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. Dear
    Really good work
    see you around

  2. saima hussain says:

    wonderful art work where can I buy it????

  3. raza rumi says:

    Dear Tina and MQ
    Apologies for disappearing from the comments’s scene. Zebunnissa was an exceptionally gifted poet- scholar and the favourite daughter of Aurangzeb. Her pen-name was Makhfi (i.e. the hidden) and there is a full diwaan of Persian poetry in her name.

    However, due to the conventions of her times, she had to remain makhfi and she had to face the limits imposed by her father’s code of conduct. She fell out with her father in the 1680s as Aurangzeb suspected her of siding with a rebel brother. And she was jailed by Aurangzeb (her talented, favourite daughter, companion and advisor) and died during her imprisonment in 1702.
    She remained locked up for nearly 15 years. The lovely Chauburji gardens that she built for Mian Bai – her female companion – remained devoid of the patron.
    It is in Chauburji that one of her lovers was said to have died while hiding in a big cauldron. God knows if this tale is true or just another romantic myth.

    I will soon contribute a post on the forgotten Princess very soon
    regards, Raza

  4. MQ says:


    You haven’t answered Tina’s question. What is so tragic about Zebunnisa? I am also curious. Being a poet can’t be tragic in itself?

    And, by the way, according to some researchers in 1646, when the Chorburji garden was supposed to have been built, Zeb was only 7 years old. Waliullah Khan suggests an alternate princess, Jahanara Begum, the daughter of Shah Jehan as the patroness of the garden. (Lahore by F. S. Aijazuddin)

  5. Faisal Bashir says:

    Well amazing artist he is. Ofcourse, woodcut is difficult and he is the only one with the courage to try it. Well i dont agree that he is not known. People who love arts know him very well and have great regards for him. Artists specially in visual arts are not known in general. We had some greats which are not known and we have some living greats but none is known much. ironically the only ones which are a little known have some relation either with calligraphy (Sadqain- somehow people dont know his other work , Lahore museum has his caligraphy but not his other work) or some other things ( guljee- although known for calligraphy also but the crescent on Faisal Mosque is also a reason). But still people like Ahmed Pervaiz, Ali Imam, Shakir Ali, Askari Irani, Anna Molka Ahmed etc of the past and Ghulam Mustafa, Dr Ijaz Anwer, Mian Ijaz-ul- Hassan, Ustad Bashir, Mansoor Rahi, Sami-ur Rehman, Shahid Jalal, Shahid Sajjad are still not known. The reason is we never considered them important. We as a nation have false hero-worship. Most of are heroes are – similar in nature-WAR HEROES- Aziz Bhatti, Muhammad Bin Qasim- whose heroic deeds are really controversial. WE are not taught about people we should know. Nobody in our schools know even Salam or even if they know his name they dont know about his work and I bet not many of you know about Salim-uz- Zaman Siddiqui.We might know Toynbee but not Ibn-e Khaldoon. We might know Columbus but not Al bairooni or Ibn-e Batoota. We are taught Heroes are only made in war or films or games(But we still dont know Zia Mehmood).All i can say we are on a wrong path and we dont want to change it.

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