Meeting Iqbal Hussain in Lahore

Raza Rumi 

During my last visit to Lahore in 2007, I met the Lahore artist, Iqbal Hussain. We had a nice, engaging chat, saw his recent works some displayed and some eating dust in the splendid Cooco’s Cafe located next to the Badshahi Mosque.

Iqbal’s matter-of-fact portraits have introduced the multiple nuances and shades of Lahore’s red-light area to the world. The women subjects are mostly from the area and he paints them with stark candour and brings out the depths of expressions and emotions in his lines and brush-strokes.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of Iqbal is the establishment of Cooco’s Cafe that has turned into a cultural landmark and has also catalysed urban renewal in the neighbourhood.

Among his recent paintings is the portrait of actor-writer Feryal Ali Gauhar with her dog. This is an uncommon subject but the result is fabulous. I was quick to take a photo (see the image below).

Iqbal is a down-to-earth artist with no pretensions. The directness and simplicity of his work is a reflection of his personality. He braved the mainstream opposition to his paintings with a stoic attitude and has invested his time and soul into the growth of cooco’s as a fine place that offers much more than the old city delicacies and cuisine. I can’t wait to meet him again and see his new work.

4 responses to “Meeting Iqbal Hussain in Lahore

  1. Iqbal Hussein’s art is vivid and intense…. His tempestuous personality is a great reflection on his marvellous paintings. Unafraid to open dialogue with society, he continously challenges all taboos and manifests into great exploration of his subjects, truthfully and without compromise. An ability to withstand the social conformity coeherced upon most. It’s art like his, that, unveils the struggles of classification, of stereotypes of the women of heera mandi / Shahi Muhalla.

  2. thanks for introducing me to him. excellent post!

  3. Hello,I am an architectural student and I currently attend Ryerson University in Canada. This year formy thesis project I chose to research Heera Mandi and design possible buildings for it. Is there any way i can get photo’s or any info of inside the courtyard. Thank you

  4. hey dario, i would be very interested in reading your research report on heera mandi. i am from london and currently working on a planning strategy to initiate welfare work for the protstitutes of that area who are deprived of protection and support from govt as well as the community. my email add is

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