all old institutions, the National College of Arts, has a historical
tradition. Much of its present tone was set long ago when it was known
as the Mayo School of Arts. Gazetteers written about the city of Lahore
in 1915 describe the work being done at the school as one of the cultural
highlights of the urban center.
The Mayo School of Industrial Art was set up to commemorate Lord Mayo,
the British Viceroy to India, assassinated in 1872. A teacher of painting
and sculpture Lockwood Kipling, working then in Bombay in a Parsi
School, was appointed its first Principal parallel to his charge of
the Curator of the Lahore Museum.
The Museum and the School were conceived together. Funds were raised
through a special levy throughout the Punjab province on the occasion
of the Jubilee of the British Queen in 1887. The object was to provide
an institution containing a museum, a library and a number of lecture
rooms where instructional staff would teach indigenous crafts.
The Mayo School was intended to be a technical college in the fullness
of time. Lockwood Kipling the curator Principal allowed the functions
of the museum and the school to merge in a creative manner. Together
with his more illustrious son, Rudyard Kipling, he planned and arranged
the Museum in such a way that it reflected both the archeological
and the traditional crafts heritage of the Punjab.
The flooding of the Punjab market with British manufactures from Manchester
drove the local industry out of business by the turn of the century.
Popular taste was weaned from its cultural roots, which resulted directly
in the decline of art and craft. Nearly 40,000 workers in cotton and
900 weavers in Lahore were rendered jobless. Cotton printing being
done in the city and once prized in such far-off places as Switzerland
and Holland, was badly hit by the shoddy machine-made variants that
came in from Manchester. Cottage industry in woolen and silk doth
was virtually wiped out.
The Mayo School became a haven for representative professionals from
all the industries thus affected. European designs in building and
furniture and the rise of the furniture firms brought bad times for
the Punjabi carpenter reputed one of the cleverest in the world. The
vogue received by photography and printing produced a great demand
for lithographers and the school set up a process department for the
production of line, half tone and color blocks for illustrating purposes.
Kipling turned his attention to the School more exclusively when it
acquired its separate building in 1882 consisting of six rooms. Temporary
additions were made to it in 1881 to house an exhibition of the Punjab
Crafts. In 1891, these temporary structures were made permanent in
accordance with a design prepared by the Principal.
the school had proper workshops equipped with tools and machines.
In 1902 four large machine workshops and photolithographic studio
were already functioning. By 1911, nearly a lakh of rupees worth of
machinery and tools were being operated in the school for such diverse
crafts as jewellery, cotton-printing, book-binding, cabinet making,
light-metal work, carpentry and blacksmithy. By 1915, the work done
at the school was recognized all over India and also in England. The
principal works executed by its craftsmen were thus located:
plaster-work and interior in Barnes Court, Simla; Government House,
Lahore; Circuit House, designs for amphitheatre at the Delhi Burbar;
execution of decorative work including carpets and shamianas of gold
thread and repusse metal work and designs for the Law and Oriental
Colleges, Lahore; design and decorative work in plaster for the new
Railway Theatre, Lahore; a carved console table for Government House,
Lahore; Punjab carving for the Billiard Room of Bagshot Park, England
for the Duke of Connaught; an eight canon stalls for the Lefroy Memorial
in Lahore Cantonment’s Church.
1958, the school was upgraded by the then West Pakistan Government
into the National College of Arts. The craft and industry oriented
structure of the school, which had provided much-needed early nurturance
to such diverse occupations as carpentry, lacquer-work, blacksmithy,
goldsmithy, silversmithy, pottery, needlework, architectural draftsmanship,
sanitation, plumbing civil engineering and commercial art, was updated
and confined to three departments Fine Arts, Design and Architecture.
changed structure of the College allowed proper focus on Fine Arts.
The departments began to train new talent in modem and traditional
painting, graphic art and sculpture. The Department of Design began
to turn out professionals in Textile Design, Publicity Design, Product
Design and Ceramics. The rapidly growing demand in the building sector
for architects began to be met by the College, together with other
professional universities of the country.
1963, the Government recognized the College as a premier arts institution
in Pakistan, was taken away from the Department of Industries and
placed under the Education Department with its own Board of Governors.
The new policy in 1972 further recognized the achievements of the
college and planned its development into a center of Excellence in
the Visual Arts. A high-powered Board of Governors was constituted
to ensure a measure of autonomy under the Federal Ministry of Education.
to its distribution as the only arts institution in Pakistan, entrance
to it has become competitive. Around 450 students from all provinces
study in the College (out of which nearly 40 percent are girls) and
is taught by a teaching staff of 40.
There is a high rate of employment for its diploma-holders in a number
of important organizations in the country: Pakistan International
Airlines, Pakistan National Council of the Arts, University Grants
Commission, Security Printing Press of Pakistan, National Book Foundation,
and the Department of Films and publications. Apart from the various
urban development authorities, its graduates are absorbed in the private
sector by a large number of advertising agencies, architectural consultancies,
industrial and publishing houses.
Kipling’s preoccupation with indigenous art and his effort to
save its tradition from becoming polluted with a cheap imitation of
British Victorian fashions set the tone of the Mayo School and later,
of the college itself. Two great Pakistani painters, Abdur Rahman
Chughtai and Shakir Ali, both associated with the College, were a
kind of culmination of this inspiration. Chughtai represented the
revival and development of the Mughal tradition while Shakir Ali constituted
a link between the Pakistani sensibility and the world of international
Muhammad Sharif, once the miniature painter at the court of Maharaja
of Patiala, gave a firm foundation to the teaching of the dying art
of miniature. After him, Sheikh Shujaullah carried on the miniature
tradition, leaving behind at his death his pupils like Bashir Ahmad
who is today the prized representatives of the art.
influence of Abdur Rahman Chughtai, a scion of me family of Behzad,
took the Mughal art out of its narrow miniature framework and gave
it the dignity of modern dimension. He effectively transplanted to
canvases and to book illustration me lyricism of the Mughal and Pahari
Chughtai was difficult to emulate because of his persistence in traditional
subjects and highly stylized treatment, the modernism of Shakir Ali
gave rise to a whole generation of Pakistani painters, most of them
his pupils at the College and still employed as teachers there.
College specializes in production a certain kind of artistic sensibility,
which at once satisfies the creative demands of a work of art and
the more pragmatic requirements of a profession. One of the leading
architects of Pakistan, Nayyar Ali Dada, an old student and a member
of the Board of Governors of the College combines the talents of an
architect with facility of drawing.
capacity of the College graduates to apply art to specific projects
has allowed them to take on projects in various fields. They have
helped design primary school buildings and produce new building material
for construction. They prepared a visual study of the indigenous architecture
of Pakistan for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture ceremonies, Lahore.
Since 1963 when the present college was invested with a new arts structure,
it has carried courses in three departments, Architecture, Fine Arts
and Design. All these courses are professional and enable the graduate
to relate his talent to the job market.
1985, through an ordinance the college has been granted the status
of an autonomous degree awarding institution and now awards Bachelor
Degrees in Fine Arts, Design and Architecture. The ordinance also
empowers the institution to institute postgraduate programmes in the
field of Visual Arts. Some of these programmes have taken off. An
MA (Hons) in Visual Arts and M Phil leading to PhD in Communication
and Cultural Studies were initiated in 1999. In the same year, a research
and publication center was established at the college which has produced
a number of books on history, art history and other disciplines of
social sciences and humanities. A project for Restoration and Conservation
of Archival Records of (previously known as) Mayo School of Arts,
Lahore which later matured in the form of NCA Archives. Acknowledging
the necessity of excelling in the field of Information Technology,
the college initiated another post-graduate programme in Multimedia
Arts in September 2001. The college is also offering Masters Degree
in Interior Design.
The Rawalpindi Campus of the NCA is envisaged as a second campus to
enable larger enrollment for students in the arts and to provide greater
geographical access to students from the northern reaches of Pakistan.
The old hostel building in Liaqat Bagh was handed over to the NCA
primarily for its refurbishment and adaptive reuse as an appropriate
location for the Rawalpindi Campus. As this building was insufficient
for purposes of the Campus, the entire Liaquat Bagh Complex including
the Auditorium has been made available to the NCA to enable further
physical development. The Rawalpindi/Islamabad area has an active
body of professionals, many of whom are NCA graduates, as well as
other groups who have been examining and working towards the setting
up of art schools. Their resources will be utilized in addition to
the inputs that the current NCA faculty will provide. The Federal
Minister for Education has ensured the autonomy necessary for the
success of this venture.
project offers an exciting and dynamic future and a turning point
in the history of the NCA. Bearing in view the ethos and model of
NCA, the academic plan has been developed to ensure continuity in
the integrated teaching of the visual arts through the joint foundation
course and shared lectures during the course of studies leading to
the Bachelors degree. Additionally, to ensure cultural diversity,
gender parity and economic group representation in the student body,
an important aspect of the NCA, the Rawalpindi Campus has admited
students countrywide, following the same procedures of testing and
eligibility as already established. The Rawalpindi Campus will maintain
the same academic standards as Lahore and will also offer the same
academic programmes, initially it had started with two departments
last year: Architecture and Fine Arts, the initial intake was 20 students
in each department. In 2007, it is envisaged that the Departments
of Film and Television, Textile Design and Communication Design will
be launched. The Departments of Product Design and Multimedia Arts
will be instituted in 2008 followed by the Department of Cultural
Studies in 2009. It is also envisaged that a Department of Performing
Arts, incorporating Theatre, Puppetry, Music and Dance will be developed
as a special feature of the Rawalpindi Campus. The Rawalpindi Campus
will offer residential facilities for male and female students, a
visiting faculty hostel, equipment for studios and laboratories, academic
buildings and a library. The Rawalpindi Campus faculty will be inducted
in keeping with the NCA model comprising a core permanent faculty,
and visiting, contract and guest faculty, both national and international.