Iqbal Qasim: a sculptor par excellence

By Nisar Karim

Speaking of sculptures, our thoughts drift towards primitiveness, imagining and visualizing ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Italian Renaissance Baroque sculptors and, yes of course, strikes with neoclassical and contemporary abstract sculptors. Lacking inventions on writing material then made people to resort to sculpturing, such drawings and carvings pictures depict thousands of words. Monasteries or Monastic Orders commissioned artists to come up with picture-worthy statues of kings and queens.

Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) employed around 42 of his companions to document the divine revelation. The varied expansion of calligraphic art is attributable to advent of literature in Islam. The practice picked up momentum and the word spread much faster and a calligrapher final product transcended ordinary writing. Though later its common observation that figurative paintings, poetic illustration did not get much space. Given the very narrow narrative on religion pursuit of such areas -sculpturing, painting and carvings seem putting albatross around ones neck. Though these interesting areas are not that much alien to Islam and other religions. The last image the reader will recollect would the dismantling and destruction of Saddam’s statue and Bhuddist sculptures in Bamiyan Afghanistan.

Petroglyphs worked by various invaders, traders, and pilgrims who passed along the trade route, as well as by locals can be seen at different places along the Karakuroum range. There pieces of rock art and inscriptions showing single animals, triangular men and hunting scenes in which the animals are larger than the hunters. The ethnologist Karl Jettmar has pieced together the history of the area from various inscriptions and recorded his findings in Rock Carvings and Inscriptions in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Many of these carvings and inscriptions will be inundated or destroyed when the planned Basha-Diamir dam is built and the Karakoram Highway widened.

Iqbal Qasim, the self-taught sculptor
Iqbal Qasim, the sculptor

With modernity of imagery designed through computer graphic, the physical forms has not lost its aesthetic appeal and relevance. Advancement in technology has revolutionized the art of designing but the natural layout and physical work has charm of its own which will not fade into oblivious. Touch of painters’ brush and sculptors’ hand has its own attraction despite the revolutionary change in digital technology and use of multi-media software, like Adobe Photoshop, 3D presentation, cartoon etc.  But it has striking impact, students (from north) do not opt for sculpturing, carving, painting and drawing. Pursuance of such fields is least encouraged and given insufficient room in our society. Such areas of interests are termed monetarily less rewarding. Dilemma indeed of our society; people may want to listen to music but do not want their children to be musicians.

But all is not lost. Amidst all this dying trend, there is an enterprising 32 year old, hardworking young person, Iqbal Qasim, who has been practicing sculpting as a profession by setting Iqbal Marble & carving Center at the picturesque lakeside town of Borith in Gojal Valley, District Hunza. He passed matriculation from his nearby village and later graduated from Karachi University. He opted for stone carving as a profession, and has invested his youthful age in this practice. he has earned diploma a in the art of designing and stone carving and has rendered services as a master trainer in Rupani Foundation Gilgit.

Recently Iqbal is working on the production of animals.

We hardly see in our midst rare breed of persons having art and artifact sensibility. Especially rare are the art of sculpturing flora and fauna at a time when others are resorting to the comfort of abstractionism. Such extraordinary endeavors by youth should be monetarily encouraged and their output should not only be preserved but must be made part syllabus, regional libraries and national galleries. These treasuries must be decorated in school and college laboratories. Culture carries vast meaning and is not limited to wearing few embedded attires and chanting few songs and sounds. It also encompasses the physical environment the locales live within.

The Ghulkin Youth Association, Gilgit(GYAG) ask local and international art connoisseurs and philanthropists to help such mountainous guys who have gift of guts and knack for delivering but are on the exhaustion economically. They can help Iqbal Qasim through this youth platform by accessing our email at gyag.ghulkin@gmail.com

The contributor is a school teacher by profession and secretary of GYAG. He is author of “Development and Changes”, a book published in 2014. 

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