Lahore: Dr. Arif Alvi, President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, visited the Picture Wall, one of the principal features of the Lahore Fort UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Royal Kitchen. He was received by Hafiz Sherali, President, Aga Khan Council for Pakistan, Kamran Lashari, Director General, Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) and Khawaja Tausif Ahmad, CEO, Aga Khan Cultural Service – Pakistan (AKCS-P).
Together with the Shah Burj Gate (Hathi Pol), the Picture Wall forms the original private entrance to the Fort. The Wall is exquisitely decorated with imagery of hunting, battle scenes, angels and demons, human figures, animals, birds, as well as geometric and floral patterns. Built approximately 400 years ago during the Mughal era, it is one of the largest murals in the world. It is embellished in cut glazed tile mosaic work, filigree work, fresco, painted lime plaster and cut brickwork.
While admiring the complex and intricate works of the Mughal-era, President Arif Alvi appreciated the detailed conservation efforts in preserving an important part of Muslim history.
The conservation of the Picture Wall and Royal Kitchen has been carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), and its country affiliate, the Aga Khan Cultural Service-Pakistan in collaboration with the Walled City of Lahore Authority.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture focuses on the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalisation of communities in the Muslim world. It includes the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, the Aga Khan Music Programme, the on-line resource Archnet.org and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The inaugural Aga Khan Award for Architecture took place in 1980 in Lahore at the Shalimar Gardens. On the occasion, His Highness the Aga Khan described the importance of historic monuments: “We must learn to understand them well, not simply to preserve them as museums of past glories, but to feel in every part of them – a stone masonry, a brick dome, a window, an ornament, or a garden arrangement – that unique spirit, that unique way which made these monuments Islamic. Only then will we be able to impart the same spirit to the technical means and to the forms of today.”
Since 2007, the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme has engaged itself with the rehabilitation of the Walled City of Lahore, and the conservation of its Mughal-era monuments in active partnership with the Government of Punjab and the Walled City of Lahore Authority. This includes the restoration of the Wazir Khan Mosque and the Shahi Hamman. Rehabilitation works within Lahore Fort are on-going. A number of these projects are co-funded by Norway, Germany, and USA. The Programme has also restored several major forts, traditional settlements, mosques, and public spaces in the high valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan province, most notably the Baltit and Altit Forts in the Hunza Valley and Shigar Fort and Khaplu Palace in Baltistan.
The projects of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme in various parts of the world including Afghanistan, Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan and Tanzania among others have demonstrated that they can have a positive impact well beyond conservation, promoting good governance, the growth of civil society, a rise in incomes and economic opportunities, greater respect for human rights and better stewardship of the environment, even in the poorest and most remote areas of the globe.