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Noor Jehan’s Daughter Pays Tribute To Her Mother Through Paintings

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Almost 19 years have passed since the death of Madam Noor Jehan, popularly known as the “Nightingale of India”, but the larger than life film and music icon still continues to awe and inspire young artists and fashionistas.

Noor Jehan’s youngest daughter Nazia Ejaz hopes to honour the rich legacy of her mother through a painting exhibition to provide people with the chance to witness rarely seen images from the singer’s prolific life.

The exhibition, titled ‘Love Letters’, will be held at Canvas Art Gallery in Karachi.

Looking at the paintings, you cannot get rid of the feeling that Madam Noor Jehan’s eyes are following you around. In one image, her captivating eyes and the beautiful flowers adorning her trademark bouffant give the singer a mesmerising look. In another rare image, the queen of music is seen alongside her little daughter.

“My paintings sell well but an artist also always wants his or her work to be seen,” Nazia Ejaz said about her exhibition. “I am hoping that with this exhibition dedicated to my mother, people will come and see the work because they will be drawn in by their strong connection to her,” she added.

The paintings displayed at the exhibition are mostly abstract pieces which rely on different patterns and painstakingly created grids. Speaking in connection with the exhibition, Nazia said, “This exhibition isn’t an ode to Noor Jehan.”

“It is about my own personal journey. I was the youngest. She spoilt me rotten and we even shared a bedroom together. I had only just returned from London, having completed my studies, when she fell ill and we spent the last four years of her life in and out of hospital rooms,” she added.

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She said that as she gets older, she is better able to comprehend the memories she has of her mother. “I can now see her more clearly as a woman. My perspective of her is growing,” she added.

Further, the artist said that her paintings are only glimpses of the time spent with her mother and have been inspired by the words that she used, the letters she wrote and her songs.

Speaking about the impact of her artwork on people, Nazia said that art doesn’t have to be literal. She said that she might feel a certain way while painting an image while it might have a completely different effect on someone else. “That’s the beauty of art,” she added.

Pointing to an image of her mother with a vertical grid of leaves behind her, she said, “For instance, that pattern is derived from a wrought-iron door that was in the last bedroom that we shared together. The memory of it was so clear in my mind that I put it on to canvas.”

As part of her exhibition, Nazia has created other abstract paintings carrying unintelligible words from the Urdu script.

According to the artist, “I call this painting ‘Scripture of Love’. My mother used to write to me very frequently, especially when I was in London. She would send me a letter every week. Her Urdu writing was so magnificent that my foreign friends would ask me to read it out to them. I would try and because Urdu is such a romantic, flowery language, they would exclaim that these were love letters!”

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In another painting, Madam wears a tiara that she wore to ‘Tajposhi’ ceremony during the rule of President Yahya Khan. “I remember that night. I was very young and she was going to the event and I was watching her getting ready. I remember her putting on that ‘Taj’ on her head,” Madam’s daughter said.

Not all paintings at the exhibition tell a direct story about Noor Jehan’s life. A gold and deep blue abstract work, titled “Saathi Kahan Ho”, is dedicated to a song by the same name that was sung by Noor Jehan for the film “Laakhon Mein Ek”. Nazia said that she made this painting while listening to her mother’s famous song.

Meanwhile, another painting was inspired by ‘Sajan Laagi Tori Lagan’, a hit song sung by Noor Jehan and Farida Khanum in 1963.

The artist has also used patterns of butterflies in her work which she says reminds her of her mother. “Butterflies metamorphose from caterpillars and similarly, my mother would reinvent herself at every crossroad of her life,” Nazia said.

Meanwhile, the artist is planning to hold a second exhibition of her paintings in Lahore early next year.


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