LAHORE: The restoration of the Sadequain mural covering the ceiling of the Lahore Museum has begun, two years after it was brought down and put in storage because of damage from overexposure and termites.
Lahore Museum restoration officer Uzma Usmani and painter Mumtaz Hussain were sent to a painting conservation facility at the Indian National Trust for Arts and Culture Heritage (Intach) in New Delhi for training in June. They returned at the end of August and have now begun the restoration process.
“It is our first project. We are no experts; we just learned some tips and have to be careful in applying them,” said Usmani, who is also the exhibition officer at the museum.
“We are still in the phase of documenting the mural,” said Usmani. “The restoration may take up to five years because of the scale of the work. This is also the first time such a restoration of a historic painting is being undertaken in Pakistan.”
“Documentation is an important phase for future restoration. Once finished, we will get to detailed examination of the mural to see to what work is required. Some panels of the mural may require chemical treatment, some may require lining or fixing of the flaking paint. The restoration steps and fixing strategy varies with each panel,” she said.
The famous mural, which depicts the evolution of mankind, consisted of 48 panels measuring six by six feet and had adorned the ceiling at the entrance of the museum since Sadequain finished it in 1973.
Painter Mumtaz Hussain, who is working with the museum on contract for restoring the mural, said it was a long and tedious process. “It is in a fragile state. During the training, I fixed two 19th century paintings and it took about two months. This has 48 panels. It could take years,” he said.
Hussain said though he did not have much experience, he was confident that the course in India had enabled him to do the task. “I have complete confidence I can do the restoration work,” he said.
He said proper restoration work would begin after the mural was completely documented and the assessment of what type of work was needed was finished. “Currently we are making lists of the materials we will need,” he said.
The restoration officer said that the museum lacked work stations and she had proposed some alteration in the museum’s lab so the panels could be accommodated there. The library has been suggested as a temporary work space until the changes can be made to the lab. A technical committee headed by Saleema Hashmi, formed to supervise the mural’s restoration, will take up the matter next week.
Khawaja Khursheed, the museum’s deputy director, said that Rs20 million in funding allocated for the project in 2010 had been received.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2012.