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By Shamim Akhtar The Art & Architecture of M. A. Ahed
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Book Review Pakistan Art Review

Colour, texture, composition and form interested Muhammad Abdul Ahed. He found these elements very important in the study of architecture. So architecture became a manifestation of his inner calling which was painting. The man was destined for it. The book ‘Of Colour & Form’ reveals the total personality of the late Ahed and his artistic sensibility as it is not limited to his architectural achievement; it highlights his artistic sensibility and his love for painting and drawing. Sheba Akhtar, the author of the book is also an architect; she has built the story on Ahed with love and emotions and makes it readable. She dedicates the book to her mother for bringing her into the world and her father- “Abba, himself a Renaissance man, who encouraged me to be what I wanted to be, so that I could become who I am.”

Akhtar has explored the subject successfully as she has the knowledge of it and has done justice to it as a writer. She has been able to sense the intentions of the artists while registering her remarks on his paintings and sketches. (Mr. Ahed always carried a sketch book in Hand).

In the preface describing the need for this documentation she writes correctly that a man of this high caliber in arts remained unknown even to this day. In deed he was one of the greatest pioneering painters and architects of Pakistan. Writing this book was a challenge for Ms. Akhtar because Mr. Ahed never discussed or wrote about his paintings or architecture; she had to rely on the accounts from friends and close relatives and form her own judgment on his life, works and philosophy.

Akhtar divides the biography in portions and takes a start from Ahed’s early years, then to his architecture and then art and finally the late years. In the chapter The Early years she writes: In 1919, as the world recovered from the tumultuous experience of the First World War, a child was born in Hyderabad Deccan in India, who was named Muhammad Abdu Ahed in the family tradition. He received an unexceptional early education at the local primary and secondary schools but developed some quite exceptional traits and habits at an early age. Although born with a disabled right hand, he began to draw and paint with his left hand in his sketchbook at the tender age of five or six years, perhaps because he was unable to participate in games that the other children played. With a keen eye (and the tireless support and encouragement of his mother, a strong woman who was determined not to let him feel sorry for himself) he more than compensated for his physical disability at quick, spontaneous sketching. His sketchbook became a constant companion for the rest of his life, a medium through which he explored and captured the infinite, often fleeting, variety and richness of his world. Abdul Ahed’s sketchbooks provide a marvelous record of the insatiable curiosity and inexhaustible creative insight that he possessed throughout his life.

Having a number of musically gifted family members he developed a keen…….

Readers have to read this interesting account of a man who was gifted in so many ways. One of the ways was architecture. In chapter entitled Architecture, Akhtar writes: upon completing the first three years of his architectural studies, in Mumbai in 1943, M A Ahed returned to his native Hyderabad for the next five years to work in the Town Planning department and at the private practice of M. Fayazuddin, the most reputed architect in Hyderabad. Here in 1947, he marries Shahreyar Bano Haqqani, the educated niece of his employer, with whom he would have two sons, Javed and Ejaz.

M A Ahed had a simple and straightforward architectural philosophy: “Architecture is a representation of a society….” He believed that the design of a building should fulfill its purpose comfortably with regard to culture, climatic and programmatic requirements and that such consideration would generate its form….” Readability of the book is tremendous and there is no sentence which can be termed redundant. Once the reader starts the book, cannot put it aside until the end.