Thatta Kedona

Culture is a Basic Need

’ٹھٹہ کھڈونا‘: پاک جرمن غیر سرکاری تعاون کی کامیاب مثال

پنجاب کے ایک گاؤں ’ٹھٹہ غلام کا دھیروکا‘ میں ’’ٹھٹہ کھڈونا‘‘ کے نام سے جاری ایک ثقافتی ترقیاتی منصوبے کو پاکستان اور جرمنی کے مابین غیر سرکاری تعاون کی ایک عمدہ اور کامیاب مثال قرار دیا جاتا ہے

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:36 AM, , links to this post

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag Super Senta Siller!

A tribute by Amjad Ali to Dr Senta Siller on the eve of her birthday

There are some people you encounter in life who do not wait for things to happen. They just make things happen.

Dr. Senta Siller is one such person in my life.

My first recollection of Dr. Siller is from the days I spent at the Lette Verein in the German capital, Berlin, some 33 years ago. I had secured admission at Lette Verein in 1984 and it was there that I first met her.

Thankfully, it was not the last time.

Needless to say that Lette Verein is one of prestigious German organisations for Applied Arts. It was founded by Dr. Wilhelm Adolf Lette way back in 1866.

My three-year diploma course in Graphic Design was completed by 1987 but my formal association, which subsequently transformed into cherished friendship, with my teachers and mentors Dr. Siller and her spouse Dr. Norbert Pintsch remains intact till date. I do hope and believe that our friendship will survive until we are present in this world in a physical form.

Yes, as long as we are alive and kicking.

Dr. Pintsch, who taught us History of Arts and Geometry, was the one who for the first time introduced Computers to students.

With a perennial smile on her face, the very kind Dr. Siller taught us Roman Calligraphy and Screen Printing and perhaps many a lesson about life and society. During long hours in the classroom she always wanted to know more and more about Pakistan, my country of birth.

Her interest in Pakistan was not surprising for the reason that she had spent several years there in the 1960s. And, one of her daughters Dr. Leila Masson was born in a hospital in the city of Lahore. There was already a connection and bond which only got cemented with time.

As I was missing Pakistan and feeling homesick I would often divulge a lot to Dr. Siller about Pakistan, my parents and also about my village Thatta Ghulamka Dhiroka.

When in 1987 I joined Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s public international broadcaster, and moved to the colourful city of Cologne, my communication with my teacher Dr. Siller remained unbroken. It was impossible not to be in touch with her for my insightful conversations with her were a source of inspiration.

Three years hence, in 1990, Dr. Siller and Dr. Pintsch gave me a pleasant surprise by dropping at my home in Lahore.

Dr. Siller fancied seeing my hamlet, a place I had so passionately talked about in my perceptive conversations with her at Lette Verein and elsewhere too.

Almost everyone at my village warmly greeted both Siller and Pintsch. Being herself a creative designer, Senta was really moved by embroidery skills of many village craftswomen and artisans. Norbert was thoroughly impressed by architectural marvel of the hamlet, its mud houses and other structures.

The duo’s maiden visit to my village paved the way for an innovative developmental project that was to transform the whole hamlet.

Few months later in April 1991, the trio comprising Senta, Norbert and I along with Joachim Polzer, a young German filmmaker, returned to the village. The outcome of this visit was a 40-minute documentary titled “Amjad’s Village”, which was later screened in a movie hall Babylon in Berlin.

This marked a fruitful relationship between Senta and my village. A relationship that was to last for many decades to come!

Between 1993 and 1998 she spent almost 10 month per year in my village TGD (in the coming years this period decreased gradually because of the daughter projects in Cameron and Colombia).

There was no electricity, no access to clean drinking water, no sanitation facilities and no macadamised road leading up to the village. All of this did not deter Senta.

Braving all odds, she turned all these challenges in a developing country into opportunities with her sheer courage, grit and determination. She spent many a month in my village, without a break. With the passage of time she obviously became a familiar face there. She was adored by the village girls and women, revered by the men, and also admired by the children.

During her stay at the hamlet she developed the idea of establishing a Women Art Center there. Her idea was to have a place for women and girls in the village where they would have an opportunity to produce high-quality handicrafts, which would then be sold in the big cities across Pakistan. She wanted to transform peoples’ lives. And she did.

Sometimes I do reflect and think of Dr. Senta as a magician. It seemed as if she had a magic wand with which she would often make things happen. She literally started from the scratch and made her project so profitable for the village girls that they began earning their livelihood while sitting in their homes. The skilled girls with their hard earned money were able to buy new clothes and jewellery for themselves. She inspired women and girls to dream big and then helped them practically to realise their dreams. In some cases, the village girls made more money than their male counterparts in the family. Some males who had migrated to towns and cities for work would feel envy at Dr. Senta’s cost-effective project. Her efforts did not add days to the lives of the village girls but they did add life and colour to their days!

Her long stays in Pakistan enabled her to travel to different parts of the country, as far as Kafiristan, where she closely studied and documented the costumes and ornaments of the Kalashi tribe. She then developed a new brand “Thatta Kedona”, which is now producing not only the best ethnic dolls of Pakistan but also many colourful handicraft products including finger puppets, greeting cards and bracelets. It will not be an exaggeration to state that Senta became the Mother of Dolls.

She was a darling of the village girls, who were not only earning additional income for their families, but also respect of the male members. Their life changed. They were no longer economically dependent upon men or subservient to them by any stretch of the imagination. Besides, Senta also taught different skills to the village girls and helped them achieve self-esteem and self-confidence.

During my stay in Berlin Thatta Ghulamka Dhiroka always remained the central point of discussions between me and Senta. Due to her personal sacrifices and professional dedication as a designer, she changed destiny of my village and made it one the most famous villages not only in Pakistan but also around the globe. In 2008-2014, more wisdom was the reason to reduce the coming back (as the projects are independent).

On their part, the villagers also remember her fondly. To pay their rich tributes to Dr. Siller the villagers have renamed the Women Art Center (WAC) as Senta Siller Art Center (SSAC). That is their mark of respect and a way of saying Vielen Dank!

Senta, my friend, I am so proud of you. And also grateful to you for making me and my fellow villagers realise the value of indigenous cultural heritage. You opened up a new world to us and your wider perspective offered enormous opportunities to us that we would have perhaps never discovered without your ideas and support.  As you are turning 82 on 17 November 2017, it is my great pleasure to wish you a Happy Birthday. On this day of celebration, please do accept wishes from my family and all the villagers as well. All of us are praying for your long life, good health, happiness and prosperity. Stay blessed. You are our Hero. You will remain our Hero. Immer! Always!

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

A study tour - BNU students in Thatta Ghulamka

A large group of students from BNU (Beaconhouse National University) visited the village Thatta Ghulamka Dhiroka in district Okara on 24 October 2017. This study tour was headed by the Associate Professor Aarish Ali Sardar, who is currently teaching in the Dept. of Visual Communication Design at School of Visual Art & Design of Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan.

These students wanted to closely study the handicrafts project “Thatta Kedona”, which was initiated back in 1993 by the German designer Dr. Senta Siller and her husband Dr. Norbert Pintsch.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:15 AM, , links to this post

No Theory Without Practice

Academic activity ruins the practice
Presentation by Prof Dr Norbert Pintsch at the FBTC on July 7, 2017

Preliminary remarks

Due to space restraint, only core statements are being made here. The critic and the constructive thinker both recognize the explosiveness of the statements, but also the almost hopeless situation, because if mistakes are not understood and every effort for reform is rejected with justifications, future of all companies and organizations is destined to be futile. Recognition of the knowledge in later years will lead to gray hair and hair loss!

We can easily explain situations of the past and present on the "cultural model" and scientifically justify, even if we can never really predict.

Essential facts remain unrecognized even in this digital and global, but not the real world, which supposedly offers detailed viewpoints.

Researching here is understandable, even though it leads unknowingly to a tragic reproduction of errors instead of to a lasting solution.

Because, theory presupposes experience, one must have literally "understood" in order to be able to understand; Development of a meaningful theory is not possible without practical experience and the knowledge gained therefrom!

If the situations of everyday life are looked upon, then the impulse towards increased academic activity is not a surprise, but the quantity of error production by way of short-sighted thinking and short-term action, this necessitated through the compulsion towards cheaper production and use of technology, can be easily explained.

The result are the abusive and excusable errors of management.

The inclination and compulsion and the imagination concerning a particular type of education ruin even smallest of projects, because the participants are torn between traditional family and cultural compulsions and the conventional educational ideologies.

This, too, is understandable, though tragic, because life in the present is consumption-oriented and thus prevents operative and strategic actions, even though it is always spoken of.


Efforts are made to resolve issues through the "pseudo" academic activity; an analysis is made and new employment (income-generating measures) created, that lead to new theories, but lose recognition of basic issues, which is catastrophic. For the growth-conscious and consumption pundits is valid: From word to actions a great distance. Saying is one thing and doing is another. It is more easily said than done!

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:28 AM, , links to this post

Moringa grows fast in TGD

For the Basic Health Unit (BHU) we have organized Moringa and Neem for the villagers. It is to bring back the alternative input in medication for the villagers. BHU makes only sense, if there is more than the traditional medicine. 

The new leaders of AFA (Amjad Ali - the president and Aamir Rafique, the secretary general are now trying their best to promote local herbs n the village.

The trees planted only last year have grown so beautifully. See some of Moringa trees in the village here: 

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11:08 AM, , links to this post

Ruth Pfau Passes Away

Some time ago, a report was published about three German women, who worked selflessly in and for Pakistan and who even knew each other as well:

Annemarie Schimmel, the literary figure
Ruth Pfau, the doctor
Senta Siller, the designer, in the village of Thatta Ghulamka Dhiroka, she worked there in the Center for dolls and handicrafts

Annemarie Schimmel, born in 1922, died in 2003 in Germany, Honorary Crescent of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Is also honoured the Annemarie Schimmel House in Lahore.

Ruth Pfau, born in 1929, died in Pakistan on 10 August 2017, awarded Pakistani Order "Star of Quaid-i-Azam", honorary citizen of Pakistan, She will remain in the memory of the people through the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center in Karachi.

Senta Siller, born in 1935, is still active in the neglected area of Handicrafts, which is the real strength of Pakistani culture. Let us hope that more official support is forthcoming in this area.

Traditional literature and its preservation, health care with traditional environmental and natural medicines and its spread, as well as traditional design and its preservation are examples of sustainable development and real capital of the country, which deserve support!

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 1:05 PM, , links to this post

German connections

Some people live for others. Three honorable German ladies have been living in Pakistan and working to make the life of others better. People of Pakistan passionately recognize the services of these honorable ladies.

Prof. Dr. Annemarie Schimmel (April 7, 1922 - January 26, 2003) was a well known and very influential German scholar who wrote over 500 books and left deep impression on the people of Pakistan.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

Thatta Kedona Ki Kahani

Thatta Khedona -A Pak-German Initiative For Doll-making and Women Empowerment
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 1:30 PM, , links to this post

Romance of Amjad’s Village

What started in 1991 when DGFK produced the movie titled "Amjads Village" in the small Pakistan village Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka (called Dolls Village located 80 Kilometers from Lahore) became a great project famous all over the world. Thanks to the volunteers who kept coming in the village and kept training the local girls and boys in skills to preserve the unique rural culture as and at the same time, generate additional income for the participants. In the meanwhile, dolls and toys produced by the villagers traveled in the boxes of foreigners and diplomats everywhere.

The huge numbers of volunteers who have been associated with the project are now a very closely knit community. They meet together and update each other whenever there is a possibility (or when they can create a possibility). On 26 June 2017, some volunteers had an informal meeting in the old and new centre of Berlin, and had a blast from the past.

Dr Senta Siller who has become a household name in the Village because she has taught handicrafts to almost every girl in the Village. Not only that, she has practically lived in the Village for almost three decades. Also, Dr. Farida Khawaja who assisted her with translation and local consulting. Dr Senta Siller established Women Art Centre (WAC) in the Village in 1993 that is working research, design and management consultation centre. Dr Leila Masson, who was in the Dolls Village for 18 months during 1991 and 1993, and who laid foundation of the Basic Health Unit (BHU) in the Village and served as a medical doctor there during her stay?

Prof Norbert Pintsch - a researcher, architect and engineer – who set up Technology Transfer and Training Centre (TTTC) in TGD in since 1996 TGD and is working as project and Consultant ever since.

A guest lady Nadine Kessler also attended the meeting. 

Thanks to active participants of local NGO Anjuman-e-Falah-e-Aama, the Village has changed overtime. During the years, large number of foreigners and locals traveled to Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka, electricity came to the village, fruit and flower trees are in each home, water pond and drainage systems are working, and now the solar power has changed the way people live in the Village.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11:47 AM, , links to this post

Preservation of Gogera Heritage

Preservation of Cultural Heritage

in Co-Operation with
German Society for the Advancement of Culture
Special Report by S A J Shirazi
This report reviews the situation of the cultural heritage in Pakistan and in particular it focuses on Gogera Fort, gives inventory of the fort and proposals for its preservation as well as management. Part II of covers the poverty alleviation and self help activities of community based local NGO Anjuman-e-Fala-e-AAma working in cooperation with German Society for the Advancement of Culture (DGFK) in Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka – Punjabi village famous all over the world for dolls and toys made here and developments taking place in the process. The report also covers the details of some of the tourists’ attractions in the historic breadbasket of Pakistan around Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka. This part of the report should be read along with the map of the area.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11:37 AM, , links to this post

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