By Asma Kundi
ISLAMABAD: The third Mother Languages Literature Festival (MLLF) started of f on Saturday with a one minute silence in memory of human rights activist late Asma Jahangir.
The two-day festival is being held at Lok Virsa. Human rights activist I. A. Rehman was scheduled to pay tributes to Asma Jahangir in his keynote speech, but could not turn up due to health issues. Dr Saba Gul Khattak from the Foundation Open Society Institute, while talking to Dawn, said Ms Jahangir was an icon who led f rom the front in the fight against injustices in society.
`We will continue to draw our inspiration from her struggle against human rights violations,` she said. Ms Khattak claimed that her organisation was going to initiate a scholarship in her name.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Dr Saba proposed establishment of Pakistan Cultural Fund which would be utilised for promotion and preservation of culture in Pakistan.
She insisted that the fund should be generated through local resources, and the government should also contribute its share in the fund. Other speakers emphasised the need for formulating a national policy for integration, protection and promotion of all mother languages.
They also recommended declaring mother languages as national languages, alongside Urdu.
The panelists urged the parliamentarians to draft a bill for legislation aimed at mainstreaming different regional cultures and documenting endangeredlanguages.
Renowned writer Noorul Huda Shah said culture was a source of human integration, social harmony and peace in society.
Indus Culture Forum Chairman Niaz Nadeem shared the detailed programme of the two-day festival and said like every year over 100 writers, poets and artists representing up to 20 languages are participating in the festival.
Acting country director of Heinrich Böll Stif tung Pakistan Jacqueline Wilk said she loved Pakistani culture, especially as student of the anthropology.
`Many people I met across the country are not aware of cultural diversity and the different shades of what it can mean to be a Pakistani. I am thereforeglad and very excited about this excellent initiative being held in Islamabad to celebrate the plurality of Pakistan, she said.
Music from Endangered Languages A musical evening, `Music from Endangered Languages` featuring songs in Marwari, Kashmiri, Gojri, Torwari, Khowar, Kailasha and Pahari was also held to celebrate the festival.
The concert was organised by LokVirsa at the Open Air Theatre and the emphasis of the event was to commemorate the rich linguistic and cultural heritage of Pakistan. The theme of the event was to acquaint the audience with the diversity of dialect through music.
For that artists from different parts of the country who sing and perform inlanguages thathave been declared endangered by Unesco were invited on stage to pay homage to the versatility of their region.
The event was presided over by Sindhi novelist and poetess Shabnum Gul who engaged the entire audience with her elegantly melodic voice and a hush would fall over each time she would step on stage.She began the evening by stadng, `This evening is a bouquet in which each language is an intricately beautiful flower. We are extremely blessed to have such diversity of languages in Pakistan which rather than dividing us, unify us. If we were to shred them down, we would all appreciate that ourlanguages representourland and that is what binds us together.
With that, she invited on stage the first singer, Shaukat Ali from Tharparkar Umer Kot who with his powerful voice and potent stage-presence set the entire mood for the evening. He sung in Marwari, a language prevalent in Rajasthan, Gujrat and Haryana.
The musicians in his ensemble included Abbas Ali on dholak, Ustaad Amanat Ali on tabla and Mohammad Hayat Sagar on harmonium. The Marwari music drew profoundly from nature and folklore.
Complementing the music was Shaukat Ali`s attire and his subtle yet energetic dance moves. The moment he began singing, the crowd initiated an accompanying cheer that lasted throughout the song.
Following the performance and subsequently adding to the energy was the Chitrali ensemble singing in Torwari and headed by Mansoor Shabab. Even before he began singing, several men from the crowd gathered in front of the stage in a circle and as though commanded by Mansoor Shabab`s voice they initiated a dance.
It was a tough act to follow but National Award winner Bano Rehmat from Muzaffarabad took centre stage and in Gojri language she sang her first song that paid homage to the beauty of Kashmir.
Another Torwari singer, Rahim Sabir, accompanied by Javed Iqbal and Mir Afzalin his group sung a number that commemorated the depths of emotions and different colours of life.
Though he initiated the song with perplexing nervousness, Sabir was continually cheered on by the audience and eventually created a unquestionably entrancing song that had the entire audience charmed.
Through music, each artist played to create awareness of the multiple heterogeneous and contradictory musical narratives that exist. Oblivious to the words, music unified the languages and throughout the evening the entire crowd swayed, clapped, whistled and even occasionally stood up to dance.–Dawn