This winter BPF got up close and personal in an exclusive interview with the Programme Coordinator of The VM Centre for Traditional Arts Pakistan.The ZVM Rangoonwala Foundation has just embarked on an incredible journey with The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (UK) and inaugurated an incredibleorganization in Pakistan, The VMCTA. Mrs Mirza has worked quite tiresomely to get this project up and running liaising with both the UK and Pakistan teams involved in this project.
Goodluck to Sadia and The Rangoonwala Foundation!
1.Tell us a bit about VCMTA.
VMCTA is a project by VM Institute of Education, Trust Pakistan. VMCTA draws inspiration from Pakistan’s artistic traditions and cultural heritage. Our centre aims to help revive essential artistic skills and techniques, and to revitalize the relevance of traditional arts in contemporary Pakistan.
Established by a proud partnership with The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (in London) VMCTA will ensure our traditional arts will flourish and be taught and practised to high standards.
VMCTA, Karachi will offer Courses taught by experts in traditional Islamic geometry, ceramics, textiles, woodworking, painting and manuscript illumination; students will learn how to use and master traditional materials and methods and courses will be structured to suit all levels of skill and experience. The Centre will draw on Pakistani artistic traditions and cultural heritage, aiming to revive skills and techniques, revitalizing the traditional arts relevance in contemporary Pakistan.
Initially, courses in Karachi will be taught by visiting tutors from The Prince’s School but, from the beginning, a local team of Pakistani tutors will be trained to lead the programme as it matures. Longer term, the Centre will offer year-long training for people wishing to develop their skills to higher levels.
2. What inspired you to start this venture?
The trustees of the VM Institute of Education have a strong concern for Pakistani Culture and Heritage. Pakistan is a country with many rich artistic traditions. The opening of VMCTA will serve to preserve and proliferate Pakistan’s traditional arts so that they can be passed on to future generations, locally and internationally. Our vision is to provide the Pakistani people with an educational institution which caters not only for artists but for anyone who loves art and would like to learn.
3. Do you feel that in comparison to other subjects, art is not given as much attention?
Art in Pakistan has its importance as a subject but this is mainly contemporary art focused more towards textile sector or architecture. The traditional Pakistani or let’s say South Asian artistic trends are fading away. At present there is no such institution that teaches the basic design concepts behind our local art which lies in the hands of the craftsmen. We intend to revive these skills through our programmes so that the uniqueness of our heritage is reflected in our outlook as a nation.
4. Statistically speaking, way more students opt for science or economics related courses than art. Why do you think this is so?
This is true because they see a future; a career in these subjects. The students are willing to invest more where they see a return but some people are inborn artists. They will always find a way to satisfy their hunger for art and it is never too late. Although, we strongly believe that you can make a decent living being an artist as well but our courses are open for all. These are for complete beginners and are modified for experienced artists as well. In London, we have General Physicians, biochemists, architects etc who have already excelled in their careers and are now attending these courses.
5. What is some advice you would like to give to students who want to pursue art?
Listen to your heart and if you have the love for Art then go for it. There are various industries in Pakistan where there is a huge demand for skilled artists e.g. textiles, restoration of historical sites, architecture, graphic designing, illustrations, print publishing, interior designing, managing galleries, jewellery designing, valuer in auction houses and many many more. If you enjoy your work then there is no such thing like it!
6. Do you believe art is something that can be learnt or is it innate?
To some extent it is innate but it has to be learnt for sure. You have to define your skills and sometimes you have to explore your skills as well.
7. How can one enroll in VMCTA? Are there any prerequisites?
Literally anyone can join as long as they are above 18. You can be an experienced artist or a complete beginner; there will be something for you to learn.
8. Where do you hope to see your organization 5 years from now?
I see it as an institute offering long term unique art courses and discovering hidden talent in Pakistani Artists.
9. What is something that distinguishes VCMTA from other organizations offering art relatedcourses?
The courses we are offering are not available in Pakistan as yet. We are teaching the methods of producing or reconstructing designs and motifs we see in our historical sites or traditional textiles. Forexample our geometry classes were focused on motifs from Bhit Shah, Hala tiles, Shahi Fort and traditional ceramics from interior Sindh.
10. How can people find out more about this programme? Any social media or website links?
Yes, we are very active on facebook page and on our website. @VMCTAPK and www.vmcta.com.pk.
11. Other than your passion for art and running this organization, what are some of your hobbies?
I am very much involved with a few development projects in Pakistan in the disability and health sector as well and I am also a full-time mother. Hence there is a very little time for hobbies but I do entertain my work colleagues from time to time with my singing.
12. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. As a child, was art your favourite subject? Did you ever imagine reaching where you are now?
I was born and brought up in Pakistan and attained my B.Engg degree from NED University of Engineering & Technology in Karachi and later my Masters in HRM from Westminster Business School in London. I have always been a people person and hence pursued my career in HR and Business Management. Art was never my favourite subject and I would get my sisters to do my art homework. I always wished to be a musician; which is also a form of art, so by attending a couple of VMCTA courses, I have realized that I actually am an inborn artist. I am innovative, creative and inspiring with whatever I do and that also makes me an artist.