Portrait of Saadat Hasan Manto, Oil on Canvas, 36 X 48 inches, 2008

This stunning new work by Kanwal Dhaliwal encaptures a South Asian author whose work created an impact on Urdu literature as overpowering as that of a thunderstorm, the 1947 Partition, itself.

A writer of short fiction, Manto experienced the tumultuous and disturbing time of Partition of India in the Punjab. He was one of those undeniable creative spirits who were able to continue to create art and literature amidst that raging thunderstorm of communal violence.

Dhaliwal creates an amazing photo-imaginary work, at once gripping and moving, as he depicts a Master Vibration sitting in the thunderstorm contemplative, composed, and unsoiled. The noises of whirlwinds, blue trees bending their root-like branches, a tidy orange flow of falling leaves, a body in the path of silver lightening, a face half-hidden, a steady hand holding the pipe. Contemplative composed and unsoiled? Yes. Unaffected? No.

Manto trapped a thunderstorm in each little story he wrote, detonated, and ready to blow in the face of the reader, so as the violence carried out by us against each other remains in our view. In that, he gave to us each and every jolt he received from unjust and discriminatory systems and their outcomes.

Each jolt in Manto’s stories is safe. He made it safe for us to read, discuss, paint ad articulate the time of Partition. To be aware of it as he is, be honest as he is, be courageous as he is, and, to be creative as he is.

Dhaliwal brings back a Manto that we often failed to see for the fears of knowing him and his time, of knowing us and now.

As well, this is the first most beautiful artists’ image of Saadat Hasan Manto that honours the creative spirits of both the Writer and the Artist.


-Fauzia Rafique

THE THUNDERSTORM
THE VALIANT ONES