graphic arts is in a shambles in NWFP,” Abdur Rehman said and urged media to highlight arts’ news.

NWFP Minister for Culture, Museums and Sports Hussain Ahmad Kanju told Daily Times that there were two art councils, called Sarhad Arts Council under government sector and Abaseen Arts Council under private sector.

The minister dispelled the impression that artists were not being paid. “We provide the artists with medals and cash prizes, provided they offer their work and create impressive items,” Kanju added.

“We want to promote art and its appreciation in NWFP,” the minister said, adding that the NWFP government tried its best to sponsor talented artists. Muhammad Shahid

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