Academic journal article The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Ghani Khan: The Poet-Painter (1914-1996)

Academic journal article The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Ghani Khan: The Poet-Painter (1914-1996)

Article excerpt


Khan Anbul Ghani Khan (1914-1996) was the son of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Known as Bacha Khan (1890-1988) who was a political activist. Unlike his father and his brother, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ghani Khan was a poet, painter and sculptor par excellence. Although he is well known as a poet both nationally and internationally, very few people are aware that he was as great a painter and a sculptor, too. In this short paper, I try to present Ghani Khan as a multi-faceted personality neither whose paintings are 'dumb poetry' nor whose poems are 'blind paintings' (Richter & Wells, 2008-188). I have also included illustrations of some of his paintings and sculptures for the interest of the readers.

Keywords: Ghani Khan, Pakistani artists, Pukhtun personalities, poet-painter

"And if you, O Poet, tell a story with your pen, the painter with his brush can tell it more easily. If you call painting dumb poetry, the painter may call poetry blind painting. Consider then which is the more grievous defect, to be blind or dumb?"

(Richter & Wells, 2008:188)

Ghani Khan: The Poet-Painter

Michelangelo (1475-1564), the Renaissance artist, was perhaps the earliest figure in the history of visual arts who was equally seasoned in painting, sculpture and poetry, and in the following centuries there had been, of course, many people with alike personality of poet-painter, such as Rembrandt (1606-69) and William Blake (1757-1827), and that the one who was born in the Indian Sub-continent was Tagore (1861-1941); long been recognized for his literary contributions1, who enjoyed not only literature but also painting, sculpture and music. The next descendant of this caste was Abdul Ghani Khan (1914-96), the elder son the RedShirt leader Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Bacha Khan (1890-1988). Though the early chapters of his life were devoted to politics, he like his teacher, Rabindranath Tagore, has natural ability in exhibiting his dexterity in poetry, prose, painting and sculpture with such a generosity and devotion that painting may rival his position of fame as poet, or his poems are not ordinary competitors of his prose. Yet alive to 'the marvelous manifestations of nature' and a great love for his people, the Pukhtuns (Khan, 1958:1), he could hear voices of the invisible cosmos; his eyes were constantly open to see his dignity visible in an ordinary man, very close to him; and he could speak well of his ideals not alien to his curiosity. This position makes us believe in that he was neither dumb nor blind.

Ghani Khan, a restive artist, had a multifaceted personality. He has always been acknowledged as a great poet of international note among his contemporaries, because almost every Pukhtun around the world has enjoyed his poetry in songs sung by renowned singers of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Historians who survey on the War of Freedom of Indo-Pakistan are well-aware of his role as a Pukhtun Zalmay (Pukhtun Youth).2 Among the literary communities, he has the position of a great writer who wrote in Pashtu, Urdu and English. But this should be remembered that Ghani Khan was quite lucid in visual arts before and after he was a poet and writer; which is not so widely known abroad. At this point, one may naturally expect the poet-painter's influences where a small amount of evidences approve this connection, and to treat both is further a pressing job. A little, however, must be said in the support. The offspring of his visual and literary imagery, in my opinion, are not of a single creative impulse. Even so, both of these were not strangers to his surroundings, and that the subject matters of his pen and brush have much in common, but each of them demonstrates a unique and individual character in its own right. In fact, Ghani Khan never missed even a single chance to express himself excluding the difference of mode from time to time. While speaking of his method of painting he says: "if it is not done in one go, my mode changes, and I start writing instead. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.