Mahatta Art Gallery, formerly a photo studio, is Srinagar’s only private art gallery and one of the very few refuges for the budding artists of Kashmir to display their works in the heart of the summer capital.
Once a workshop for developing photographs clicked by the photographers at Mahatta, the building — standing on the banks of river Jhelum — has been converted into an art gallery, research centre, a museum, a photo lab, and a cafe. If that were not enough, Mahatta has also introduced homestay facilities so that visitors get a feel of local living.
“The place where we are standing now used to be the workshop for developing photographs clicked by photographers of Mahatta. It was converted into an exhibition hall later on. The area was renovated in order to build it into the exhibition hall,” Mehraj ud Din Wani, an employee at the Mahatta and Co. for the past five decades, told PTI.
Wani said initially the photo lab displayed only its own works at the gallery but slowly opened up to other artists as well. “After that people started coming up and booked this place for exhibition purposes. We are happy that art exhibitions have started here.” Recently, an art exhibition titled ‘Mashq e Arba’een… Dar’ke Azadari’ marking the end of the 50-day Muharaam mourning period was held at the Mahatta’s.
‘Mashq e Arba’een… Dar’ke Azadari’ is an annual event held by a team led by Syed Iliyas Rizvi at the Mahatta Art Gallery, said Sabahat Nazir, a regular visitor at the gallery.
“It is the only private art gallery in the city. It is a wonderful place with an ambience and a great opportunity for the artists of Jammu and Kashmir,” Sabahat said.
She said artists from across Kashmir have exhibited their paintings, photographs and calligraphy at the gallery.
“It sends the message that Kashmir has got talent. We need to encourage artists. We have had participants from Malaysia, Kerala and Delhi also,” she added.
Sameer Hussain Dar, a calligraphy artist and a painter, is grateful to the Mahatta Art gallery for affording the artists a platform for showcasing their works.
“Mahatta Art Gallery has served art and photography. This is a place where people can come and see what we have done in art. Art can save generations. We have seen what these artists have done for art, what they want to express. We love to see people come here and appreciate the artists,” Dar said.
Imtiyaz Ali, an artist who also teaches arts at Government College for Women Nawakadal, recalled similar acts Mahatta did in the past for artists.
“We have participated in many programmes here, including in the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal. The programme is also for the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. We are trying our best to spread the real message of the Islamic thought,” Ali said.
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Ishfaq Ali, a papier mache instructor, also praised Mahatta gallery for giving artists like him a platform to display their art.
“Here we have three categories for display – calligraphy, painting of shrines, and I am trying to revive the old art form of using waste printing paper as well as using brick powder for other art techniques,” Ali said.
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