Heritage Now: Festival celebrating Pakistan’s cultural heritage comes to an end

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LAHORE: The two-day ‘Heritage Now’ festival, organised by the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) in collaboration with the British Council Pakistan came to an end on October 22.

Heritage Now was aimed at promoting the cultural heritage of Pakistan by facilitating a public dialogue on the importance of heritage and engaging the audience with museums, heritage sites and intangible heritage of Pakistan. The two-day festival consisted of academic sessions and panel discussions involving almost thirty foreign and twenty-five national delegates, while art exhibitions, food and artifact stalls, musical performances, and other activities at Alhamra Arts Council kept the visitors entertained.

The festival was a continuation of the two-day International Heritage and Museums Conference held in September 2016 by WCLA and British Council. Akin to the present festival, the aim of the conference was to engage local and international public in a dialogue on heritage and celebrate the cultural and historical identity of Pakistan.

Speakers at Heritage Now included renowned names such as Quddus Mirza, Allah Bakhsh Malik, Aarfa Syeda, Kamran Lashari, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Vebeke Jensen, Fouzia Saeed, Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Raza Kazim, Sonya Battla and Raania Azam Khan while Rafay Alam, Mira Hashmi, Mehjabeen Abidi Habib and Basit Koshul constituted a few of the moderators. Musical performances were given by groups including Mughal-e-Funk, Sachal Studio Orchestra and Sur Mandal.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary “Song of Lahore” was premiered on the first of the two days while her immersive art exhibition “Home 1947” was on display in one of the halls throughout. Besides these, groups of young musicians and stations set up for painting, pottery and puppet-making involving all participants kept the atmosphere lively and engaging.

Other highlights of the event included a “Wekh Lahore” photography exhibition curated by WCLA, an exhibition of 40 artworks by children and youth revolving around the themes of heritage, culture and identity, and a digital exhibition of several heritage sites of Pakistan. Photographs depicting life in Lahore’s Walled City, taken under the mentorship of award-winning National Geographic photographer Matthieu Paley and Mareile Paley, and artifacts (or replicas) taken from Pakistani museums were also on display. Besides these, British Council had set up a library featuring 70 rare books written on history and heritage, while National College of Arts students presented their works of terracotta.

The delegates of Heritage Now were also taken on a guided tour to Lahore’s Walled City, visiting heritage sites including the Cathedral Church, Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Badshahi, Sonehri and Wazir Khan Mosques and Shahi Hammam.

Speaking about the event, WCLA Director General Kamran Lashari expressed hope that the event would contribute positively to the preservation of heritage and culture. He talked about the need for improvement in the use of technology for the purpose, and of engaging the public more through similar events. He talked especially about the need for education and learning to continue, both for professionals and the public, and said that this can be achieved through more experience sharing workshops and exchange programmes. Finally, he said that the festival was a means to tell the world that Pakistanis are a tolerant, peace-loving and diverse nation.