Opening of Exhibition of Master Painters of Pakistan Nochtach Anama – A Nation Bares Its Soul
[American College, Merrion Sqaure until October 13th]
Remarks by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Tuesday September 27th)
It gives me great pleasure to be here this evening for the opening of this Exhibition – the first exhibition of Pakistani painting in Ireland. The Exhibition features works from some of the most important painters from Pakistan. Their work, much of which was produced during the infancy of the Pakistani state, offers to the Irish public a very privileged insight into the soul of Pakistan.
These artists managed to forge a distinctive style of painting which was influenced by their exposure to contemporary European art and yet continued to draw on the rich heritage of the Mughul tradition. In Dublin, we are fortunate to have at the Chester Beatty Library many examples of the great miniatures paintings of that tradition and we can see in the paintings being exhibited here the clear imprint of that legacy. In bringing together their traditions with the best of what they found in Western art, the artists reflect in their own idiom the achievement of Pakistan as a nation in finding a way of preserving its own cultural and social patrimony while engaging fully with and contributing to the broader global reality of our modern world.
In recent years, our country has found itself hosting people from a great variety of different countries. A particularly urgent challenge is for us to make the effort to know and understand our new neighbours. As I have said on many occasions, the new Irish are true Irish. We must learn about their cultures and their traditions. Art has a very special capacity to communicate to us something of the soul of the artist and of his or her people. Images, and the stories they tell, will often speak louder and more directly to us than words. I hope that exhibitions of art and other cultural displays will play their part in opening our eyes to the great and diverse cultural richness that could be the hallmark of a more pluralist Ireland. In the past, our history books told us of new Irish who “became more Irish than the Irish themselves” – I would hope that our latest new Irish will help us to forge an ever more inclusive and accommodating Irish identity.
I would like to commend the Ambassador of Pakistan for this initiative. As the Catholic Archbishop of a city that is becoming home to many people from other countries and different religious traditions, it gives me particular pleasure to launch an exhibition of paintings that has drawn extensively on Islamic forms of art – miniatures and calligraphy. One of the jewels of the Chester Beatty collection is a miniature from 1607 that depicts the great Mughul Emperor Akbar in discussion with two Jesuit priests who spent many years at his court at Fatepur Sikri. I would hope that that image and this exhibition will serve to inspire all of us to learn about and grow in appreciation of what is best in different religious traditions.