Rafique Ahmed, popularly known as Feica, one of Pakistan’s leading political cartoonists, returned to Peshawar after a gap of 12 years.
Dabbling with a sketch of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in a gallery in Nishtar Hall, Feica reminisced about Peshawar of the mid 80s, when he used to work for the Frontier Post. “Peshawar used to be dusty those days and it’s remained almost the same after all these years,” the cartoonist quipped. “When I was here back in 1986, there was construction going on and 12 years later, I still see a lot of construction,” added Feica who ventured into the profession of sketching cartoons 32 years ago when he started making caricatures that embody a revolutionary impulse.
Feica was in Peshawar as an art instructor at a workshop on understanding intolerance through artistic activities, jointly arranged by Hunerkada and Directorate of Culture Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). “Honestly speaking, it seemed a bit odd to me to come to Peshawar when artist Jamal Shah asked me to attend this workshop,” he said, citing concerns regarding the recent bomb explosions. However, on Shah’s insistence, Feica had no choice but to pack his bags and come.
During the week, he had been teaching a group of students the intricacies of caricature and cartooning. Praising their talent and abounding enthusiasm, Feica said it was refreshing to teach arts. He was particularly pleased that young girls from Mardan had also come to the workshop to take lessons which, he said, they will disseminate to others in their villages.
When asked how teaching arts to a dozen students will affect those tens of thousands of people who look down upon art and scoff, Feica said that “art could bring change in people. Those who are fighting do not know arts; an artist is not a jahil and does not go on blowing up schools,” he said while citing the surge in attacks on culture and arts. “I fell ill after watching destruction of Buddhas of Bamiyan on television.”
Meanwhile, about the general ignorance and apathy towards art in the country, the veteran cartoonist was of the view that it’s the responsibility of the elders of the country to instill an interest and passion for art to the younger ones. “A society cannot exist without art. A society without art it is like a paratha without ghee.”
However, he sees a silver lining for arts and artists in the country. “Artists have shone in difficult times and have taken inspirations from ordeals and sufferings to create work for peace,” he said, with a hopeful smile.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2012.