Sadequain and the Culture of Enlightenment

Sadequain and the Culture of Enlightenment

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Akbar Naqvi
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Although the artist Sadequain was commonly regarded as a modernist, the author, who is well known as an art critic and connoisseur, suggests that his art was most modern when he was traditional, and strictly traditional when modern. This prolific and versatile artist was a khattat (calligrapher), book binder, master of drawing, painter, and poet. Thus, in himself, he recreated within one person the traditional guild of the Muslim artists and artisans of the Middle Ages, in which all of the above disciplines were in fact practised by different skilled persons. He thus revived the memory of this tradition in a modern visual vocabulary and syntax, which would appeal to the people and stir their memory of loss, at the same time reinvigorating their pride. In his poetry, too, Sadequain reverted to the traditional, painting the tragedy and ecstasy of love for a universal beloved, typical of the Urdu ghazal. Thus, he created cathartic works of great pleasure in each of the traditional disciplines of Muslim Art. Each of the essays in this book opens a window on Sadequain and his roshan khayali, or enlightened culture, the culture of the enlightened people of the northern subcontinent, in Dr Naqvi’s interpretation of modern art.