Barakah is dedicated to Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat – a Hereditary Divine Institution from the Time of the Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali
Memorable Paintings of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, by Vancouver Ismaili Artist Azeez Khanbhai
By AZIZ KHANBHAI
I developed an interest in drawing and painting at a very young age at my birthplace in Nairobi, Kenya. I pursued a career in Fine Art and Design, both as a passion and as a career. I was greatly influenced by drawings, paintings and calligraphy done by world renowned Ismaili artist Ismail Gulgee (1926-2007), whose work was published in Jamati publications from Pakistan in the early 1950s. To me, Gulgee’s fascinating works included portraits of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Prince Ali Khan and other world dignitaries.
These early works of Gulgee inspired me to try my hand at drawing Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam’s first portrait in 1959. It may be noted that Gulgee later created a beautiful lapis lazulli portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam which is hung at the Ismaili Centre in London.
In November 1959, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited Nairobi. He was hosted at my uncle Sir Eboo Pirbhai’s residence. I was able to show him the portrait I had completed earlier during the year at a luncheon that was held in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s honour. He graciously signed it with his blessings and gave me good wishes for my future.
In the following year, 1960, I was granted a four year scholarship by the Kenya Government, to pursue a degree in Fine Art and Graphic Design at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. After graduating, I continued painting Mawlana Hazar Imam’s portraits as well as other subjects in various mediums.
In 1964, while in Pakistan for my brother Zool Khanbhai’s wedding to Amiraly Fancy’s daughter, Naseem Fancy, we were blessed with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s extended historical visit when he celebrated his 28th birthday with Pakistan Jamat. It was at this time that Hazar Imam signed my second rendering, again with a personal message and his loving blessings. This was an experience I will never forget!
In 1969, I had an opportunity to have a one-man exhibition, at the Art Center, in Nairobi. After moving to Canada in 1975, I worked as Graphic Designer with a Vancouver based advertising agency and continued with my interest in painting. Over time, my portraits and other works were noticed by family and friends locally and internationally and I was commissioned to paint Mawlana Hazar Imam’s portraits for their homes. To date, there some twenty to thirty renderings owned by Ismaili families globally.
At the time of the Silver Jubilee in 1982-1983, I was appointed by Aiglemont as the National Graphics Coordinator for Canada. With guidance from the Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat, and with the assistance of the International Graphics Coordinator, Mr. Minaz Nanji, we created and collaborated on stage designs and graphic material for all Canadian centers where Mawlana Hazar Imam was to grant and bless the Jamats with his Deedar.
In 1989, I was called upon by Atlanta Jamati leaders to paint two of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s portraits for their first purpose built Jamatkhana, for display in the entrance and in the loggia.
It has always been my wish to share my work with the Jamat, and I am absolutely delighted now to be able to do so through the Barakah website. In this regard, I request readers to share photos from their albums and archives through Barakah, which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.
I must say that I would not have been able to embark on this journey of painting without Mawlana Hazar Imam’s inspiration and blessings from the very beginning. I give my Shukar to him for all the opportunities I have had in my eventful and exciting career as an artist.
On November 2, 2021, we commemorate the 144th birth anniversary of our beloved 48th Imam. This post is in loving memory to him and a tribute to his chosen successor, our beloved 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, who is now in his 65th year of Imamat.
It would be very remiss of me not to mention my mother Shirin Khanbhai (d. November 1972), my wife Rashida (d. January 2021) and my brother Zool (d. August 1996) who all encouraged me in my artistic endeavours throughout my life. I pray that their souls may rest in eternal peace. Amen.
Finally, I would like to note that as per my late wife’s wish, a number of original paintings from my collection have been unconditionally donated to Focus Humanitarian to aid in their fundraising efforts.
Azeez Khanbhai’s Portrait Renditions of Mawlana Hazar Imam and Members of His Family
Date posted: October 30, 2021. Last updated: November 09, 2021 (caption update)
Due to challenges in creating electronic copies of the paintings (through scanning or photographing the paintings), the images of several paintings shown in the post are not true representatives of how they actually appear. Readers may note glass reflections and other abnormalities and deficiencies in the digital versions shown in the post, for which Barakah offers its sincere apologies to readers as well as the artist — Ed.
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Barakah requests readers to search their old albums and archives for historical photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family. Please share your treasured collections through Barakah, a website dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family. Write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com to discuss your collections. Please click Collections to see photographs we have received from families around the world.
Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 275 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.