Artistic Expressions: The Covid-19 Lockdown Inspired Skin Surgeon Nizarali Makan to Take Up Painting – We Have a Selection of His Works

My name is Nizarali R.V. Makan. I am 73 years old and a recently retired Dermatologist and Skin Surgeon. I was born in Zanzibar, and attended the Aga Khan Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools there, followed by post-secondary education in Dar es Salaam. I received my college, medical school education and postgraduate specialty and fellowship training in the United States, and practiced medicine for nearly forty years in Orange County, California, and Bellingham, Washington.

Ismaili artist series by Simerg
Nizarali Makan

I started painting during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, never having used a paint brush before, except for a single course in painting at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, B.C.

Over the past several decades I have been blessed to serve Ismaili institutions in the United States and Canada. As a young physician in the pre-TKN days (1987), I served as guest consultant in dermatology at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, and visited Gilgit and Hunza under the auspices of the Aga Khan Health Services Pakistan. In latter years, I served as both Regional and National Convener for the Institute of Ismaili Studies London. My wife Nazira is from Kampala, Uganda, and we have three children. My hobbies, besides painting, include piano and astrophotography. I am pleased to share a selection of my modest works of art with readers of Simerg, and invite you to view more of my paintings on my Facebook page.

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Please click on images for enlargements

Paintings by Nizarali Makan

Zanzibar street by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“My Street.” Acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

Artist’s note on “My Street”: I was born and grew up in Stone Town, Zanzibar, down the narrow alley from the Ismaili Jamatkhana, and a stone’s throw from the Bohra Masjid and the Mehfil e-Abbas of the Khoja Shia Ithnasheri community. That is why my late mother, who passed away at the age of fifty-two when I was 15 years old, used to make fun of me when I was little — that my faith was Ismaili, my shortcut to the other side of the Zanzibar streets went through the alley of the Mehfil-e Abbas, and with a Maulidi cap at Idd I could easily pass as a Bohra.

Parents Ismaili Artistic expressions by Nizar Makan Simerg
“Parents”, acrylic on canvas, 24” x 18”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Boats cacophony of colours by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“Cacophony of Colours”, acrylic on canvas, 18” x 24”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Bride by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“The Bride”, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 16”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Clay by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“Clay“, acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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My children Ismaili Artistic expressions by Nizar Makan Simerg
“Children”, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 16”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Taj Mahal by Nizar Makan Ismaili artistic expressions simerg
“Story of Love”, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 16”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2020).

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Cosmic communication by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“Cosmic communication”, acrylic on canvas, 16″ x 12”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2020).

Artist’s note on “Cosmic communication”: It is said that God endowed Prophet Dawud (David), a shepherd, with the most beautiful and melodious voice, such that when he sang the Psalms, birds and animals would pause to listen. This painting is a rather simplified representation and reminder of that mystical communication and cosmic bond between all of God’s creatures. After all, we are all interconnected and made up of the same stardust, and our physical bodies are like garments to be shed some day.

Venice by Nizar Makan Simerg Ismaili artistic expression
“Venice, the city of romance, drama and intrigue”, acrylic on canvas, 18” x 24”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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“Rocks shaped by Water” by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“Rocks shaped by Water”, acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Aga Khan Development Network, AKDN logos by Nizar Makan Ismaili artistic expressions Simerg
“AKDN”, acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

A note by the artist on “AKDN”: Each AKDN, Jamati and Apex agency or entity within the Ismaili Imamat has its own unique logo that powerfully represents its goal and objective. In this painting, I have sought to artistically render the logos that I have come across over the past several years onto the Ismaili Flag. I hope to provide meaning of logos in a future piece. Hyperlinks are provided for logos whose meanings have already appeared in Simerg or its sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos.

Column 1 (top to down): Aga Khan Park (Toronto, Canada), Focus Humanitarian Assistance, Aga Khan Health Services, Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance; and Aga Khan Music Awards;

Column 2: Aga Khan Trust for Culture, The Ismaili Centre London (UK), University of Central Asia, The Ismaili Centre Lisbon (Portugal), and Aga Khan Agency for Habitat;

Column 3: Personal Standard or Crest of Mawlana Hazar Imam (top portion), The Ismaili Centre Vancouver (Canada); The Ismaili Magazine, Crest (repeat), and Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development;

Column 4: Personal Standard or Crest of Mawlana Hazar Imam (full), and World Partnership Walk (an initiative of The Aga Khan Foundation);

Column 5: Crest (repeat), The Ismaili Centre Dubai (United Arab Emirates), information about the logo not known, and the Seal of the Aga Khan University (also see HERE with explanations of 3 other logos);

Columns 6: Aga Khan Museum (Toronto), The Ismaili Centre Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Aga Khan Foundation, The Ismaili Centre Toronto, and Aga Khan Centre London (UK); and

Column 7: The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London (UK), Aga Khan Education Services, Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, The Aga Khan Academies, and Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

External Links: For more works of art by Nizarali Makan please visit his Facebook page.

Date posted: August 16, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears at the bottom of this page or click on LEAVE A COMMENT. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

The editor invites Ismaili artists to submit a selection of their paintings and other works of art for publication in Simerg. Please submit images, preferably a maximum 8 objects in Jpeg (1200 x 900) along with your profile to the editor Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Artistic Greeting Cards in Arabic Scripts for His Highness the Aga Khan’s 65th Imamat Day Revolve Around a Phrase from the Qur’an

By KARIM ISMAIL
with MALIK MERCHANT

Simerg and its sister websites, Barakah and Simergphotos, convey heartiest felicitations to Ismailis and friends of the Ismaili community in Canada and around the world on the auspicious occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 65th Imamat Day anniversary (July 11, 2022). He succeeded to the Throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20 upon the death of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III, whose Imamat (spiritual leadership) of 71 years is the longest in the 1400 year history of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

According to well-known Muslim traditions, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) said:

“I am leaving amongst you two weighty things after me, the Qur’an and my Progeny (ahl al-bayt). Verily, if you hold fast to them both you will never go astray. Both are tied with a long rope and cannot be separated till the Day of Judgement.” (Muslim, Vol. II, pg. 279).

The Prophet appointed Hazrat Ali (A.S.) to be his successor as the Imam, and His Highness the Aga Khan, who is respectfully addressed by the Ismailis as Mawlana Hazar Imam, is the 49th Hereditary Imam in direct succession of Imams since Imam Ali.

In the Ismaili Ginan (hymn) Girbah Vali, attributed to the Ismaili missionary Pir Sadr al-Din, the Pir says:

“If the Imam did not have his feet on this earth for even a moment, then the world, moon, sun would vanish and nothing would exist, neither the heaven nor the earth.”

The notion of the cosmic necessity of an Imam, expressed by the Pir, is also found in famous traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (cited in “The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism,”  pp 125-131):

“The earth cannot be devoid of an Imam; without him, it could not last an hour” and also “If there were only two men left in the world, one of them would be the Imam.” 

The two calligraphies that Karim Ismail has created express another important notion of the Imam based on the Qur’anic phrase: Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (those firmly rooted in knowledge). According to the Ismaili Baitul Ilm Secondary Curriculum, Volume 1, produced by the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, the phrase, in the Shia tradition, is understood to be referring to the Imam descended from the Prophet’s family.

The first calligraphy has the Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm in Fatimid Kufi script on all the 4 sides of Karim Ismail’s artwork. The Fatimids were rulers of Egypt and North Africa in the 10th through the 12th centuries. The Fatimid Imams or Caliphs were ancestors of the current Aga Khan.

Calligraphy with the Qur'anic phrase Al-rasikhul fi'l-ilm (Those well grounded in knowledge); by Karim Ismail Toronto.
The Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (Those firmly rooted in knowledge) on all 4 sides of the art work. Calligraphy and design by Karim Ismail. Toronto.

The second calligraphy, shown below, has the same phrase on the top and bottom borders in Fatimid Kufi script, as above. The centre has the same phrase in Thuluth script. We sincerely thank Karim Ismail for conceiving these pieces of art for Imamat Day.

Calligraphy with the Qur'anic phrase Al-rasikhul fi'l-ilm (Those well grounded in knowledge); by Karim Ismail Toronto.
The Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (Those firmly rooted in knowledge) on top and bottom of the art work in Fatimid Kufi script; the centre of the art work has the same phrase in Thuluth script. Calligraphy and design by Karim Ismail, Toronto.

We wish all our readers a very Happy Imamat Day, with prayers for everyone’s good health, strength in Iman (faith), family unity and the fulfillment of all our wishes. May we fulfill the aspirations that Mawlana Hazar Imam has of each one of us of staying on the path of Sirat al Mustaqim (the Straight Path), excelling in our studies and endeavours, and keeping the right balance between our material and spiritual lives.

As we celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 65th Imamat Day, may we always remain under his guidance, loving care and protection. Ameen.

Date posted: July 11, 2022.

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CONTRIBUTORS

Karim Ismail portrait for Barakah
Karim Ismail

Originally from Uganda, Karim Ismail lived in England before settling in Canada. By profession, he is a Pharmacist (retired).  It was in England, in 1986, that he came across the artwork of a German Muslim, Karl Schlamminger (1935-2017), at the Ismaili Centre London. Karl’s artwork on calligraphy and geometrics, had a profound effect on Karim. He is frequently seen conducting calligraphy workshops for children at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Karim is also active on the literature counter at the Ismaili Centre Toronto.

Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher and editor of Barakah (2017) as well as its two sister websites Simerg (2009) and Simergphotos (2012). His interest for literature and community publications began in his childhood years in Tanzania through the work of his late parents Jehangir (d. May 2017, aged 89) and Malek Merchant (d. January 2021, also 89), who both devoted their lives to the service of the Ismaili community, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time, His Highness the Aga Khan, as missionaries and religious education teachers. In the UK, Malik edited the flagship Ismaili magazine, ILM, with his father. A resident of Ontario since 1983, he relocated to Alberta in January 2022. He has an animal loving daughter Dr. Nurin Merchant; she is a vet and practices in Ontario. Malik can be contacted by email at mmerchant@simerg.com. He can also be reached — and followed — @twitter and @facebook.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Artistic Expressions: Mobina Marani Presents Beautiful Portrait Paintings of Mawlana Hazar Imam and Members of Her Family

By MOBINA MARANI (nee JAMANI)

My name is Mobina, and I live in Crystal Beach, a lakefront community in Fort Erie, located some 180 kilometres from Toronto, Canada. I was born in Kampala, Uganda, and developed an interest in art at a very early age. After leaving Uganda, I attended an art school in England where I learned to work with many mediums, including paint, metalwork, and ceramic, amongst others.

After marrying Nizar Marani and having two beautiful daughters Zahra and Zaynah, and buying a pharmacy which I owned with my husband for almost 30 years, my artistic endeavours were put on hold.

Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani

It was not until almost 40 years later, shortly after the birth of my first granddaughter, Amarah, that I was inspired to pick up a paintbrush again and find time to dedicate to my artistic expressions. Over the ensuing years, I completed portraits of all my immediate family members. Earlier this year, I rendered a painting of Mawlana Hazar Imam from one of his numerous portrait photographs that were taken during the Diamond Jubilee Year in 2017-2018. I hope to continue expressing myself artistically in the years to come, and fulfill an interest that began in my early childhood.

I would like to express my thanks to Simerg for introducing Ismaili artists such as myself to the worldwide Ismaili community and readers of this website.

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Please click on images for enlargements

Portrait Paintings by Mobina Marani

Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions, Aga Khan portrait
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Acrylic on composite wood 13″ x 17″, January 2022. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada. Mobina rendered her painting from the original official photo shown immediately below.
One of several portrait photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, taken during his Diamond Jubilee Year (2017-2018).
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Amarah, first granddaughter. Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, May 2018. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Grandson, Aaran. Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, October, 2018. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Husband, Nizar, at 15. Acrylic, 13 3/4″ x 17 1/2″, January 2019. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Mobina Marani, Ismaili artist, Simerg Visual expressions
Daughter, Zahra. Acrylic, 19 1/2″ x 15 1/2″, September 2019. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Mobina Marani, Ismaili artist, Simerg Visual expressions
Aunt, Nurumasi, at 100! Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, March 2020. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Grandson, Jordan. Acrylic and wool (hat), 10″ x 10″, April 2020. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Daughter, Zaynah. Acrylic, 16″ x 18″, February 2021. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.

Date posted: May 31, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears at the bottom of this page or click Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

The editor invites Ismaili artists to submit a selection of their paintings and other works of art for publication in Simerg. Please submit images of no more than 8 objects in Jpeg (1200 x 900) along with your profile to the editor Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Compendium of Ismaili Artists

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publiser/Editor, Simerg

Ismaili artist compendium, Simerg, Editor Malik Merchant
Please click on image to download compendium

Some 8 years ago, we produced a beautiful PDF publication entitled “A Compendium of Ismaili Artists from Around the World” that can be downloaded HERE. It contained a short profile and one work of art for each of the 33 different Ismaili artists from around the world who wanted to be featured in the compendium. As much as we wanted to publish an expanded edition of the compendium featuring many more Ismaili artists, we are sorry to note that the response was disappointing despite a major announcement on this platform as well as pertinent social media pages. We are keen to publish an expanded edition of the compendium provided we can, at the least, double up on the original number of 33 artists that were featured in the first edition. There are hundreds of Ismaili artists around the world, judging from their participation during the Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam held in 2007-08 and 2017-18 respectively. We therefore urge Ismaili artists to review the entries in the first edition, and send their details for the compendium accordingly to Malik Merchant at mmerchant@simerg.com. Please do not ask us to prepare your profiles by submitting your elaborate CV or resume or asking us to visit your website to prepare the profile. We need the information from you, based on the format in the compendium; each artist will be allotted one page in the compendium that will include a brief profile and one image. Read the compendium!

His Highness the Aga Khan’s Portrait Renditions by Vancouver Ismaili Artist Azeez Khanbhai

Azeez Khanbhai’s first portrait rendering of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was completed in 1959 and presented to the 49th Ismaili Imam in 1959 during his visit to Nairobi, Kenya. Mawlana Hazar Imam signed the painting, with his blessings. Khanbhai has continued his passion of painting Mawlana Hazar Imam’s portraits over the past 60 years, and Simerg’s sister website Barakah, which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat is pleased to present a selection of Khanbhai’s amazing works that also include portrait renditions of Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain. Please click HERE or on image below to view the Khanbhai collection in Barakah.

Aga Khan by Azeez Khanbhai
Please click on image for portraits of Mawlana Hazar Imam by Azeez Khanbhai

Date posted: October 30, 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents  for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Please also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos.