Mahboob Ali’s Art

Posted on September 9, 2007
Filed Under >Raza Rumi, Art & Literature
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Raza Rumi

Mahboob Ali, is perhaps the only artist who has devoted his entire career to woodcut – an ancient technique of printmaking.A native Lahore-ite, and a graduate of the National College of Arts, he has not gained immense recognition at home and abroad. In his own words,

“this medium is very difficult, laborious and requires patience.”

However, Mahboob Ali has given new dimensions to his craft by increasing the number of colours used in printmaking to over 50 now. He carves and paints without the use of machines.

His labour of love has popularised this medium in Pakistan now. But his real forte, in my opinion is recording the rich heritage of Lahore’s walled city, otherwise a dying space of cultural history. Old Lahore lives within his work and interacts with modernity creating a dreamy ambience.

One of Mahboob‘s art piece is on the Government College. A renowned institution that produced great men of letters. I had a chance there to study there albeit briefly. Its Gothic and Indian lines are a curious blend. And one of the woodcut images sent by Mahboob Ali captures a lovely view.

Mahboob says:

“I have made the culture heritage of Lahore, as exemplified in its gates and streets, my theme. An attempt has been made to capture the dramatic effects of changing light which reflect both hope and despair at different times.”

Perhaps he best describes the impact of the Lahore moods:

“The architecture, street scenes and the dramatic effect of changing light are constant source of inspiration for me? maintaining dramatic effects of light and style associated with my previous work.”

Of late he has started dabbling in spiritual themes – mostly calligraphy.

Old Lahore is a neglected tale of destruction of history and architecture. Unfettered “development” is changing its character and there are few who protest about it. Unlike several historical cities that one has visited, this particular part of Lahore – centuries old and mythical in its layout and design will soon be gone. Or maybe not?

Mahboob also uses pastels to create some beautiful imaged. Here are a few that I loved. First the Kim’s gun – The origins of Kim are interesting. A work of fiction by the nineteenth century English writer Rudyard Kipling, the novel Kim is set against the backdrop of the Great Game, the political conflict between Russia and Britain in Central Asia during much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Rudyard Kipling‘s father John Lockwood Kipling was the curator of the Lahore Museum; and the ‘Kim’s gun Zamzamma’ in front of the Lahore Museum is called the same as Kim’s character sits on top of this gun in the novel when talking to another odd character – the Tibetan Lama in the novel. A strange mix of fact and fiction, indeed.

And finally this sad representation of Chauburji – a Mughal monument built by Princess Zebunnissa – another amazing tragic character from Mughal History. The decline is evident but the sky sings nevertheless.

Artist, Mahboob can be contacted via email:

17 responses to “Mahboob Ali’s Art”

  1. GSR says:

    Mahboob’s work has made me so nostalgic-reminiscing my childhood visits to shsh alami to meet paternal relatives. Aaah- His work is exquisite! Thanks for sharing it ehre with us.

  2. Raza Rumi says:

    Owais and Ice-cube: many thanks for the appreciation and more importantly I am happy that Mahboob Ali’ work will be viewed by thousands of readers here.

    Alvi Saheb: you are extremely kind – this is my question too – why are people in South Asia (not just Pakistan) so insensitive about heritage. If you visit Lahore, Delhi and Dhaka – you will witness an identical pattern – of undermining our past.

    Yes the Chauburji was restored on the orders of the Mian Nawaz Sharif and for some years it was slightly better maintained (some restoration also took place). But since last 5-6 years, it is again in a state of utter neglect constantly under attack by awful pollution and vandalising vendors…

    @#$%$y hell!

  3. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:


    Your every new post outdoes the previous. Thank you for introducing Mahboob Ali and his romantic art. How true you say, “recording the rich heritage of Lahore?s walled city, otherwise a dying space of cultural history”.

    Why our people are so insensitive about the destruction of our national heritage?

    I would love to have his carving of my old Alma Mater. One bright note though; the old Mughal era ‘Cho-Burg’ (four-towers) pavilion has been restored minus the formal gardens. Now it is a traffic round about with pavilion occupying the center.

  4. iceCube says:

    This is brilliant… I’m left speechless.

    I find the work has a dreamy quality to it… perhaps its because of the way I imagine life in the inner city to be like.

  5. Owais Mughal says:

    Nice post Raza. Looking at Mahboob’s work one thing is very clear that he has elaborated details very well. I like the way Lahore skies have been shown strewn with kites of all sizes.

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