Faqir Syed Saifuddin – Preserving our Heritage
Inside Bhatti Gate (one of the 12 gates of the old walled city of Lahore) approximately 500m on the right hand side you will come across a burgundy gate of a small mansion that houses the Fakir Khana Museum. It is one of the largest private collection in South Asia and the only private collection of its scale recognized by the government of Pakistan.
Faqir Syed Saifuddin is the curator of this unique and amazing museum, who still has his residence in the same building as well. He is the 6th generation of the Faqir family, one of the oldest Syed family who settled in Lahore in the year 1730. Their collection represents the art from the 18th, 19th and the 20th century. They have even loaned many pieces to various museums all across Pakistan which include the Lahore museum, Karachi museum and the Army museum in Rawalpindi.
You enter this place and time stops. The experience is further enhanced by the engrossing style of Mr. Saifuddin, with which he brings life to events that took place centuries ago. The history that surrounds you gives the visitor an insight of the multi-cultural existence which sadly is being disowned today.
“Lahore is known as the cultural hub because it has groomed many artists, writers, poets and intellectuals. Their craft was nourished and recognized in this city. This was the city that could read, write and understand five languages, reflective the amalgamation of various cultures that called this place their home.”
At first Mr. Saifuddin is going to ask about interests and accordingly take that direction of history. There is a story behind each and every artifact, every book and every painting. One of his oldest painting is the one that depicts the birth of Krishna, there is a patch work shawl of Rani Jhinda, pieces of Gandhara period, copies of the Quran written on goat skin, armor of the years past and much more.
“People invest in property and jewelry, I suggest that they invest in art as well”.
Do you think that in future we will ever go back to celebrating our diversity for which Lahore was known?
As a student of history I am a firm believer that everything gets back to its roots no matter how far it goes, at the end it has to connect with the roots. This is how nature works. We might be in troubled waters for now but things will get better and we will reach the harmony that is embedded in our culture and what gives this great city its identity.
The younger generation is not introduced to their own heritage, their legends, philosophers, artists etc in their schools or at homes. They can identify these legends belonging to other cultures, which is a good thing as it helps expand your view point. However, this positive thing becomes detrimental when they are cut off from their own roots. A balance is required and this is where Fakir Khana fits in and that is why it should be supported and given its due exposure.
In a country where due to multiple factors the majority of the people don’t invest in the local art and history now people like Mr. Saiduddin are a beacon of hope. He is keeping our heritage alive without much help for the authorities, who is still optimistic about the future and instills the same hope in those who visit.