by - November 14, 2016

In more recent months, I have been fortunate to enjoy breakfast with Mr. Babar Ali at Naqsh, an art school and gallery for unconventional artists. Attached to the school is the gallery where the artwork is displayed. The interesting thing about Naqsh is the school itself, which reflects the foundations aims. Like many other institutions committed to education, service and learning, Naqsh too has been founded by Babar Ali in his ancestral home.

For a period, the grand Mubarak Haveli remained empty for a few years and then changed ownership. With the coming of the British, the Mubarak Haveli was taken over and handed over to Nawab Ali Raza Qizilbash. The Nawab, out of respect to the original owners, rebuilt the haveli and converted a major portion of the haveli into an Imam Bargah.

The diversity at the school is striking. With a monthly fee of PKR 1000, the school caters especially to the less privileged of Lahore and neighboring areas, as well as to non-traditional artists, who have no formal training in painting or art.

The story of the haveli begins with the three brothers by the name of Mir Bahadur Ali, Mir Nadir Ali and Mir Bahar Ali. When Bahadar Ali’s wife gave birth to a son, the ‘haveli’ was named Mubarak Haveli. The family branched off into two major components, the Fakir family (one of the oldest in Lahore) and the Syed family. The Fakir family built their own havelis near the Mubarak Haveli, one of which stands even today and is known as the Fakirkhana in Bazaar Hakeeman. The Syeds owned the properties from both sides of the right edge of Tehsil Bazaar right up to the entrance of Mubarak Haveli. While the Fakir family, because their influence in the Lahore Darbar remained in power,it was seen that the Syeds had to flee.

It was a few years, and owners later, that Syed Maratab Ali, who happened to be an ancestor of the original Syed ownersm decided to acquire the entire property of his mother’s family. His own wife’s name was also Mubarak Begum. Later on, Syed Maratab Ali’s son, Syed Babar Ali, bought this entire place, and built a School of Calligraphy, now Naqsh.

Naqsh was established in 2003, by Babar Ali, in the buildings attached to the Mubarik Haveli, which were the family’s ancestral home. The Mubarik Haveli, in fact, has been labelled as the oldest, and finest of havelis, just off Bazaar Hakeeman inside Bhati Gate.

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