The Multani vase: A gift with a twist fit for an American President

Artist Hanifullah Khan puts final touches to a painting of US President Donald Trump, on a vase made with camel skin by artist Malik Abdur Rehman Naqqash in Multan. (Photo Courtesy - Hanifullah Khan)
Updated 23 July 2019

The Multani vase: A gift with a twist fit for an American President

  • Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken with him a camel skin vase with a unique painting for President Donald Trump
  • The age-old tradition of Naqqashi got a modern boost with the combined efforts of two Pakistani artists

LAHORE: As Prime Minister Imran Khan lands in Washington DC today, ahead of a Monday meeting at the White House with US President Donald Trump, one particularly unique gift for his host- a camel skin vase with an unlikely portrait- has arrived with his luggage. 
For centuries, the art form called ‘Naqqash,’ which primarily involves engraving on metal, has been practiced in South Asia. In the historic city of Multan, in Pakistan’s Punjab province, it has been mastered by an indigenous family.
Artisan Malik Muhammad Abdur Rehman Naqqash is keeping the family tradition alive. Already, his art, in the form of camel skin vases, has been presented by Pakistan’s government to several dignitaries visiting the country, including former first lady and politician Hillary Clinton, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the Emir of Qatar among others.

Hanifullah Khan holds the finished vase that was later gifted to Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia during his visit to Pakistan in February 2019. (Photo Courtesy - Hanifullah Khan)

“In the past, the government of Pakistan presented (to dignitaries) vases made of camel skin crafted by me or my family, but now they have a new idea,” Abdur Rehman said.
And the idea is the marriage of two art forms. The finished camel skin vases are now the joint handiwork of artists in two cities. Abdur Rehman prepares the traditional vase but leaves a central frame blank which is then painted onto by an Islamabad-based artist, Hanifullah Khan.
Khan is an expert in painting brightly colored portraits of dignitaries on the vases, which are then presented as gifts to the State’s important guests and hosts. For Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting at the White House tomorrow, a smiling President Trump has been painted on a camel skin vase against the background of the US flag. 

In this file photo, Abdur Rehman Naqqash presents a traditional vase, his own handiwork, to then first lady, Hillary Clinton, during her visit to Pakistan in 1995, with a young Chelsea Clinton in the background. (Photo Courtesy - Abdur Rehman Naqqash)
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“I learnt the art of making pictures on camel skin vases and now the government has presented those to several international personalities,” Hanifullah Khan told Arab News. 
Despite the importance of the finished piece, there appears to be no competitiveness between the two artists, and Hanifullah Khan gives full credit to his counterpart in Multan.
“The Donald Trump vase is made in Multan by another artist,” he said, adding that the southern Punjabi city was the “only place in the world,” that could provide the perfect weather conditions, temperature and ambience required to craft the unique, delicate art onto camel skin.
Abdur Rehman’s father, Malik Ashiq, experimented successfully with creative forms of Naqqashi, and eventually grabbed the attention of Pakistan’s government who acknowledged his talents with a prestigious civilian award- the ‘pride of performance.’
“The family has been in the trade of Naqqashi for the last 900 years. The art has been transferred to us from generation to generation,” Abdur Rehman Naqqash told Arab News, and said that extending the ancient art form to camel skin, was first invented by his forefathers.
Now the baton is in the hands of Abdur Rehman, who has earned acclaim in Pakistan and around the world for Naqqashi on different mediums from walls to glass and wood. For this Multani artisan, it now seems his latest creation might just adorn the hallways of one of the world’s most important places.

Islamabad administration invites beggars, trans people to join campaign to ban plastic

Updated 25 min 18 sec ago

Islamabad administration invites beggars, trans people to join campaign to ban plastic

  • Deputy commissioner proposes that marginalized groups sell paper and fabric bags instead of begging on the streets
  • Local government banned the manufacture, sale and distribution of plastic carrier bags last week

ISLAMABAD: The deputy commissioner of Pakistan’s federal capital has invited beggars and transgender persons to sell paper and fabric bags instead of seeking alms around the city, thus helping the Ministry of Climate Change implement its decision to ban plastic bags.
The Islamabad local government banned the manufacture, sale, and distribution of plastic carrier bags last week, on the country’s independence day, as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “Clean, Green Pakistan” campaign.
The new ban follows a three-month-long campaign to raise awareness about the environmental hazards of plastic bags, which can kill wildlife, block drainage systems, collect in waterways and cause other environmental and health problems.
“We have invited transgender people and beggars to sell paper bags – or any type of biodegradable shopping bags – in the city,” Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat, Islamabad’s deputy commissioner, told Arab News on Friday. “We will neither charge them rental or license fee nor impose a fine on them. They can also set up makeshift stalls after informing us at a location of their choice.”
Shafqaat is spearheading the awareness campaign against plastic bags in Islamabad and said involving beggars and transgender persons in the administration’s campaign against plastic would also help them earn a decent living.
“Our local administration’s new policy has widely been welcomed by the public,” the official said. “This is because our aim is also to help these marginalized segments and make them contribute toward a clean and green country.”
Pakistan is on its way to becoming the 128th country in the world that will end the use of non-biodegradable material made from various types of polymers that are harmful to the environment. It is ranked number seven on the index of climate change.
In an interview to Arab News just days before the ban came into effect, State Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said: “We want Pakistan to be plastic-free because it is a burden on our environment.”
She also added that Pakistan wanted to demonstrate to the world that it was “contributing to green initiatives.”