IDENTITY CRISIS By Shiblee Muneer – Art TV Pakistan


A solo miniature painting exhibition held on 5th Dec 2023 at Koel Gallery Karachi.
About the artist:
Shiblee Muneer was born in Jhang, in a family of artists, where miniature painting was practiced for centuries. The family legend has it that his ancestors followed the first Mughal Emperor Babur from Afghanistan to Persia then India, as part of his team of painters and calligraphers.
Members of his family remained at Delhi Court until the early 19thcentury. However, with the decline of Mughal power and art patronage, they moved to Patiala transferring the traditional Mughal painterly technique to the Sikh-ruled court.
Muneer’s great, great, grandfather, Ustad Allah Ditta founded the princely painting gharana at Patiala where the so-called ‘Pahari’ style of miniature painting developed under his guidance. Ustad Allah Ditta’s grandson, and Muneer’s grandfather, Ustad Haji Mohammad Sharif (1889-1978) was a well-known painter in the Indian subcontinent and his fame was also international, through the UK’s India Society.
He was based at Patiala and traveled to other regions on request of his employer, Maharajah Bhupinder Singh (1891-1938). Several years after the death of Maharaja, Ustad Haji Sharif was requested for a teaching appointment at the Mayo School of the Arts, now National College of Arts. Thus the family settled permanently in Lahore after the partition of India.
Heading the Miniature Department at the Mayo School of Arts in 1945-1966, Haji Sharif developed the first curriculum for teaching miniature painting at an academic institution, and he trained the first cohort of miniaturists in independent Pakistan. He is considered the founder of Pakistani miniature painting.
The painting tradition is passed from generation to generation in Muneer’s family. Both male and female family members begin learning the philosophy and techniques involved in creating a miniature at home, and later they apprentice with other master painters, from paper production, to the mixing of pigments, to calligraphy, coloring and shading.
Shiblee Muneer followed the apprenticeship training in calligraphy and painting since an early age and studied at the Naqsh School of Arts and the Beaconhouse National University. He teaches at the Institute of Visual Arts & Design at the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU). He is a practicing artist and conducts workshops for children in miniature painting.
Muneer carries his responsibility as the guardian of miniature painting tradition but finds inspiration in post-modernist philosophy and new techniques: computer graphics, digitally- manipulated images, hyper-realistic painting and collage.
He experiments the rich, strict canons of miniature painting with contemporary techniques; this has brought him a place on the list of “Asia’s 10 Most-Inspiring Visual Artists” in the Top 10 of Asia magazine in 2014, and was recently awarded the ‘Best Contemporary Painter of Pakistan’ by the prestigious art publication, Nigaah Art Awards 2023.
Native of a primitive land that emerges every colony and having so many imposed identities that somehow are pretended by us;
“Confusions competences or juggling.”
Through my practice, I invite the audience to traverse the labyrinth of signs, decode the layers of meaning, and confront the complexities of our shared identity. My work is a mirror reflecting the amalgamation of cultures, regions, and ideologies that define us. Through this visual odyssey, I aim to provoke intellectual discourse, challenging preconceptions and fostering a deeper understanding of the intricate dance between identity and society.
Shiblee Muneer (November, 2023.)