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A wedding with... craft

Khalid Javed in New Delhi. Photo: S. Arneja.

DO YOU know that the famous poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was also an art collector ? He had a house of more than 16 rooms in Pakistan. In his trips to various states and countries, he would never forget to buy the traditional mementoes and guard them. His nephew, Khalid Javed was a student of law when he found out his uncle's passion for art in 1972. He saw him unhappy about the vanishing charms of the traditional art and craft items among locals and the disinterest of the people in carrying the folk art and music forward. Javed, who was initially interested in joining politics, was bowled over by Faiz's idea of spreading people's interest in folk art, music and preserve it. That's how Lok Virasat started in Pakistan in 1973. It was a museum-cum-reference library where artisans would come, manufacture their items and get a few visitors to appreciate and buy their works.

It was followed by Lok Mela in 1975. Later, he took them to Urs festivals as Shah Latif Mela, Rasmon Rivaz, Sacchal Sarasmast, Khushal Khan Khatak and Bulle Shah, etc. that provided many artisans a chance to exhibit their works and make some money, be it wood-carving, metal work, cloth designs or marble work. An example of this craft show was visible at Dilli Haat recently when India and Pakistan together held a joint show called Dostkari.

To Javed goes the credit of making these festivals a permanent feature from 1981. "Initially, we had 25 artisans. Now, we have 1,500, and that house of Faiz saab is being turned into a museum. To bring dignity to these artisans who were basically nomads or migrants, we gave the title of `dastkar' and their manufactures, the status of `craft' and thus, we formed National Council of the Arts," recalls Khalid who has now transformed this craft mela into a huge affair. "Now, we have six chapters all over Kashmir and Pakistan. We have financial support from various NGOs and UNESCO, UNDP, etc." A place literally a jungle earlier called Shankarparnia at Islamabad, is now a hub for artists which also has two open theatres with 2,500 seats. "Here we do the video recording of the artists working, train them in modern trends as wax polishing which you will not find anywhere, candle work, Multani embroidery, Gandhara motifs and 400 such types of art works, tie and dye, shoe, pagdi-making and so on. We have a cultural-reference library, 10,000 hours of records, 7,000 hours of videography for the sake of university students. Here, each night is a night of some music festival which is a part of 10-day mela held thrice in month," informs Javed whose council has won `Taghma-e-Imitiyaz' or Pride of Performance and Seal of Excellence Award from Pakistan only recently.

By July this year, another museum of 60,000 square-feet area would be ready in the country.



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