Saturday Feb 27, 2021
Artists routinely paint portraits of presidents and other heads of states. But recently, the 43rd President of the United States of America, George W Bush, produced 43 vibrantly-coloured portraits of immigrants he had come to know over the years.
The series is titled, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants”. It will be on display early next month.
“For the last 18 months, I’ve been painting portraits and writing the stories of 43 immigrants,” the former president said wrote on Instagram.
Among those who are featured in his seminal work is Pakistani-American entrepreneur and philanthropist Syed Javaid Anwar.
Anwar is originally from Karachi, Pakistan. In the early 1970s, he left Pakistan to study engineering at the University of Wyoming. For the trip, Anwar had to borrow money to pay both for his ticket and his semester fee.
For the next two decades, the talented Pakistani left behind his humble beginnings, and transformed into an oil tycoon rubbing shoulders with the crème de la-crème of the United States.
Anwar has had a close relationship with senior George Bush, the 41st president of the US. In fact, he was the only Pakistani American who attended Bush’s funeral in Houston.
Later, Anwar came to know his son, George W Bush, and when in 1995, Bush Jr. was seeking to be elected from Texas, it was Anwar who first encouraged him to also set his eyes on the presidency.
But that was not the only reason Bush decided to sketch Anwar. For the former president, it was his friend’s ingenious creativity, arduous dedication, earnest diligence and gracious philanthropy that convinced Bush.
The project is immensely important and comes at a time when not too far back another US president, Donald J. Trump, spent his tenure dehumanising immigrants by labelling them as smugglers, criminals and killers.
Bush has expressed hope that his upcoming book will help heal the wounds of America and bring focus back to the positive contributions of immigrants in the United States.
Through these portraits, Bush has liberated the spirit of the immigrant community that calls the United States their new motherland. Undoubtedly, this project is a much needed step in the right direction.