Right behind the grand Badshahi Mosque, inside Bhati Gate, one of the sixteen gates of the old, walled city of Lahore, sits the Naqsh School of Art. With a monthly fee of Rs. 200 (about $2), it caters to the underprivileged inner-city students of Lahore.
Naqsh was conceived as an Art School that would help preserve traditional arts, and where people who have dropped out of mainstream education can venture to acquire both traditional and modern artistic skills.
On my first trip to this school, I was blown away. By the talent of the students, of course. But also by the kinds of art I saw – there was an emphasis on preserving dying forms. I saw a lot of calligraphy (khataati), miniature painting, and mosaic-drawing (naqashi or the art of ‘arabesque’) from patterns that appeared in Islamic architecture. There was an overall focus on Mughal and Sufi art. As I saw these beautiful patterns, I thought to myself, wow, this would look beautiful on a handbag!
Five months later, for BLISS’ spring collection, our designer Maryam Tahir Khan is working with the Naqsh school students to create a line with a focus on Mughal and Sufi art. The designs are near to completion, and this Saturday, as I sat with Maryam and the 10 students who’re working with us, I couldn’t help but feel thrilled.
This will be amazing. I can’t wait!