Google honoured Pakistani artist and educator Anna Molka Ahmed with a doodle on Monday. Ahmed is known as the country’s first art teacher to bring her students out of the classroom to paint outdoors.
According to Google, on this day (June 1) in 1940, Ahmed established the Fine Arts Department, now the University College of Arts and Design, at the University of the Punjab in Lahore, laying the foundation for decades of arts education in the country.
Born August 13, 1917, in London, England. Anna 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, Sheikh Ahmed, and the pair soon moved to Lahore in September 1939. Her daughter Zahra says her mother traveled 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,” she added.
Her path took a fortuitous turn when she responded to an ad from the Punjab university 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.
According to her daughter, the department, was her baby. “It opened its doors on June 1, 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,” she said.
She organised 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.