LAHORE : The Government College University (GCU) of Lahore has conceived an award for the Best Female Artist in the name of the late Madeeha Gohar, founder of Ajoka Theatre and iconic performing arts professional, for her contribution to the field of art and direction.
Professor Hassan Amir Shah, who recently completed his tenure as the Vice-chancellor of GCU, claimed that the Madeeha Gohar Medal would be given to best female performer of GCU’s annual play. Ajoka’s executive director and Gohar’s husband Shahid Nadeem thanked the Vice-Chancellor for the honour and hoped that the gesture would encourage young actors who are inspired by Gohar to explore their abilities and carry forward in her footsteps.
The late actor served as a secretary of the institute’s Dramatic Society in 1979-80s. She was an Old Ravian and did her masters in English Literature from the Government College, Lahore. She also directed French Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s acclaimed play Men Without Shadows as an annual production for the drama society.
Nayab Faiza, an Ajoka member who performed in the play Lo Phir Basant Aaee in 2014, is also a Ravian and former president of GCDC. She opined that there are medals for good debaters and high achievers from different categories but the dramatics club did not have any medals for outstanding drama students. Hence, the Madeeha Gohar Medal is a need of the hour.
“I am very happy that GCU honoured Madeeha to inspire young actors, given that she deserved much more than this for her outstanding services to the promotion of meaningful theatre,” said Nayab.
While sharing his memories of working with Gohar in GCU’s Twelfth Night, Professor Amir stated that she was a passionate theatre and social activist right from their college days, which led her to evolve into a leading professional, especially after the inception of her theatre group. She founded Ajoka in 1983 and committed herself entirely to creating socially meaningful theatre, which also pioneered alternative production movements in Pakistan.
It was because of her vision and belief in the power of theatre that Ajoka performed all over Pakistan and abroad, whilst making a name for itself as one of the leading theatre groups of the country. Gohar directed numerous plays, highlighting the evils in society, and also conducted theatre training workshops in different parts of Pakistan for women, children and the minorities.
“Madeeha Gohar was a powerful personality, and despite the challenges and censorship policies in the country, she was committed to the welfare of the society and theatre,” said Shahid Nadeem.
Gohar also participated in various theatre conferences in the UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand, India, Bangladesh and Nepal and co-founded the Women’s Action Forum 1983, ceaselessly campaigning for the repeal of discriminatory laws against women and minorities. In the process, she also once lost her job and was sent to prison.
Gohar organized four Indo-Pak Panj Pani Theatre Festivals in Lahore between 2004 and 2007, which saw many renowned directors of both sides of the border participate, along with their troupes. She was awarded the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz for her contribution to art and culture of by the President of Pakistan in 2003, while the Government of Netherlands also awarded her Prince Claus Award in 2006.
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