At the National College of Arts (NCA), we imagine a world. Not one world, but many. One for each of us, one from each of us, with these we write the autobiographies of our times, in objects, in lines, in mortar, and in perishable clay. In tracing ourselves, we leave traces. These are the traces that make our cities. Turn us inside out like pillowcases with that remembered smell, like shed skins. These are the traces that populate our nights, and from these traces we dare to dream again…” (Excerpts from NCA teacher-students conversations)
The NCA offers a number of professional undergraduate and graduate degree courses. Conceived in a way in which the student’s unique creative and internal impetus is aligned with the requirements of the job market in an increasingly diverse world. Tradition and individual talent both form an integral part of the history for a more meaningful participation in the future. Freedom, plurality and an interdisciplinary approach allows ideas, histories, theoretical positions and technical procedures to be located within a critical space. The diversity of both the faculty and the student body ensures that no particular ideological or theoretical position is sacrosanct. Discussion, critique and, research form the backbone of all the courses offered. We are unique as we draw both our faculty and our student body from a diverse cultural mix. This facilitates allow a pluralistic culture within the College. Students benefit from exposure to a wide range of ideas, sub-cultural identities and practices drawn from often conflicting and contested geographical, socio-political and historical locales.
At the National College of Arts (NCA), we believe that education is a fluid process, where students are assisted in the exploration, investigation and expression of their ideas. The visual is a language that must be learnt. The knowledge of technique and medium forms the basis of personal expression, and that innovation comes through understanding and learning of visual language. We believe that creative expression has the power to change the world. An artist is a philosopher, linguist, idealist, writer, critic, theorist and above all human at the same time.
Our students have made their mark and moved on to become respected professionals in a number of creative fields both locally and internationally. Professor Mark Ritter Sponenburgh, the first principal of NCA, introduced the modern art college curriculum at the NCA, in 1958. The modern movement in Pakistani art had already begun with Professor Shakir Ali, teacher and principal at the NCA. The students of Professor Mark Ritter Sponenburgh spearheaded modern art education at the NCA, the first art college in Pakistan.
The Renaissance man Bhai Ram Singh was an architect, designer, and craftsman who in one short, inimitable lifetime discovered in himself, both a builder and a wood carver. Atchison College, the NCA itself and the Lahore Museum bear the testimony to his greatness.
The history of the NCA is bound up with the incredible legacy of personalities that have emerged from it. Nayyar Ali Dada’s eclectic expression bears much of Pakistan’s creative expression in architecture; Professor Emeritus Khalid Iqbal gave us the sensitive soul of the Punjab in painting; Zahoor ul Akhlaque, the reflective artist, left behind an imperishable legacy; Mian Ijazul Hassan’s works of art and Mian Salahuddin the ceramicist generated provocative controversies; Nayyara Noor, whose music and voice has touched the hearts of generations; Graphic Designers Niaz Ali Shah Sahib, Ahmad Khan and Mehmood-ul-Hassan Jafri established the technical, perceptual, theoretical peripheries of publicity and graphic design and what is now called communication design. Teachers and artists like Salima. Hashmi and Colin David trained an entire generation that studied at the NCA. Such has been the contribution of many like Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Javed Najam, Tanveer Hussain, Abdul Rehman Khan, Shehrazad Alam who earned name and repute in their fields. The Textile Design Department was established under the leadership of Professor Abbassi Akhter, who later on became the principal of the NCA. The product designer Professor Qadir Bakhsh was the founding father of the department of product design established a venerable reputation nationally and internationally; the same arena where Ustad Mohamed Ali carved numerous and finest woodcarvings. Shirin Pasha, the film-maker with the sensibility of a painter; Professor Iqbal Hassan the eternal academic who took charge of teaching art history and headed the department that can rightly be called the intellectual backbone of studio programs offered at the NCA.
The contemporary miniature painting movement started from this institution. The M.A. Visual Arts students have participated in the conservation of the Lahore Fort. The first musicology and film and television degree programs offered in Pakistan began at the NCA.
Our library archives section houses original documents spanning over a hundred years as well as a continuously updated bank of contemporary publications; this makes it one of the best visual art research libraries in South Asia. The environment in the NCA is professional, creative and research oriented, and has, over the years, attracted a number of professionals and educationists of repute from all over the world, who have come to this institution for teaching and learning. All of our faculty members are practitioners in their fields.
We believe that the cutting edge of creativity and expression is to be discovered within ourselves and for that we individually nurture the potential in each student. We teach our students to reject nothing, to examine everything; we teach them how to think but never what to think. In this lie freedom, ours and theirs.