Thatta Kedona

Culture is a Basic Need

Chitrali Artists at Lok Mela

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Lok Virsa [National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage] was set up to promote research, collection, documentation, preservation and dissemination of folklore, oral traditions and regional cultures, raising the awareness of cultural legacy via the above means. Legends, romance, songs, games, rhymes, festivals, rituals, sufi and saintly sayings are systematically collected and preserved in a national archive, which features a separate section for Chitrali culture.

Chitral’s cultural group is comprised of artists and artisans from the remote valleys and villages of Chitral. Included are 4 highly-skilled Kalash ladies representing the ‘artisan at work’ sector of the festival, tasked with making indigenous Kalash handicrafts such as ‘kapu’, chehari, cherao, copesi and shiman. ‘Kapu’ is a conically-shaped bucket made from goat-hair that the ladies carry on their backs for collecting twigs from the forest. ‘Cherao’ is the traditional bucket skillfully and delicately woven from locally available straw. ‘Chihari’ is the waist fastener that is customarily presented to guests as a welcome gesture. Last but not least, copesi is the headdress crafted by the Kalash ladies’ from colorful beads and oyster shells and worn during special festivals.

The orchestra of folk singers and dancers is led by Hazratuddin Wafa and the folk musicians directed by the renowned reed instrumentalist from Chitral, Ustad Hameed Khan from Sonoghoor village in upper Chitral. Their festival repertoire includes old, classical songs that convey messages of love and friendship. These folksongs have been passed down from generation-to-generation for over two thousand years. Aside from providing entertainment and pleasure, they also impart a rich reflection of the culture of Chitral.

Chitral’s pavilion features a pictorial backdrop of the red tinged mountains of Reshun village where the legendary Baba Syar claimed to have taken ‘the color from the red lips of his beloved’. The large-format banner also promotes Chitral as an attractive destination for visitors and it has become popular with tourists who relish posing for photographs with the picture in the background.

The Chitrali artists, who perform several times a day and in the evening, are seated on traditional Chitral carpets placed on a small wooden platform. The artisans, meanwhile, busy themselves at their stalls, where visitors can see displays of traditional Chitrali chugha, pakol and waistcoats being made and displayed.

Mr. Farman Panah, the famous sitar maker from the village of Bang and Muhammad Khan, the traditional Chitrali carpet weaver, are also participating in the festival and have received many visitors. The people, artists and artisans from Chitral district are most grateful and would like to thank the Ministry of Culture and management of Lok Virsa in Islamabad for enabling them to participate at the 2006 Lok Mela. Not only does the festival offer the occasion to promote the talents of folk artists and artisans, but it also provides an opportunity to showcase our culture to those living in cities.

Lok Mela 2006 will go a long way in translating into reality the vision of 2007 as “Visit Pakistan Year,” besides promoting harmony and friendship among different cultures.(report by Shams Uddin, Project Manager CAMAT and Liaison Officer, Chitral Cultural Group).

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:58 AM,

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