Pakistan’s Renaissance Man – Sadequain Naqash


A Polymaths have an eminent legacy in the history of the world. Their contribution had overriding affect to the modernization and development of the society. Polymaths of Europe or otherwise called “Renaissance man” of Europe have influential ascendancy in discipline of science, art, music, architecture, poetry, language etc. Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo, are what history describes as influential polymaths of the world, primarily because of their contribution to arts. People of this era have not forgotten them because their work still persists in the society and visited by many around the world. Most famous, frequented by the people today, is the painting of Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. People believe that polymaths have died after the age of Renaissance had ended. However, it is unlikely that polymaths have died with the Renaissance age. Rather their influences are creating more polymaths that are being recognized today and are soon to be recognized. Pakistan had one particular polymath who was a poet, painter, artist, writer and philanthropist – Pakistan’s Renaissance man – Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi.

0163-630x414Sadequain was known by his alias Sadequain Naqash. The word “Naqash” is a Persian derivation which means “Painter”. Sadeqauin Naqash hailed from a family of calligraphers. He was born in June 1923 in Amoraha, British India. Little is known about his early life before becoming glare of public. It had been recounted that Sadequain was a child prodigy. He was taught by no one as he was mostly recounted as a self-made, self-taught painter, entirely eccentric and showed no signs of being inspired by any other master of art who lived before him or at his time. His talent was discovered by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the 5th Prime-Minister of Pakistan. Suhrwardy held an exhibition of Sadequin’s work at Frere Hall and at his residence making Sadequain a sensation in the publics’ eyes in 1955. Sadequain was shortly after in 1960, awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, 4th highest civil award in Pakistan and consequently, first prize in All Pakistan National Exhibition. Sadequain then relocated himself in Paris to enhance his skills in calligraphy and later during his stay in Paris; he was awarded Laureate Biennale de Paris for his work in calligraphy.

Sadequain was highly applauded for his calligraphic style and murals, which is widely considered iconic by many critics of South Asian art. His calligraphy and painting brought life to the poetries of renowned poets of Urdu language, Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz. The most recognizable achievement of Sadequain was renaissance of Islamic calligraphy as he experimented with his own invented styles of Arabic scripts in lieu of traditional style of the script. His calligraphic scripts depicted images of cities, buildings, forests, men, and women. He also wrote a book on art and theory and was once a part time poet writing thousands of rubaiyyat (quatrains) which he illustrated many of them and published them in his four volume book – Rubaiyyat-e-Sadeqain. Sadequian’s murals are still present in Frere Hall in Karachi, Lahore Museum and Mangla Dam near Jhelum city.

Sadeqain NaqashSadequian’s work was appreciated by people not only in Pakistan but around the world as Sadeqain organized different exhibitions of his work. At one instance, the French government invited Sadeqain to illustrate the novel of French Nobel Prize winning writer Albert Camus, “The Stranger”, which Sadeqain accepted. He was also invited by the Indian Government for tour of India and construction of murals at their institutes. Sadequian accepted the Indian Government’s invitation to tour India, and visited many places and cities of India that had significance of art and culture both. He constructed murals at Aligarh Muslim University, Banaras Hindu University and Geological Institute of India that still presides, bearing his signature. His painting and calligraphy and other works are exhibited around the world in renowned art museums.

Sadequain theme and genre was surrealism. His arts emphasized the elements of humanitarianism. His murals and calligraphy depicted emotions and endurance of humanity. His paintings are worth billions of dollars. However, Sadequian was resistant to earning profit from his work sharing same characteristics of Leonardo Da Vinci who worked for his self-satisfaction instead of profitable earning. Instead, he gave his work away to the organizations and museums which exhibits them, that would amount to billions of dollars if sold. Nonetheless, Sadequain Naqqash’s legacy is victimized by people’s ignorance.

Sadequain died in celibacy and was buried in Sakhi Hassan graveyard, Karachi, on 10th February, 1987.

By Mohsin Jilani


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