Mohamed Aly Rangoonwala (1924-1998) first started philanthropic work in memory of his parents, Valy Mohamed Gany and Zuleikhabia Abdul Rehman, in the 1960s. Since then, the Rangoonwala Family continues the M.A. Rangoonwala legacy, with significant work across the globe, particularly in the UK, India, and Pakistan. Built in 1971, and inaugurated by Mrs. Banu M. A. Rangoonwala, Rangoonwala Centre is one of the Pakistan initiatives of the Rangoonwala Foundation, which works with the mission of empowering communities by engaging in social development initiatives. While the community centre has hosted multiple art displays and film festivals in the past, it is currently being used to conduct art classes in collaboration with the VM Centre for Traditional Arts (VMCTA).
In partnership with The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (PSTA) in London, VMCTA draws inspiration from Pakistan’s artistic and cultural heritage. The Prince of Wales established PSTA in London, nearly thirty years ago. Offering educational programmes in traditional arts and crafts, through practical courses, lectures, post-graduate degrees and community-based projects, The Prince’s School is recognized for its academic and research excellence. After the success of the initial school, international campuses opened in Baku, Cairo, Jeddah, and China, and the Karachi campus was added to the list on 23rd October. The centre aims to revive essential artistic skills and techniques, and to make traditional arts relevant in contemporary Pakistan.
The three-year partnership agreement between the VM Trust for Education, in Pakistan and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts was signed on 22nd June 2017 in London, by Mr Asif Rangoonwalla, Chairman of VM Trust for Education and Dr Khaled Azzam, Director of PSTA. “The partnership between the Rangoonwala Foundation and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, will serve to preserve and proliferate Pakistan’s traditional arts so that they can be passed on to future generations, locally and internationally. Our vision is to provide the Pakistani people with an educational institution, which caters not only to artists but to anyone who loves art and would like to learn,” reflects Mr. Asif Rangoonwala.
VMCTA will be accepting enrolments by both experienced and aspiring artists till 5th November, for the five courses taught on traditional Islamic geometry, ceramics, textiles, woodwork, painting and manuscript illumination. The open programme has a combination of half-day sessions on week days and full-day sessions on weekends, along with two free lectures open to the general public, happening on Fridays.
An important aspect of the courses being offered is the strong grounding in geometry which they seem to have. Be it the six-fold designs, or the Islimi and Khatai paintings, the presence of geometry dominates the environment, reflecting the team’s belief that geometry is a universal language, which transcends nationality and creed. Geometric patterns are recognized by the students in all things, be it the natural structure of a flower or the expansive cosmos.
Even though the classes are being conducted in English, assistance in Urdu is also being provided, in order to have an inclusive teaching environment. While the current programme is being tutored by visiting experts from PSTA, Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh, Ghulam Hyder Daudpota, and Dr. Lisa DeLong, a local team of Pakistani tutors will also be trained to lead the programme as it matures. In the long run, VMCTA aims to offer year-long training for people who wish to develop their skills to higher levels, tentatively scheduled to launch in February 2018.
Karachi has a limited number of academic institutions offering programmes in art, but centres like the Rangoonwala Foundation and VMCTA allow art enthusiasts to pursue their passions and polish their skills. For anyone eager to learn, the courses are still open for registration and intend to help students find their artistic voices.
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