One of the greatest highs one can get is to meet young, raw talent burning with a passion tolearn, experiment, express, grow and make a change. The light in their eyes can brighten up a gloomy day. Meeting Farhan is such an experience.

Farhan is an NCA graduate in Fine Arts and has pursued a career in miniature painting. “My father was opposed to the idea of me going to National College of Arts, despite it being my brother’s University and my father himself being a professional calligrapher from the walled city.” Farhan told me with a smile.“He said artists do not have a future in our country. I insisted and finally managed to pursue my dream in 2014.”

Farhan recently exhibited some of his work at the Taseer Gallery in Lahore last week called UNREAL.

Farhan feels deeply about the social and economic divide Pakistan has in terms of our education system. He thinks it is making us drift away from our identity, and get lost in the process. He has had the pleasure to work with public school children and he feels that they are oozing with talent and creativity but lack the resources and direction.

“Culture is a powerful human tool for survival but it is a fragile phenomenon. I think culture constantly changes, and can be easily lost because it exists only in our minds. I call this cultural slavery.”

The miniature paintings transportels one to PTV transmission of the 80s and the 10 minute cartoon slot children used to look forward to all day. Donald Duck, Popeye the Sailor man, Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Melmen, Wood Pecker and Aladdin. All with a twist of Farhan’s imagination, which are inspired by the very popular puppets of Uncle Sargam, Maasi Museebtay and the very loud Raula.

One can see what goes on in Farhan’s mind when we look at his work. “When working on my thesis, I found out how when war affected, traumatisedchildren were presented with stuffed toys, many of them tore them up like they had seen their families being torn apart. This affected me deeply.  I used to make stuffed toys myself. I used to tear photographs to fill up the toys, stitch them and later tear them to see how their body language changes. This made me empathise with those children at some level”.

Farhan feels that our media today is glorifying everything and taking our children away from their roots and customs, which are colourful, rich and glorious. He started making original stuffed toys, but later fused them with the popular ones. This he realized when he worked with a group of private school children and realized they can relate to the “famous’ cartoon characters much more than the originals. 

Farhan talks about the walled city very fondly, particularly the Gawal Mandi, where he grew up. He recalls his father narrating stories of partition. Of the time when Quaid-e-Azam made a speech in front of Khazana Gate high school. How his father’s eyes welled up when he had the honour of shaking hands with the great man. Farhan believes that exposure and education is necessary, but forgetting our roots especially our language, in the process is unfair to our country and its heritage.

Farhan has now started using Ajrak and Kashmiri embroidery as an inspiration and plans to do solo show in a year’s time. This time he plans place the real toys with his paintings.

He wants to continue to spread the message of equality and taking pride in our own identity, language and culture. He has experienced the divide personally and has decided to raise his voice against it.

By doing what he does best: paint.