I had just finished with my MA exam and there was still lot to do. We, the students, were organizing our 2-year long work for final part of the examination, exhibition of work. My four years stay at the Fine Arts Department was nearing its end. Our training under Mrs. Anna Molka Ahmad had remained tough and challenging. She was an extremely committed teacher and administrator. The other teaching faculty comprising Mrs. Malick, Mrs. Mazhar, Mrs. (Dr) Anwar Afzal was a remarkable group of learned teachers. There was another teacher, a visiting teacher, Malik Shams saheb, the curator of the Lahore Museum. He used to teach us Oriental arts. He was a down to earth and very jovial personality. Among the helping staff we had a librarian Mr. Qayyum, a technical assistant whom we called Yaqub sahib, Malik Ashraf was another interesting character, he was office incharge and then two peons, one of them used to prepare canvases and prime them.
For a long time after its inception in pre-Partition days, the Fine Arts Department was admitting only female students. This practice continued for some years even after the Independence. In 1956 for the first time the admissions were opened to boys and the three students who joined it were Colin David, Aslam Minhas and Sufi Waqar Ahmad (son of late Sufi Tabassum, the famous poet). They were two years senior to me in the Department. Sufi Waqar after finishing his studies at the Fine Arts Department got a scholarship for further studies in the USA. He never returned. Aslam Minahs besides being a fine painter was an accomplished photographer. After achieving Masters in Fine Arts he laid the foundation of Fine Arts Department at the Government College, Lahore (now a university). Colin David was a tremendous painter and a fine jolly personality, often we two shared jokes. Colin excelled in portrait painting. Alas! Neither Aslam Minhas nor Colin David lives today. And Sufi Waqar turned out to be like an MIA (Missing in action).
The total population of the Fine Arts Department in early sixties was about 15 students (in both years of MA) and five or six teachers. He department comprised a small space on the ground floor and two studios above plus a small room as library. With this limited space and limited population everyone knew about everyone. When I started the second year of my MA, one fine morning we saw a new personality in the department not seen before in the department. It was a smart lady clad in shirt and trousers like a westerner. Wearing big glasses having a small bun at the back of her head and absolute confidence overall. Soon we learnt she was Naseem, Miss Naseem Hafiz Qazi, our new teacher. Her first impression was that she was a very strict and unfriendly kind of teacher. This impression very soon evaporated as we found her very kind, friendly and very soft.
It was a great day for me when one day she expressed her desire to paint my portrait. It was a matter of honour for me. Then she told me what I should wear because it was going to be a full portrait, not just the bust. She wanted me to wear a light bluish-grey shirt and blue jeans. Scarlet res socks and light-tan pointed shoes. I was made to sit on a small stool, back inclined against a desk with my right arm resting on the same desk. I used to sit for about two to three hours, intervals included. The sittings continued for about six weeks if I remember rightly. Finally a painting 122cm (48 in) by 90cm (35.4 in) came into being.
The portrait was painted on a piece of hardboard duly primed by a person who had become expert in the field of preparing canvases and hardboards for teachers as well as for students. Miss Qazi had a very peculiar technique of painting. She used oil-brushes and oil paints. Her brushes were flat of various widths but the edges were chamfered. The paints she applied was neither too thin nor too thick nor impasto. Often it was her brush and paint directly from the tube, no vehicle like turpentine or linseed oil was employed. It is for this reason that at places a viewer can see the impressions of brush hair in her strokes. I am particularly including a detail of her highlight stroke at my right knee. This clearly shows the impression of the bristles. Miss Qazi, interestingly, never put her signature on her paintings. After completion the portrait remained in the custody of Miss Qazi. After her death all her work went into the possession of her brother and he was very kind to give that portrait to my wife. My wife had worked as a faculty under Miss Qazi at the Lahore College for Women for a very long time. Today, this beautiful portrait gracefully hangs in the lounge of the house of my son and my daughter-in-law at 165-Jing Shan Villa, Sheku Nanshan, Shenzhen, China.
Miss Qazi was born at Wazirabad in 1928. She had her early education in Quetta at St. Christopher's School. She obtained her Intermediate and B.A. degree from Lahore College for women and joined the University department of the Fine Arts in 1945. She obtained her postgraduate diploma in Fine Arts in 1950. The same year she was appointed lecturer to teach art the Lady Maclagen Training College, Lahore. In1951 she went to Peshawar and taught at a school. She moved to Karachi in 1952 and was appointed Sketch Club instructress for the American Embassy. While in Karachi she participated in several art exhibitions and won awards. She was appointed lecturer in fine arts at the Government College for Women, Lyallpur (Faisalabad) in1954; In 1955 she joined Lahore College for Women for her M.A. in fine arts, she stood first in the exam securing first class first position for which she was awarded gold medal. She won a scholarship to study at La Escuela Royal de Bellas Arts de San Fumondo, Madrid, Spain 1957. On her return she joined Punjab University’s Fine Arts Deprtment and soon after painting my portrait she joined Lahore College for Women, Lahore where she became a professor and head of Fine Arts Department. She retired in1990 after instituting a gold medal for students of Fine arts of Lahore College for Women standing first in the M.A. exam. Thereafter she lead a peaceful life along with her mother residing in her personal home in Shadman, Lahore. She was a very devoted daughter and looked her ailing mother with matchless vigilance, love and absolute commitment. I often thought that if Miss Qazi’s mother died Miss Qazi will not survive long either. This actually happened. Her mother died in October or November of 1994 and a few months after her death she also passed away quietly and peacefully, without any ailment in January 1995 in Lahore at her Shadman house. May Allah bless the noble soul. A great chapter of a pioneer of Fine Arts in Pakistan came to an end.