Faiz International Festival: Art residency brings terrains of Murree to life

Book titled ‘You're Killing the Mountains’ also launched at three-day event

Mariam Shafqat November 19, 2017

LAHORE: An exhibition and launch of the book titled ‘You're Killing the Mountains' was organised at Alhamra Art Gallery. The event was part of activities oeganised for the three-day Faiz International Festival.

The exhibition is an outcome of Murree Museum Artists Residency which has been held every year since 2015. The curator and visual artist, Saba Khan, founded the residency with the aim to bring together a creative, collaborative workspace and a summer retreat for artists and writers.

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"Due to being in the hills, it (Murree) is off the beaten path of the art hub and despite a rich past, the town is currently devoid of channels for intellectual stimulation and has been rampantly pillaged and damaged by the growing strains of tourism," she says.

As British Raj architecture and archives continue to wither away, the residency seeks to find creative individuals, who are inspired by topography, history, and the culture of Murree, she adds.  Khan hopes these people can reflect upon personal concerns and social issues faced by the area.

This year's art residency was themed around water and terrains of Murree and eight brushsmiths took part in the event.

Saba also feels the residency can contribute to the local community by holding workshops for gypsy children and students of St Deny's Boarding School.

She hopes the series of initiatives will enable and sustain an environment where cultural artefacts and heritage spaces are documented, preserved, archived, studied and reinterpreted.

Speaking about the exhibition, Salima Hashmi, who visited the residency as a mentor, believes this was a brave initiative by Saba who wanted to highlight the issues surrounding precious natural reserves.

One of the key organisers, Sher Ali, says the two main pressing issues of the overly stressed hills are the shortage of water and over territorialisation of land which is fast leading to ecological disasters.

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According to the details provided in the booklet, coupled with illustrations, the water supply for residential and commercial use was strictly regulated by Murree's municipality.

The water valves are kept caged and protected in order to prevent water theft. One can find countless water tanks locked and protected all over the terrain.

Man pushcarts, designed to carry children and sometimes adults through different routes to and from Mall Road in Murree, are also being used to transport water.

Gujjar men are filling the gaps where demand for water is not met. They pour water from natural springs into bottles and other large containers and are seen pushing their carts, thus providing water across different routes in Murree.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2017.


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