Revisiting The Mall: ‘Reclaim the city’s lost soul’

Conservationists ask citizens to ‘revisit, rethink, revitalise and restore’ the cultural identity of the city.

Express December 12, 2011


The Mall’s landscape changing through the years signifies the city’s historical culture, conservationists said on Monday.

Masod Khan, technical director and senior urban planner at the Aga Khan Trust for Culture; Imrana Tiwana, a member of the Lahore Bachao Tehreek; and Dr Abbas Famori, the Iranian Cultural Centre director were among those who stressed the need to preserve the city’s culture and heritage.

They spoke at the inauguration ceremony of a photographic exhibition titled ‘Revisiting Mall Road’ that chronicles the transformation of Mall Road from 1870 to 1970.

The exhibition which is on display till December 15 (10m-5pm) at the Zahoorul Akhlaq Art Gallery at the National College of Arts comprises more than 100 prints. The prints have been provided by the NCA’s archives unit and the Loh Kot Cultural and Heritage Society of Lahore.

Tiwana termed The Mall “a delightful fusion of varying architecture”. She stressed the need to “revisit, rethink, revitalise and restore” the cultural identity of the city. “When a city like Lahore loses its cultural identity, it loses its soul,” she said.

The environmental advocate said more than 80 per cent of 200 or so gardens in the city had disappeared over the years as a result of urbanisation. Tiwana said that air pollution levels in the city were now up to 16 times higher than World Health Organization standards.

Masood Khan, the keynote speaker, said that conservation demanded sensitivity. “Conservation means integrating heritage and the modern,” he said.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Khan said conservation of heritage always failed to receive adequate attention in the sub-continent except in Sri Lanka. He attributed poor conservatory efforts to a lack of resources and failure of governments to prioritise conservation projects.

Dr Abbas Famori, who was the chief guest, said the preservation of culture and heritage was the responsibility of the entire society. He said that modern artists and architects needed to work towards protecting and preserving the heritage for coming generations. “Lahore, the cultural capital of the sub-continent, represents the historical heritage of the entire geographical region,” he said.

“Over the years we have lost the soul of the city which needs to be reclaimed,” said Suroosh Irfani, the NCA Research and Publication Centre director.

Irfani said that he was overwhelmed by the response of the people, especially the youth. “The turnout only goes to show that association to one’s heritage is deep-rooted in every individual,” he said.

Samina Akhtar, a visitor at the gallery, termed the exhibition “nostalgic”. “I am glad to have been able to see these photographs.

At the same time I feel sad at what has become of Mall Road,” she said.

The exhibition has been organised as part of the Research and Publication Centre’s programme to “reclaim the cultural heritage” of Lahore and is sponsored by the Lahore Bachao Tehreek.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2011.


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