Celebrating Swat-Kohistan’s indigenous culture

July festival will provide entertainment to people of Swat along with boost local trade, language and culture.

Zubair Torwali June 22, 2011

Culture always plays an important role in shaping the attitudes of people. When a culture is destroyed, the impact is tremendous in creating adverse effects on the mindset and lifestyle of the people. Culture is also a natural factor in determining the identity of a nation. Today, Pakistan’s ills are related to the identity crises created by replacing indigenous cultures with alien and often opposing ones. This has produced a disconnect among the people and consequently we have been facing a conflict within. In this era of globalisation, there is little room for culture.

Swat-Kohistan is home to cultures which are breathing their last mostly due to negligence by the state. Here live two distinct communities: Gawri and Torwali. These people are usually referred to as Kohistanis but the term is generically applied to those who live in the mountains. These people have their own language and culture with their folklore, norms, traditions, festivities, rituals and distinct ways of life. But unfortunately these traits are not only undocumented but also unexplored.

Realising the threats to their cultures, the Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), a Swat-Kohistan based civil society organisation, started an advocacy campaign for the preservation and promotion of such cultures. The organisation has so far completed a number of successful projects in specific fields with the help of donors. The IBT approached the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government and surprisingly found the culture, tourism and sports ministry very supportive under its dynamic minister and secretary assisted with an active and efficient team.

The IBT planned a three-day culture festival called Simam which means grace, grandeur or celebration. It was supported by the tourism corporation of KP and its initiative called the Revival of Indigenous Cultural Heritage.

The Simam festival is an initiative by the people of Swat-Kohistan. It is a mega event with many activities; poetic sessions, indigenous music concerts, a display of cultural items, women’s handicrafts exhibitions, traditional games and dances. The unique aspect of the festival is to involve local people with their indigenous knowledge and wisdom. There are also lifetime achievement awards for the people who have excelled in their fields.

In addition, there are two seminars scheduled on the occasion; one on the broad but relevant theme of culture, militancy and rehabilitation while the other is on strategies to preserve and promote the native languages of north Pakistan, from Gilgit-Baltistan to Chitral.

Simam will be held from July 11 - July 14. This event will provide entertainment to the people of Swat who have been the victims of extreme mental, economic and social torture for the last four years. It will also give an opportunity for tourists to learn more about the area, its people, flora and fauna; and of course about the hardships faced by the locals.

People from KP, Punjab, Karachi and Islamabad are expected to attend and enliven the dying tourism of Swat. It will be a good experience to visit Swat, particularly Swat-Kohistan, after the havoc of the floods. In Swat, tourists are regarded as guests and there would not be a better time to visit.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.


Malay | 12 years ago | Reply Well done Zubair!
Arijit Sharma | 12 years ago | Reply @nom: " ... This article was about a beautiful attempt to save and preserve a distinct subculture of Pakistan, and you had to come dump your hate all over it. " I just made a factual statement. Where is the hate in what I mentioned ?
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