Bountiful heart from Karachi, artist Jimmy Engineer is here once
Jimmy Engineer, globally renowned Pakistani artist and humanist, is
now in Sri Lanka on a goodwill visit.
A peaceful campaigner and crusader for the disabled, mentally
handicapped, the impoverished and the oppressed in his country, Jimmy
Engineer's first visit here was eight years ago, in August 2004. He
stayed in the island for three weeks, playing host to more than 700
special children through his favourite ‘Fun Camp and Food’ events partly
funded by him with earnings from his paintings and partly by the Union
Bank of Pakistan.
Jimmy Engineer showing his artistic talents.
At these events, the children were sumptuously treated with good
food, entertained with song, music and participatory dance and games in
friendly surroundings at five leading hotels in Colombo, Kandy and in
several other suburban towns.
A unique artist, Jimmy has created his aesthetic vocabulary sourced
by his own inner vision. He says: ‘My inspiration was addressed by
nature. Sometimes I was motivated by children I saw in the streets, also
people who were suffering and those who had nothing in their lives.
Without inspiration, I could not paint’.
Among the numerous themes he has chosen for his paintings, nature in
its many forms and moods, architecture and calligraphy stand out besides
his unique painting series on partition of the sub-continent, also known
as Freedom Movement series and the gigantic mural based on the poet and
philosopher Muhammad Iqbal's epic poem The Javid Nama.
His many walks for humanitarian causes have taken him over the length
and breadth of his country in pursuit of diverse objectives mostly to
promote human rights and human dignity, enhancement of quality of life
and creation of an equitable civil society in Pakistan. He has led walks
against child labour, on cancer prevention, on mental health, on
eradicating leprosy and for promoting peace between Pakistan and India -
to mention only a few.
Jimmy's Freedom Movement painting series depict the mayhem, bloodshed
and the brutalities erupted with the partition of the sub continent in
1947 when Hindu refugees raced South to India and Muslims headed North
to the newly created state of Pakistan.
The paintings are the recreations of the images which had first
appeared as nightmares to him for years in his adolescence. In one of
these frightful dreams he saw himself as a victim of a train attack.
As the partitioning and the resultant violence had occurred years
before the artist was born, Engineer had asked a Sufi master to
interpret his dreams. (Followers of the inner mystical dimension of
Islam are known as Sufis.)
Moment of madness
His interpretation was that nature could be preparing him to paint
the episodes to educate the people that such things do happen, but they
should not happen again. When he was 19, Engineer began painting the
series that made his name in Pakistan.
The work is striking in its detail, with mostly muted colours. One
shows masses of refugees resting under a tree, another a caravan under
attack in what the artist describes as a moment of madness.
A smaller work shows a group fleeing a burning village. One of these
original paintings is in the National Gallery in Islamabad, and a print
of the work is displayed in Pakistan's Parliament.
A coffee table book on the work and life of the artist authored by
Marjorie Hussein, an eminent art writer/ critic of Pakistan was launched
among a large gathering of art savvies in Karachchi on January 27, this
year. The volume is titled ‘In Search of My Master’.