It was an evening that art lovers and practitioners will remember for a long time; some might not be able to forget it for as long as they appreciate art. And a few of them were teary-eyed, understandably so.
The venue was the Canvas Art Gallery which had organised on Tuesday a farewell tea party for eminent art critic Marjorie Husain who, after living in Pakistan for more than six decades, is leaving for England on Friday.
The moment news of Ms Husain’s leaving broke, it created a buzz in art circles. Her husband Hamid Husain passed away on March 21, which was extremely distressing. That made Tuesday’s event all the more important.
A big number of admirers of Ms Husain gathered at the gallery. They included renowned artists (Wahab Jaffer, Mehr Afroz, Amin Gulgee, Abdul Jabbar Gul, among others), critics and members of the media. Ms Husain, as graceful as ever, sat in one of the sofas placed in the upper left part of the gallery. She met everyone who had come to say goodbye with a smile on her face.
Half an hour into the event Sameera Raja, who runs the Canvas Gallery, requested Ms Husain to say a few words and if anyone else wanted to share their feelings, they too were welcome.
Ms Husain thanked the guests for coming to the farewell function. One of the guests, in a lighter vein, suggested that her name be put on the ECL [so that she couldn’t leave us]. Wahab Jaffer recalled the time when he first met her. He said he had known her for 50 years, and regretted that her invaluable services to Pakistani art hadn’t been acknowledged at the government level. To which Ms Husain responded that she had never sought that. Another guest remarked, “She’s the best of the British.”
Ms Raja spoke about the Artists’ Association of Punjab, highlighting the days when Ms Husain would visit the province, and the big number of followers that she has there. She extended her gratitude to the guests for showing up on Tuesday and to those “who are here in spirit”.
Ms Husain came to Pakistan in the 1960s after her marriage to Hamid Husain. In the beginning she was known as a brilliant artist. Subsequently, her reputation as a distinguished critic grew from strength to strength. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that she is one of the trailblazers when it comes to art criticism in Pakistan. She has authored several books on art and prolifically contributed essays and analyses to the country’s leading newspapers and magazines. She is also the founding member of Pakistan’s first art gallery established by Bashir Mirza.
She will be missed.
Originally published in Dawn, April 4th, 2019