Skip to main content

VIEW: Year of The Faiz

By Afrah Jamal

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, October 29, 2011

“For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished freedom is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while there was still time” — George Sutherland.

A bit of art to rebuild an ancient potter’s village, a sampling of prose to challenge the established order, a simple vision used as ballast to steady a foundering ship — when all three intersect, the ripples can create an alternate timeline. Setting aside 2011 as the year of Faiz has opened a doorway of possibilities.

Several months ago an open call was issued to interpret Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry through visual art. A specially designed A4-sized paper was the chosen medium of expression. This ambitious project was part of the ongoing centennial celebrations to honour a legendary poet. A few weeks ago that vision took the form of ‘Postcards to Faiz’ and was unveiled at Frere Hall, Karachi — a city where he spent many a day.


Faiz and his collection of ‘poetry with a purpose’ were recalled to serve as a mentor to the new generation who brought his most memorable verses to life. There was a nobler side to this charming little proposal that went beyond ending a nation’s prolonged estrangement from culture. This was reflected in the stirring speeches given by admirers, echoed in the sumptuous interpretations mounted on the panels, and witnessed in the determined faces leading the charge. The wall was not just a sentimental showcase for Faiz — it was an intervention to preserve the narrative of rationality in a polarised society.


The exhibit forged a connection between art and prose — a fusion that was to fuel a silent movement of change. Entries came from far and wide including the Fine Arts School within the local central jail. Around 150 artists (students and professionals alike from across the country and beyond the borders) came up with a compelling version of political/social transformation mined from his works. Arresting the downward drift remained the ultimate theme; the extension of a cultural lifeline to empower the disenfranchised became a valuable side effect.

The nation was entreated to join in the celebration of true genius. But this was also a contest — accompanied by a (not so) silent auction. Those who walked away with a piece of art would be assisting in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the flood-affected village of Yarak (near D I Khan). Saving the potters was said to be in “keeping with the spirit of Faiz who touched upon the symbiotic relationship between people and culture”.

While being urged to rescue one heritage from Mother Nature’s wrath, extricating another from man’s careless hands was also indicated as a priority. Though the display was held in Gallerie Sadequain inside the freshly reopened Frere Hall (described somewhere as the best preserved monument of the British Raj) on the eve of its 146th anniversary, the need for restoration was deeply felt all around. Faiz, as the man credited with the creation of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and Lok Virsa, the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, would have shuddered at the state of neglect.



Nukta Art magazine and the Progressive Writers Association are doing their bit in fashioning a world where progressive ideas bloom and disparate voices speak in sync — a world that values culture as a necessary bulwark and a vital aspect of diplomacy. By fortifying such structures, many hope to outwait the coming storm.



Rumana Husain (founder/senior editor Nukta Art, founder-editor Aye Karachi) engaged youth from far flung areas and madrassas in the dialogue and in a few cases helped write the first chapter in their artistic education. For some it was a first visit to Frere Hall; for others a first encounter with Faiz. Such events set up a striking contrast between the wealth of talent and a dearth of understanding in the hopes of rectifying such imbalances.

The Faiz Art Award ceremony marked the end of the six-day event. Some of the art work is still available for sale with Nukta Art. That a man forced to endure incarceration and self-exile — a man who had his patriotism questioned and his loyalties tested has been enshrined in yet another Hall of Fame is a remarkable twist of fate.


Saleema Hashmi, Faiz’s daughter, often wondered about Faiz’s bond with his fans and family to figure out which was stronger and came to the comforting conclusion that both parties were treated on an equal footing. The connection was never lost but perhaps with time it got a little frayed. Reviving that link has been an important part of the process; redirecting the torrent of creative energy away from the fiery shores remains an ongoing struggle. The year-long celebrations are coming to a close. Whether this is acknowledged as a means to escape a waking nightmare, appraised for its enriching effect or treasured for its raw appeal, ‘Postcards to Faiz’ is a sweet notch on the cultural belt.

The writer is a freelance journalist who blogs at http://afrahjamal.blogspot.com. She can be reached at afrahjh@hotmail.com

Home | Editorial

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: How It Happened

Published in Daily Times / Sat 9 Feb 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Shazaf Fatima Haider

Thanks to Liberty Books for the (temp) review copy

Gwendolen: I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . .”
-
The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)


Characters chasing ‘happily ever after’s’ are often pulled aside by enterprising elders who try to flag all but the most traditional road to the altar. A fiendishly funny narrative pounces on the retreating figure of Cupid and explores his cultural relevance in the sport they call match-making.

The saga of the Bandian clan comes with a perpetually scandalized, formidable old lady fiercely protective…

Analysis: Survival in the Age of Information Warfare

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistani troops recently rescued a US - Canadian family that had been captured in Afghanistan in 2012 and held hostage for 5 years. International media headlines however were not all laudatory; they editorialized, and dabbled in innuendos undermining a successful mission and the men who risked their lives to bring the captives home. This is not the first time the West glossed over an ally’s achievements. And it will not be the last, since negative spin is invaluable for propping up pre-prepared narratives, advancing agendas; shaping perceptions, reinforcing stereotypes, driving ratings and controlling the message.

Because dictatorships do not have monopoly over information warfare – everyone has a dog in the race and the fake news juggernaut appears unstoppable in the age of social media and instant messaging. And while traditional methods remain relevant in the game of deception, the advent of social media has only expanded their reac…

Analysis: Pakistan’s Contributions for the Uplift of Afghan People

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistan and Afghanistan have history. And it is not all good. They have a shared border – though its legality has been contested. They also managed to forge a united front against the Soviets and achieved the impossible. It is a rare moment of solidarity and teamwork.

The final round of the Cold War fought in the badlands of Afghanistan altered the timeline since then and as the Afghan state veered off course – the impact was felt on neighboring nations. It led to an influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the emergence of Taliban, the fracturing of the Afghan socio-political structure and opened a breach in the global security.

All this is in the past.

Pakistan and Afghanistan may have been brothers in arms with shared borders and traditions and historical ties, but despite their time spent in the trenches, Pakistan’s economic value as a trade portal for a landlocked region or its place as host to millions of refugees and the biggest s…

BOOK REVIEW: DIARIES OF FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMMAD AYUB KHAN 1966-1972

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 29, 2007

Books allow people to have their say. Diaries express what they actually meant. Therefore, every prominent personality must stray from the path of political correctness and leave behind a diary. One way to regain an insight into the defining moments of our history post ‘65 War would be through the diaries of Pakistan’s first military ruler and first C-in-C, Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, who also authored the book, ‘Friends. Not Masters’. The personal lives of public figures are always intriguing; while their contemporaries indict/acquit them on consequences of their actions, diaries give individuals a rare shot at swaying the upcoming generation of juries. Recorded during the uneasy calm before an inevitable storm brewing on the Eastern horizon and Indian front, the entries, spanning 7 years from September 1966 - October 1972, are replete with shrewdness and candor of a narrator who observed the events initially as a key player…

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

Analysis: Afghanistan – An Actual Safe Haven – Part I

Published Global Affairs / Dec 2017?

The longest war is going according to plan; but whose plan exactly?
Not Washington - bogged down in a never-ending nightmare. Or Kabul - besieged and battered, barely holding its head above water. Not Pakistan, a frontline state suffering blowback and living under the weight of America’s expectations - and uncalled for accusations. The dramatic shifts in the geostrategic dynamics are not reflected in Washington’s stance towards Islamabad nor are they inclined towards the multiplayer great game unfolding in the backdrop with Russians, Iranians, Taliban, Indians, Chinese, ISIS and its Coalition forces.

Mission Rebuild Afghanistan

In the backdrop are nations used as pawns to keep Cold War allies or emergent threats in check. On the side are non-state actors wielded as weapons to thwart ambitions and counter bigger threats like ISIS. And at the centre is a strategy that offers a patchwork quilt of something old, something new, something borrowed to s…

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…