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Musings on the drawings of Ghani Khan

Bacha KhanMost of us are familiar with the poetry of Ghani Khan, arguably one of the most important and eminent Pashto poets of the twentieth century. While some are acquainted with his work as a sculptor and painter, his drawings moreover merit equal recognition, by way of offering a further glimpse into his raw talent and inherently creative mind.

Although it is difficult to appraise a work of art from a photograph, we can nonetheless gain insight into the expressive, spontaneous nature of his drawings, particularly in his portraits rendered with pastel, his preferred medium.

Ghani’s drawings tend to focus exclusively on the human face, as he considered a persons ‘thoughts, ambitions and character to be reflected in the face.’ (Cited in: Imtiaz Ahmad Sahibzada, “The Pilgrim of Beauty: Selections from the poetry of Abdul Ghani Khan, Islamabad: Army Press, 2014, p.xxiv)

Roshan Khan

In the three drawings presented here, we can see how Ghani developed his own particular style, although one could categorise his work as being part of the school of ‘expressionism,’ and akin with the work of Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock. However, there is a haunting quality in Ghani’s drawings, which seem to emanate a sense of foreboding,123 longing, raw emotion and even grief. What may seem like random, erratic marks and squiggly lines added during the latter stages of the drawings, these marks not only add another dimension to the portraits but demonstrate a sense of spontaneity, as if caught up in a fleeting moment of inspiration, yet with mindful purpose. The marks rendered in almost calligraphic style, as though he were ‘writing’ the portrait, makes one wonder if the drawings inspired his poetry or vice versa.

Ghani’s loving, and somewhat haunting depictions of his father Bacha Khan Baba, his wife Roshan and beloved Pashto poet Rahman Baba, are testament to his great talent as an artist furthermore offering us deeper insight into the workings of his mind.

‘Roshan – visualised as a radiant crescent against a background of dark clouds.’ Pastel on paper 20cmx27cm (Farooq Collection)
‘Rahman Baba – A visual representation of the 17th century mystic Pukhtun poet.’ Pastel on paper 50cmx75cm (Dar-ul-Aman Collection)
‘Portrait of Bacha Khan,’ Pastel on paper 56cmx70cm (Collection Mashal Khan)

Angelina Merisi 03By Angelina Merisi, columnist with THE PASHTUN TIMES 

She can be reached at  Angelmer333@gmail.com



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