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.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia express satisfaction over progress on oil sector projects

Updated 42 min 1 sec ago

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia express satisfaction over progress on oil sector projects

  • Officials of the two countries exchange views on diplomatic and economic relations
  • The government invites Saudi business houses to explore Pakistan’s diverse investment potential

KARACHI: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday expressed satisfaction over the pace of work on mega oil refinery and other joint projects in the oil sector of the South Asian country.

Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki met with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar in Islamabad and discussed the bilateral relations between the two countries, according to a statement issued by the Petroleum Division.

“The Ambassador was upbeat on the current trajectory of the bilateral relationship between both the countries and described the relationship between both Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as ‘brotherly, fraternal and based on solid foundations,’” the statement said.

“This, the Ambassador said, is also reflected in the frequent high-level of exchanges at the leadership level,” the statement added.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement early last year to set up a $10 billion Aramco oil refinery project and a $1 billion petrochemical complex in Gwadar.

Both countries during the official visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed seven investment deals worth $21 billion that included an oil refinery, mineral development, two power plants, and food and agriculture projects.

Pakistan also invited Saudi business houses on Wednesday to explore the diverse investment potential of the country.

Babar shared with the ambassador aspects of the reform process being carried out in Pakistan’s energy sector. “Pakistan has recently emerged as a leading reformer in the World Bank Ease of Doing business rankings and countries are looking at it as a favorable investment destination,” he told the Saudi envoy.

The mega oil refinery with the capacity of around 300,000 BPD is expected to take five to six years for commissioning.

The project is also expected to save Pakistan’s $2-3 billion annually on the import of petroleum products and help the country establish its plastic industry with the operationalization of the petrochemical complex.

Pakistan’s petroleum group imports declined by 19.8 percent during the first half of the current fiscal year. The country has imported $6.14 billion worth of various petroleum products during July-December 2019 out of the total imports worth $23.23 billion, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

The Saudi oil refinery and petrochemical complex are expected to help Pakistan with the transfer of technology, skill enhancement, and human capital development. It is also likely to generate significant employment opportunities and strengthen allied economic sectors as well.