Many in the north and central parts of the country are still unfamiliar with the richness of the secular literary heritage, cultural pluralism and Sufi traditions of Sindh. This was evident in the keenness and interest with which dozens of residents of the twin cities thronged the Sindhi pavilion at the Lok Mela, here on Monday.
One cannot escape the colourful Sindhi pavilion, while visiting the folk festival organised by Lok Virsa at Shakarparian. Extensive efforts are currently underway to promote Sindhi language and culture both at the provincial as well as national level. Over a dozen television channels currently broadcast in Sindhi language. A similar number of newspapers are also published in Sindhi.
A contingent of over a hundred participants from Sindh including artisans in various craft fields, folk artists, musicians, instrumentalists and folk dancers are actively participating and showcasing their folk heritage at the festival.
Sindh is land of great Sufis, saints and mystics such as Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Sachal Sarmast and Lal Shahbaz Qalandar who spread the message of peace, love and harmony to mankind through their teachings and poetry.
Artists and musicians seen performing at the festival include folk singers Shaukat Ali and Ahmad Ali, alghoza player Arbab Khan, murli player Misri Jogi, borindo player Zulfiqar Ahmad, dhambura player Rasul Bakhsh Brohi, dholak player Mir Muhammad, benjo player Allah Dino, and others.
Folk dance groups such as Sain Dad matka dancers, Niaz Ahmad shehnai group, Vishnu Thari dancers, Agha fireworks dance group, and dancers Chandi Faqir, Chapri, Khuda Bakhsh and Ajmal have also gathered a lot attention at the festival. Famous Sindhi folk crafts such as lacquer art, farasi weaving, blue pottery, Sindhi embroidery, ajrak, block printing, traditional carpet weaving, rilli (appliqué work), tie-dye, khes weaving, wood works, Thari embroidery and others are on display at the Lok Mela.
Master artisans whose work is on display at the festival include Imdad Ali Wighio (block making), Halima (durree weaving), Siani and Safia (lungi/khes weaving), Smeru (farasi weaving), Zaheera (Ralli weaving), Khan Chand (leather shoes), Gino Mal, Deeplu and Zamir Ahmad (Thari handicrafts), Naseem Sultan (Sindhi embroidery), Naeemuddin (blue pottery), Qadir Bukhsh and Rafaqat Ali (ajrak block making), Faqir Muhammad (clay work), Khadim Hussain (Mohenjo-Daro replica-making), Suleman (lacquer work), Imtiaz Shah (Chunri work), and Aslam Arbab (sussi weaving).
Sindhi artisan honoured
Each year, “Lok Mela” opens with a “dastarbandi” or “chadarposhi” of an established artisan. This year, Imdad Ali Wighio who specialises in ‘block making’, a dying craft from Sindh was honoured in the Lok Mela 2015 Dastarbandi Ceremony that took place last Friday. He belongs to a remote village in Bhitshah, Taluka Hala, District Mitiari. Ali learnt the art of block making from his father at an early age and since then, he has given forty five years of his life to keep this centuries’ old traditional craft alive. He has been demonstrating his skills every year at the artisans-at-work festival, Lok Virsa since 1981. Ali has trained a number of youth in his area to ensure continuity of the tradition he inherited from one generation to next.
Lok Mela will continue till Sunday, April 12.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2015.