Art Workshop with Hareep Pakistan

Govt. Zia ul Uloom High School


conducted by Asad Dawar, Bakhtyar Rasul, Fatima Kazmi, Jamshed Iqbal, Javeria Salar, Rashida Ali Khan, Sameen Anwar, Wajahat Amin.

The Government School of Zia-ul-Uloom is situated in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi. There were a hundred and fifty (150) registered students from Zia-UL-Uloom school for the HAREEP workshop. The students who attended the workshop all lived in the surrounding areas, including some of the poorest areas of Rawalpindi.  Their experience of an artistic curriculum was limited, due to the fact that art supplies are an expensive luxury in a society where the main focus centers on the achievement of profit.  Despite this, it was astonishing to see the natural artistic skill and enthusiasm the students showed during the workshop.

The theme of this four-day workshop was focused on the surrounding neighborhoods and the homes of the students.  Day one, the students were encouraged to draw an image that they associated with their home.  The resulting works showed a variety of themes, with some of the students drawing their house and neighborhood, to others depicting their ideas of Pakistan and family.  Day two the students were given paper and scissors and were encouraged to experiment with collages and different shapes.  On the last two days of the workshop, the students were asked to draw maps showing the routes from their houses to the school.  At the end of the session, some of the students demonstrated the routes on a larger map, in front of their peers.

By keeping the themes of the workshop flexible, the students were challenged to find their own methods of visual representation and produced work that they were proud of.  All the students were eager to show what they had achieved during the four days and were equally eager to learn a few new skills from their HAREEP teachers. 

The map making exercise was especially highlighted in the school in Rawalpindi for a number of important reasons that again relate to the workshops’ intention to highlight peace and conflict resolution within the minds of young children. As will be discussed below, for many reasons the workshops have been delayed and a particularly tragic reason in the case of this workshop was a bomb blast during the Shia Muharram festival in November 2013. Initially HAREEP had planned to work within the Zia-Ul-Uloom school in January 2014, but the school was affected by the blast and closed for a period of time, necessitating this delay. The map-making exercise was therefore intended to reconnect students to their neighborhood through the practice of drawing and to consider the different religious landmarks within that neighbourhood critically and reflectively.

This is particularly pertinent given that the school itself (inaugurated in 1969) is based in what was previously an 18th century Sikh Mandir (temple). Within the surrounding area there are also a number of properties built by Sikh traders who mostly migrated to India during Partition in 1947, leaving these heritage monuments to ruin. One of these historical relics is actually based in the school yard, and the school and HAREEP felt that encouraging the students to creatively consider their local history would be in some way healing in terms of recent traumas and would encourage a liberal, grounded, historical and pluralistic reaction to their local society and its development over the decades.

Organizations such as HAREEP are vital to the education of the children of Pakistan.  With the expansion of artistic awareness comes the understanding of different cultures and ways of life.  I have personally witnessed that when all other channels of communication are blocked, artistic education is the channel that crosses all boundaries.