Above: Muhammad Nawaz, Master Potter, Harappa
Nov. 30, 2013: The sudden death of Muhammad Nawaz is being mourned by people who knew him throughout Pakistan and the world. Nawaz was not just a potter, but an artist who had the passion to study and replicate the exquisite painted ceramics and figurines that were made at the ancient site of Harappa. His deep understanding of clay, and his inquisitive mind allowed him to figure out how the ancient crafts people of Harappa prepared different types of clays and colors. His long experience firing pottery allowed him to reconstruct and develop different types of kilns to fire the pottery and figurines. His ability to communicate his art to the common person made him famous in the exhibitions of traditional crafts at Lok Virsa in Islamabad, as well as at numerous venues in Lahore, Karachi, and most recently in Mansehra. He has demonstrated for archaeology students at Punjab University, Quaid-i-Azam University and Hazara University. He was also asked to demonstrate his work at the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA in conjunction with the 1998 exhibition on the Indus Civilization that was organized by Dr. J. M. Kenoyer in collaboration with the Asia Society, New York and the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan. Because of his great skill, collections of his replicas have also been put on display at the Lok Virsa museum of traditional culture in Shakar Paria, Islamabad and in the Lahore Museum, Lahore.
Originally Nawaz made only the traditional pottery common in the Punjab, but in 1986 he began working with the Harappa Archaeological Research project directed by Dr. G. F. Dales and Dr. J. M. Kenoyer that was beginning to excavate at this important site. In the course of the excavations, many unique forms of pottery and figurines were discovered, and he helped the archaeologists to better understand how the ancient objects were made. He has taught his son Allah Ditta how to make the replicas and also some of his daughters also help with the work. From November 2 to 25 he was involved in pottery demonstrations with his son at the Taxila Institute for Asian Civilizations at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. Here he constructed a replica of a Harappan kiln and on Monday, Nov. 25 he helped the TIAC students to fill the kiln with their own pottery replicas and fire the pottery. After returning to Harappa he was getting ready to set up a demonstration area and stall to display his work at the Harappa site museum, but he suddenly fell ill and passed away Friday night, Nov. 29, 2013.
Nawaz will be long remembered as a kind and generous person who shared his passion for pottery with the world. We can only hope that his life and outstanding ceramic art will be an inspiration to a new generation of artists and craftspeople in Pakistan who will carry on where he left off. He will be sadly missed by all.