LAHORE: The third Faiz International Festival kicked off here in Lahore’s Alhamra Hall on Friday with a mesmerising performance by Ajoka Theatre and formal inauguration of photo exhibitions, including rare photographs from the legendary poet’s life.
A large number of people participated on the first day of the festival inaugurated by veteran journalist and human rights activist IA Rehman. The two daughters of Faiz – Salima Hashmi and Muneeza Hashim – were also present on the occasion.
Talking to Pakistan Today, IA Rehman, who has had the honour of working with Faiz, said that it was very encouraging that the Faiz Festival was being celebrated with such great fervour for the past three years in spite of the prevalent bleak scenario of the country’s affairs.
“The Faiz festival is part of our journey of finding the path of truth,” he said. Rehman added that numerous discussion sessions have been scheduled for the festival which would cover a wide range of topics including art, culture, music, poetry and politics.
“It is the need of the hour to organise such festivals, especially keeping in view the prevalent state of our environment, with the ongoing cutting of trees and destruction of our ecology. There are sessions especially dedicated to environmental concerns, as well as the conservation of our culture and heritage, scheduled for the coming two days of the festival,” he added.
Speaking with Pakistan Today, a young artist from Balochistan Syed Shah Abdullah said that he has attempted to express Faiz’s pain in his calligraphy artwork and has dedicated his exhibition to Quetta’s Hazara community. He said that the Hazara community passes through the same trauma as Faiz felt and wrote about. A member of the Hazara community himself, Abdullah has used the Iranian abstract form of calligraphy called “Siyah Mashq” for his work.
Another participant of the festival, Palestinian architect Shatha Safi commented that Faiz had a close association with Palestine and that was what had brought her to Pakistan to pay homage to him. The Palestinian, who is visiting Pakistan for the first time, is scheduled to speak at a session focusing on the methods of conserving the country’s rural heritage.
An enthralling play “Lo phir basant ayi” was presented on the first day by Ajoka Theatre. It was heartening to see that the hall, in which the play was being enacted, was filled to capacity by spectators.
The play revolved around the festival of basant in which people from extremely diverse backgrounds used to participate once upon a time but which, like many other things, fell victim to the onslaught of creeping extremism. Many people, like “Ustaad Maju”, whose ancestors had made kites for several decades, found themselves unemployed following the ban on basant’s celebrations. Being in love with kite-making, Ustaad Maju, living in the “Mohalla Patang Sazan” in the walled city of Lahore, was not ready to abandon his profession. However, all his and his mohalla’s resistance came to nought when the police foiled their attempt to celebrate basant and arrested them.
Lo phir basant ayi has been staged in different cities of India including Amritsar, Delhi and Chandigarh by the Ajoka Theatre, which has actively been involved in conducting plays to spread social awareness for several decades.
The Faiz festival, organised jointly by Faiz Foundation Trust and Lahore Arts Council, would continue over the weekend at Alhmara Arts Council. More than 70 different events related to arts, music, literature, politics and culture have been scheduled to be held during the next two days.