Hailing from Karachi, Maqbool Qamar has studied art from Karachi School of Arts. He had a passion for the arts thus he chose to pursue his career in the art field. Starting from being an art set designer for PTV, he geared up for becoming a ceramist. In no time he gained popularity and his name became a brand itself. Qamar had embellished, beautified, and decorated many of the mosques, imam bargahs and shrines with striking artworks on the tiles.
Within no time, he has become not only Pakistan’s but world’s leading ceramist who has a number of mega and remarkable projects done under his name. His work has always made noise for himself but people barely know him as a person and his success story. Maqbool Qamar Meo answers all the questions that You! want to know...
You! People often say that there is no scope of ceramics in Pakistan. Is this true?
Maqbool Qamar Meo: Yes, but I do not agree with such mindset. One has to believe in what he does. An artist should know his capabilities and apart from that, one gets viral after one video so how come one would not have success in what he does with so much of passion and ambition. Today, we have exposure so scope is in every field we just have to be good at it.
You! How many mosques or imam bargahs’ exteriors have you designed up till now?
MQM: Initially, I was doing oriental art which has religious aspects too. This led to my interest in observing this work deeply. Aga Khan Hospital, Lahore airport projects are the big ones that I have done on a smaller level. There are around 400 imam bargahs, 100 mosques and 13 shrines exteriors that me and my company have designed.
You! Have you done any projects outside Pakistan?
MQM: Yes. There are many that I have done outside Pakistan such as in Najaf, England and America. Right now, there is a project that I will be doing in South Africa.
You! Why people never acknowledge the work that is being done on the shrines, mosques and imam bargahs?
MQM: Actually, there is a lack of knowledge because we know appreciating an art piece but don’t know the history behind it. People usually think that this kind of work, that I do, is only done in Iran and we get it done from Iran. I would like to tell that Pakistan is ahead in terms of technology from Iran. Iran’s architecture and exterior designing is mostly comprised on traditional art and technology.
You! How did you start taking contracts of these projects?
MQM: I was heading most of the projects at the company I was working for when I didn’t start up my own brand. They loved my work and passion for it so when I started my own company, those people came to me to get their projects done. This is how I started getting projects because of the quality of work that I provide.
You! How does your company operate?
MQM: We have an industrial studio where we have design and printing department, exposing and filing department and packing department. So, there is a team of around 28 people.
You! Is government supportive towards these projects?
MQM: Not at all. We don’t need their funds but, in any case, they should support us. The dilemma is that they come, praise and go. They are careless to an extent that the Government of Pakistan had nominated me for Pride of Performance for three times in all these years yet my work was never considered. What can you expect from a person who doesn’t have a sense of art or how much hard work it requires? But, by the grace of Allah, we are busy all around the year that I do not have time to think about the funds, government support or acknowledgment. My work speaks for itself and that is enough.
You! How do you maintain the projects as it must get deteriorated with time?
MQM: We just don’t leave the projects after completing them. If there is a report, we immediately reach there and maintain it on our own, free of cost. We keep maintaining the mosques, imam bargahs and shrines such as Abdullah Shah Gazi which we are currently working on. When there was a bomb blast at Lal Shehbaz Qalandar’s shrine, we went there and did the repair and maintenance work with our own finances.
You! Is there a religious aspect involved or is it your passion?
MQM: It’s both. We all start businesses to earn money and make a name. But at this point of time, there is also a lot of spiritual passion involved. I never think of money now, but my passion leads me and so we get countless projects. We are always travelling to different countries for work.
You! Do you think you should pass on these skills to the next generation?
MQM: Once I tried conducting workshops but people were not interested. The industrial environment is not acceptable for a student and they come for two days and then lose passion.
You! Have you ever faced security issue in Pakistan?
MQM: I face the same issue a common man would face. If there is a religious clash it’s not with me. No one has ever asked about my religion or sect because all they love is me and my work.
This work has given me so much respect that I would never be able to express or tell.
You! Do you have any message for the readers?
MQM: People should love each other and respect each other’s religion and beliefs and avoid being haltered. Also, people should learn this work by now.
If anyone needs help or advise we are there. We want this work to be inherent by the next generation. Any artist who wants to come in this work is welcome.