Today’s Doodle honors acclaimed Pakistani artist and educator Anna Molka Ahmed, the country’s first art teacher to bring her students out of the classroom to paint outdoors. On this day in 1940, Ahmed established the Fine Arts Department, now the University College of Arts & Design, at the University of the Punjab in Lahore, laying the foundation for decades of arts education in the country.
Anna Molka Bridger was born on August 13th, 1917, in London, England. She was determined to become an artist from a young age, and despite her parents’ disapproval, eventually enrolled at the Royal College of Art in London. There she met her husband, and the pair soon moved to Lahore.
Ahmed’s path took a fortuitous turn when she responded to an ad from the University of the Punjab seeking an artist to open a women's art department at the school. In 1940, she became the first head of the university’s Fine Arts Department, and over more than thirty years, she was instrumental in fostering a culture of arts education in Pakistan.
She organized the first art exhibitions ever held in the country, and many of her students went on to establish their own university arts programs throughout Pakistan. Meanwhile, Ahmed never stopped painting, her expressionist work often combining European influences with inspiration from her adopted home country.
In honor of her pioneering achievements in the world of fine arts education, Ahmed was honored in 1963 with the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (Medal of Excellence), one of the highest awards for a citizen in Pakistan.
Thank you, Anna Molka Ahmed, for inspiring generations of Pakistani artists.
Special thanks to the family of Anna Molka Ahmed for their partnership on this project. Below, Ahmed’s daughter Zarah David shares some thoughts and reflections about her mother.
My mother, Anna Molka Bridger, was born on August 13th, 1917 and in close family circles was always known as Mollie. She married Sheikh Ahmed on 9th September, 1939 and left her home and travelled to a new country with dreams in her eyes.
She was an educationist and painter with an indomitable spirit for forging a path which opened up new horizons for so many. It is very rare to find someone who has such a passion and dedication for a cause so close to her heart.
Her whole life was dedicated to establishing the Fine Arts Department, Punjab University, Lahore. It was her baby and it opened its doors on June 1st, 1940 and survived to this day due to her grit to survive against all odds and hurdles thrown into her path. She went on to introduce art degrees in various colleges as well.
My childhood was fun as Mummy was a lively person who made my life interesting with her love for music and the performing arts. It was her vision that apart from studies, children needed to be encouraged to have a well rounded education. I had tutors for teaching me classical singing, classical dance and learning to play various musical instruments. All this enabled me to take part in various charity shows and plays. This background in the arts guided me in my life’s journey as well.
Her volatile personality, her vim and vigor, the love she had for her adoptive country, carried her through the tough times. When you look back and see the hurdles she had to overcome, one realizes what a remarkable person she was and what she was able to accomplish. There are so many who were her colleagues and students who went on to reach great heights and have always remembered her with pride.
(All above) Pictured: Anna Molka Ahmed
Photo credit: Zarah David
Early concepts of the Doodle