LAHORE: The National College of Arts (NCA), one of the oldest and most prestigious arts institutions of the country, has a history of great administrators. One of the names that has left an indelible mark on the legacy of NCA is the current Principal, Professor Dr Murtaza Jafri.
This week, Bol News had a tête-à-tête with him where he talked about his eight-year tenure (2013-2021) as NCA principal, his achievements, career and other topics.
Prof Dr Jafri is a dedicated professional, a graduate of the NCA Lahore with multiple masters, doctoral and postdoctoral degrees. He completed his Masters in Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Art & Design, in studio practice (Material Processes) from Concordia University, Montreal and studio practice (Landscape Painting Art in Architecture) from Algonquin College, Ottawa.
He also holds a Diploma in Interior Design from Ware College Cambridge, UK. Besides holding a Doctorate in Fine Arts from the UAL, he is also a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Architecture and Visual Arts, Docklands, London.
Dr Jafri is a prolific sculptor, painter and researcher with more than 30 years of combined experience as an artist and academia. He has served the college in varied capacities, starting from the post of lecturer he has risen to the position of NCA principal.
His professional services are not just limited to NCA. He also serves as the course leader for PhD Fine Art Practice, University of the Punjab (2003 to-date). He has also worked as lecturer at University of East London (1999-2002).
Dr Jafri’s work has been displayed in many prestigious buildings and institutions in Pakistan as well as in foreign countries including Oklahoma State University USA, Kings College Hospital London, Glasgow Painting Studio, Prime Minister Secretariat Islamabad, High Commission of Pakistan in London.
By virtue of his PhD and extensive academic experience in arts, he is an HEC-certified PhD and MPhil supervisor.
NCA was in 35th position but with his efforts it is now ranked as the top art university of Pakistan by HEC.
Dr Jafri’s vision for NCA has included establishing international linkages with institutions outside Pakistan. As a result MoUs have been signed with international universities of France, Iran, China, UK and USA. This has opened many doors of opportunity for NCA in the form of scholarships such as the VITA scholarship under the Charles Wallace Trust at Princess School of Traditional Arts, UK.
Professor Jafri always endeavoured to provide an optimal environment for future artists to improve their skills with a view to empower artists in independent research, teaching and curatorial work within the contemporary environment. With this vision he headed the postgraduate programme and Diploma in Visual Arts as its director at NCA.
His special efforts have been dedicated to reviving the dying arts, especially the art of visual aesthetics and calligraphy. Dr Jafri is also credited with initiating projects which have provided employment and career development opportunities to the youth.
These projects include the Postgraduate Youth Internship Programme, Punjab Skills Development Programme. Part of his vision to promote art is to encourage the involvement of common people.
Dr Jafri has broadened the scope of art by making it accessible to a larger section of the population through introduction of short courses not only at the NCA but in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Murree as well.
He also introduced foreign languages diploma courses for NCA students in order to make them multilingual.
An artist residency programme was also initiated during his time. Residencies were offered to international practicing artists during which they also conducted workshops and lectures at NCA. This gave students a chance to learn new techniques and understand the ever-changing global art scene.
Dr Jafri has been determined in his efforts to upgrade NCA and develop its vision for the future. Regular Board of Governors (BOG) meetings were convened by him in this regard so that a new direction for NCA’s future could be charted. As a result, the infrastructure of the institution has undergone massive development and a new product design building has been constructed at NCA, Lahore Campus.
A chai-khana has been established for alumni while an art shop has been added to the Zahoorul Akhlaq Gallery at NCA. A new girls’ hostel has also been constructed to facilitate the growing number of students studying at the institution. He also took the initiative for constructing a new building at NCA Pindi campus.
To facilitate and also to ensure the well-being and safety of everyone, a centralized admission office, student coordinator office and state of the art biometric system has been introduced at NCA. A new design centre has been established while a new Mac lab for non-linear editing has been added to the department of film and television.
In order to conserve energy and as part of its “going green” strategy the college has also installed solar panels. A new water filtration plant has also been added. Internal restoration has also taken place on campus.
For Prof Jafri the educational policies and well-being of its staff goes hand in hand therefore, the long-awaited appointment of NCA permanent teaching faculty, non-teaching officers and lower staff also took place during his tenure. After a very long time a degree-awarding convocation was held at NCA and alumni dinners became a regular feature during his tenure.
Monthly cultural nights for alumni and NCA students, foreign film festivals that include French and Iranian films have all helped to promote creative activity at NCA.
Other measures have included holding an annual sports festival, solo and group exhibitions by artists at the Zahoorul Akhlaq Gallery which took place throughout the year and appointment of gallery space for the permanent gallery collection of NCA publication. Lectures and workshops have been held regularly at NCA where eminent guest speakers were invited to speak and enrich students as well as faculty with their knowledge.
NCA has launched a new undergraduate programme in cultural studies as well as introducing the community outreach programme where the youth have been encouraged to demonstrate their creative ability by enrolling in art classes conducted by faculty members of NCA. As part of the public outreach programme he also introduced drama and theatre performances in schools run by Auqaf to increase public involvement in art.
The quarterly NCA newsletter was launched in an effort to provide information on events and activities that regularly take place on campus.
Owing to the efforts of Dr Jafri, the preservation and protection of historic buildings was also taken up. Projects that were completed owing to his efforts include the restoration of Punjab House Murree, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, new block of Punjab Assembly and Children’s Hospital.