By Shahid Husain
After holding seven solo exhibitions and taking part in over 100 group exhibitions, Ghalib Baqar, 53, happens to be one of the few notable water colour artists in Pakistan. His first solo exhibition was held at BM Gallery in 1983 and it was inaugurated by noted scientist, intellectual, and painter Dr. Salimuzaman Siddiqui. In 1991, Baqar had a solo exhibition at Indus Art Gallery managed by Pakistan's leading artist Ali Imam. Baqar has over 20 years of teaching experience at Balochistan Art Council, Karachi Grammar School, and the Visual Studies Department of the University of Karachi. He bagged first prize at Biennial International Competition of SAARC countries in 1988. Baqar was born in Karachi on April 14, 1956. He earned his diploma in Fine Arts in 1975 from Karachi School of Art and was the youngest diploma holder at that time. Baqar shifted to Quetta and joined Balochistan Art Council in 1978 as a teacher. However, he returned to Karachi in 1981.
In an interview with TNS Baqar believes art needs to be exchanged between Pakistan and India and the later should show some grace and openness in providing talented artists from Pakistan opportunities to hold exhibitions, enabling them not only to introduce themselves in a market of one billion people but also to strengthen peace in the subcontinent through the medium of art. Excerpts of the interview follow:
The News on Sunday: What role can exchange of art between Pakistan and India play in strengthening the peace process between the two countries?
Ghalib Baqar: Like India, Pakistan has produced some great artists such as Chughtai, Shakir Ali, Sadequain, Bashir Mirza, Jamil Naqsh, Ahmed Pervez, Zahin Ahmed, Maher Afroze, Nahid Ali, Mansoor Rahi, and sculptor Shahid Sajjad to name a few, but, sadly, people in India do not seem to be well acquainted about them. Today, when the Cold War has long ended and Europe has established a European Union that transcends borders, we need to learn and learn very quickly. We have to shun war and jingoism. We should know that we are inheritors of a great civilization. This can be done by going through an inward journey and allow exchange of art between Pakistan and India. I think exchange will pay rich dividends. Art is not nuclear science that can harm anybody or should remain hidden. Art is like fragrance that transcends borders.
TNS: We have started exchanging films. Why have we lagged behind in exchanging art?
GB: The ban on Indian films in Pakistan after the 1965 war, for instance, was a wrong decision. It was the beginning of the end of our film industry since there was no competition between the two countries. It is good that Pakistani viewers now have access to some good Indian films. But there is a need to expand cooperation between Pakistan and India in various fields. The decision-making should not remain confined to the governments. There is need to give a new boost to people-to-people contacts. For the last 62 years governments have been making decisions about war and peace and they have failed miserably to resolve issues. Now the common man in both the countries should be allowed to take decisions.
TNS: Do you agree that exchange of art between the two countries will also help in containing sectarianism and terrorism?
GB: Certainly. These negative trends have taken roots in India and Pakistan because we failed to magnify positive things around us, like Fine Arts, for instance. We allowed fundamentalists to play the nasty game and kept quiet. Now they are threatening the very social fabric of our societies. But the forces of progress and enlightenment never die. These positive forces go into hibernation when the atmosphere is not conducive. But the undercurrents are always there. And when the time is ripe we see new leaves. In India, unlike Pakistan, the communist and progressive forces are still powerful despite the dismemberment of Soviet Union and the socialist empire. They even influence governments. This is because progressive thought is rooted in the masses there. Similarly, Pakistan has lots of enlightened and progressive people. They have played a vital role in promoting peace between the two neighbours despite odds and can do so in future through exchange of ideas, films, art, and literature.