Thatta Kedona

Culture is a Basic Need

Dolls Makers of TGD

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The cluster of mud and brick houses in the plains of Punjab, Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka (TGD) looks like a typical Pakistani village about 80 kilometers away from Lahore and 40 kilometers from Indus civilization ruins in Harappa. There is no gas or telephone in the village. No asphalt roads lead to it. Even the electricity is the recent phenomenon. Yet it is different, the beautiful dolls and other handicrafts made by the village women are collectors, delight all over the world. Influences from Indus civilization from near by Harappa and modern techniques brought by the German volunteers can be seen in the village together.

The dolls made in the village are on display in international doll museum in Iceland, prestigious galleries and showrooms in Pakistan and abroad. TGD village doll project was one of the 767 worldwide projects presented in the “Themepark” at expo 2000 in Hannover (Germany) as an example of thinking of twenty first century. Earlier, the dolls from Pakistan participated in international toy fair in Nuremberg. These dolls show how culture goes beyond simple work of art and becomes collaboration among applied and natural sciences as well as other forces that affect our lives.

How all this started? A Pakistan studying in Germany, Amjad Ali who is a native of village TGD invited his German teachers Dr. Senta Siller to visit his village back home. Dr. Senta Siller (and Dr. Norbert Pinstch) came to the village where she was presented a doll made by a local woman. She was impressed by the doll and liked the natural and simple village life. She decided to work for the village, established NGO Anjumane-e-Falah-e-Aama and started community based Woman Art center in TGD in 1992. The aim of this center is to involve local womenfolk in productive, creative and healthy income generating activities. She created awareness and built confidence among the women specially the young girls of the village and asked them to make dolls and toys on self-help biases that she is now marketing all over the world. The village and its residents are benefiting in the process.

Some people live and make difference in the lives of others. Born in 1935 in Vienna (Austria), Senta Siller took refuge in Germany following the Second World War. After graduating from school of arts in Berlin Senta Siller knew that she has found her métier in designing and illustrations. As a designer she worked form exhibitions, fairs, designing children cloths, toys and books illustration and also ran a textile company. She has done masters in Archaeology, Philosophy, Education and doctorate in the history of arts. Civil servant appointed for life she has been given different awards including “bundesverdienstkreuz”- the highest order of merit of Federal Republic of Germany as recognition of her dedicated services to humanity. She is a member of German Society for Advancement of Culture (DGFK). This year, she was nominated for Livelihood Achievement Award that is considered only second to Nobel Prize.

When women’s initiative groups read about Pakistani dolls in the newsletters of DGFK, they invited Dr. Senta Siller to start similar projects and to train women in doll and toy making in Cameroon and Colombia. She started her voluntary work to train multiplictors in both the countries in 1997. The expatriates booked dolls in advance and other support in marketing came form volunteering ladies of the German community in the respective capitals. Presently, Dr. Senta Siller is networking among the women activities in all these countries.

Dolls from Pakistan in authentic attires of the specific tribes, communities and areas tempt tourists and diplomats. They collect these dolls as a souvenir of the time hey spent in Pakistan. “During last seven years, the Pakistani dolls have traveled in suitcases of our client to 40 different countries. They (dolls) sit in the ambassadors’ residences not only in Islamabad, but accompany them to the next and second next posting. I have met TGD dolls in the Japanese ambassadors home in Jakarta and also in the German embassy in Damascus,” tells Dr. Senta Siller with pride and pleasure. “Part of the artists go where ever the dolls go,” says a young artist. Each doll has a small plate attached carrying the name of the doll maker.

Doll making is one of the oldest and popular fold art in Pakistan. Simple stuffed dolls are made for children particularly in rural areas where people are still striving fro the attainment of basic needs. The main difference of previous doll making and the modern techniques taught by Dr. Senta is that she has introduced variety in size and shapes and dresses them in colorful costumes with attentions to details. This has resulted in high quality soft toys to cater to demands of the gift market.

Dr. Senta has not only moved the women of area but also raised a spacious and simple building for the Women Art Center with the help of different donors. She even managed solar energy system -- probably the first in Punjab -- for the Center before the village was connected to national electric grid.

Now there are as many as 120 women from the age of 24 to 40 working in the center, making dolls dressed in regional (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan, Balochi, Kashmiri and Kalash) embroider costumes, miniatures, hand knitted shawls and many more items and earning their living. They are making their own lives better and strengthening their families. “They (the women) are moving towards true equality and independence “ says a doll maker who has twelve year of schooling married in this village and working in the Center Dr. Senta Siller is already planning to expand its working to neighboring villages.

Technical Transfer and Training Center (TTTC) for men has also been established in TGD under the supervision of another German volunteer project director Dr. Norbert Pinstch – an architect who is involved in the project since its inception. The men center has become meeting point of university professors and students who visit here regularly. TTTC is now concentrating on improved agricultural techniques and other suitable jobs for men. Norbert has experience with no less than 133 projects since 1976.

Village TGD is changing. The relative prosperity has beginning to show. Villagers are putting their children, particularly the girls in school. The Woman Art Center is also playing a part in the well being of the villagers. The Center has provided furniture and other equipment to the primary school in village and opened a well equipped health care center. An annual quality of life competition is held in the village when best houses are selected in three different categories.

Dolls made by village women in TGD are not only the most important products but are also our ambassadors. So much is happening in villages. Besides carpenters, blacksmiths and tailors in the village are profitably involved in production for the TTTC for men.

This seems to be one of the unique and best self help project any where in Pakistan.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:00 AM, ,

Ground to Map

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:12 AM, ,

The Indus Heritage

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The ‘Art and Craft Village’, taking place in Islamabad is a joint project of Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Indus Heritage Trust (IHT) a vision that celebrates and showcases the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan. – AFP Photo Series


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:31 AM, ,

Save Our Heritage

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I saw many objects of love being prepared at numerous workshops that litter this part of our country {Hala}. Usually, the crafts were being either produced in a run-down plot, called the artist place, or it was being practised under open skies, open doors, and no frills. That’s the classic old-style way of doing things. People, passing by, would look — almost gawk — at the visitors, who are rare.

In fact, at most places we were the only visitors, and as soon as we would enter the artist’s domain, deep in his craft, he would raise his head, salute, smile and continue with his work. Some more business-like would stop altogether, shake hands and would start detailing the process — if asked — or else the qualities of the craft; where it came from, how long it has been here, who are the pioneers, and why this craft is now vanishing. Every time they would tell me the reason why their craft was vanishing I felt like a party to it all. After all, we, as a nation, spend millions on items bought from abroad; we like to fill our rooms with ‘Made in Europe’ items and loose out on Made in Pakistan. They would then look at me with eyes filled with anticipation, thinking that I might buy one ajrak, one stunning, blue bowl, or place an order for tiles for home; I did none of that and felt ashamed. It was one of those sad days when I had felt a party to a crime.

As one Pakistani scientist, now in Canada, reminded me, that just writing articles won’t help save our heritage much. It will take a lot of genuine effort, lot of Pakistani nationals and a lot of money, I would say, to save them from complete collapse. Already, once a booming industry, now in patch works, ‘ajrak’, the oldest patterned chador in production in this country, is fighting for survival. {Dawn}
Tags: Heritage, Arts, Pakistan

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 6:00 PM, ,

Gogera Fort

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A road bifurcates towards north from Gogera Sadar town and leads to village Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka (TGD) in the backwaters of the Punjab. The village has become famous all over the world for dolls and toys made here by village folks. Volunteers from German NGO DGFK are working in this village since 1992. Aside from locals, large numbers of foreigners interested in rural culture, social work and poverty alleviation, and experts in different fields of human activities come to this village and pass by the grand building of Gogera Fort. Community based local NGO Anjuman-e-Fala-e-Aama is working in cooperation with DGFK under direct supervision of two full time volunteers Dr Senta Siller and Dr Norbert Pintsch.

The idea of the conservation of the Gogera Fort and turning into a monument not only for the foreigners who frequent this area but also for next generations has become one of the active concerns of the NGO. Norbert Pintsch, Volunteer Project Director Technology Transfer and Training Center for Men in TGD, an Architect by profession and social worker by choice is taking keen personal interest in this project.

Related: Gogera Report, Gogesra insights  


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:11 AM, ,

Art That Wins Hearts

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By Shaharezade Samiuddin

Familiarity can make us blind to the obvious. Veering treacherously to one side, dangerously overloaded and bustling along in all its dazzling finery, perhaps the most obvious thing that we fail to spot on our roads, except when one arm-wrestles past us, is the minibus. The other times you may pay more congenial attention to the phenomena is when you end up behind one and muse, and then amuse yourself with the heart wrenching emotions contained in the poetry on the back.

Boasting its own set of aesthetics, often featuring a cross between vibrantly speckled peacocks and outlandish Garuda birds, dramatic poetry, wise sayings, intricate filigree, and a child’s shoe (next time you’re close to a minibus look for this one, it’s there for good luck!), vehicle decoration, such as those we see on our roads today, has been entrenched in the local culture for centuries.

In the past traditional transport, such as horses and camels, has long been adorned partially because of a love for colour and splendour, partially in veneration of one’s vocation and partially to outshine the competition. The tradition transposed to buses, trucks and rickshaws when public transport came into the hands of the working classes. Thus the first buses that truly livened up our roads were those decorated by court painters who had migrated from Bhuj in Gujrat. This outstanding example of pop art, painstakingly created with repousse stainless steel, acrylic plastic and reflective tape (trucks and minibuses are fertile ground for artistic experimentation with continually evolving material) that swathes the regular minibus has just never garnered much attention.that is, from the right quarters. Rather ironic, considering that the décor of the over decorated ‘bride of the streets’ is blatantly begging for a second glance.

It was certainly more than just a second take that Pakistani truck and bus art garnered when it landed on a tram in Australia just in time for the Festival Melbourne 2006, the cultural festival of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. Coordinated by Wajid Ali Arain, a visual artist and graduate of Karachi University’s Department of Visual Studies and executed by four chamak patti wala vehicle decorators Nusrat Iqbal, Muhammad Arshad, Muhammad Nadeem, and Safdar Ali from Allahwali who decorate the most adorned buses that ply Karachi’s longest route, the W11. The W11: Karachi to Melbourne project struck a chord with the Aussies from the word go.

Featuring a Melbourne tram plastered painstakingly with chamak patti and lighting by Iqbal and his team (who were flown to Australia for the project), this desi-style pop-art on wheels ran the streets of Melbourne to the beat of Noor Jehan’s Punjabi songs with the words, ‘Love is Life,’ candidly adorning its sides. The chamak patti tram carried more than 80,000 passengers over 12 days and won more hearts than any official drive — boasting tame fashion shows — to fashion a soft image for the country. Proclaiming its message of Love is Life, the tram traversed Melbourne’s City Circle route 120 times. On popular demand the tram continued to run once a week.

The desi-style pop-art on wheels ran the streets of Melbourne to the beat of Noor Jehan’s Punjabi songs with the words, ‘Love is Life,’ candidly adorning its sides. At the VM Art Gallery scenes from the project were displayed in the exhibition titled, ‘The W11: Karachi to Melbourne’.

At the VM Art Gallery scenes from the project are displayed in the The W11: Karachi to Melbourne exhibition. The video footage and the display of photographs taken by Wajid Ali and Kirsten Trist, a lecturer at the RMIT University in Melbourne keenly capture the capturing of Australian hearts. Scenes of exuberance and flamboyant dancing that celebrate this art on wheels have been frozen on film and mounted, befittingly with intricate chamak patti trim. Of the two films running at the exhibition one depicts the laborious making of the ‘chamak patti’ tram and the opening of the project while the other captures passenger reactions interspersed with traditional bus-style quirky verses inscribed on fate cards. By providing a vehicle (literally) to bridge barriers, reassess stereotypes at both ends and to have some fun in the process, the W11 Karachi to Melbourne tackled a host of diverse goals with one throw. That was the obvious outcome of the venture.

Less obvious was the revelation that seldom has a relationship building exercise, artistic or otherwise, had such a buoyant and cheery impact. Little about Pakistan, (including fashion shows) is associated with buoyancy and cheeriness. Indeed seldom has a more honest face of the country, gone into building its image. As it glowed with energy while plying the tracks of Melbourne, Karachi’s W11 grabbed goodwill by the tramload, not only because it radiated its message of love and peace, but also because it calmly asserted that we are like this only.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:36 AM, ,

World of Puppets

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Like Pinocchio, the Moksha Puppets turn into humans, but not to enjoy life as the famous puppet hero did; rather to escape the oppression of the theatre owner and win freedom.

Actors Farouk Floukas, Ahmed Nabil, Faiza Kamal, Ali Hassanein and Samir Hosni share the puppet's dilemma, since the production is still waiting to get off the ground. Written by Hamdi Attiya and directed by Yehia Zakaria, the puppet series has Ashraf Abdel-Baqi as its assistant director and also playing the role of Said Kanish, a superficial artist.

Abdel-Baqi, who came home to Egypt last year after living in Russia for a quarter of a century, is no stranger to the puppet world. His late mother Naglaa Raafat designed and directed 20 puppet theatre plays, of which Abu Ali, Al-Shater Hassan, Cinderella, and Dabdoub Al-Kaslan are the most famous. His father is the poet Samir Abdel-Baqi who has written several plays and stories for children.
Read at Al-Ahram


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:26 AM, ,

Thatta Kedona Dolls in Dubai Village

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A possibility for the participation of a Pakistani NGO at the Global Village of the Dubai Shopping Festival for exhibiting and offering its outstanding handicrafts products emerged in 2000 on the invitation of the consulate general of Pakistan in Dubai.

The first participation in the fair followed in 2001 and was quite successful right from the start, -reports of the local media also confirmed the success of advertising and media attention.

The stand in the Pakistan Pavilion through the courtesy of the Pakistani commercial counselor however required careful organization, transport, resolution of visa matters and schooling of the the village NGO staff as well as locating cheap accommodation in Dubai.

Two young women as well young men from the village NGO have participated in the festival up till now. A German volunteer was also found as a temporary arrangement to bridge the staff requirement at the stand. Additionally, we also succeeded in winning a permanent customer for the products at this temporary forum so that it became possible to sell the products over the whole year.

An Arabic pair of dolls was specially developed by the Pakistani NGO for the Arabian market, which can be purchased on the spot as well as orders cab also be placed. Local volunteers are also helpful in the order processing and they have also participated in village project in Pakistan.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:26 PM, ,

Doll Makers' Fourth Summer Acedemy

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Thatta Kedona Annual Summer Acedemy was held in Karimabad. Alexandra Scherer - volunteer teacher from Germany trained 5 TGD women from Women Art Center, Basic Health Unit and Cultural Complex in English language and basic techniques (reading, writing, calculation).

Since first summer academy held under the supervision of volunteer teacher Jane Carew Reid in Karimabad in 2002, annual summer academy has been one of the regular training features for the workers of Women Art Center. Basic Health Unit, Cultural Complex. Village women are successfully working and learning in WAC since 1993 where dedicated volunteers come and teach. This year following women are attending the summer camp:

  • Shafi Akbar Ali
  • Khanam Shahdad Ali
  • Mehraj Mian Khan
  • Rani Mir Mohammed
  • Mafi Allah Jafar
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:58 AM, ,

New Designs of Thatta Kedona

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:27 AM, ,

With love from Kalash

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:31 AM, ,

Volunteer in WAC Tailor Workshop

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:50 AM, ,

Solar Oven

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:29 AM, ,

Better choices

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Abstract from paper by Professor Norbert Pintsch (Institute for Planning and Consulting, Germany-USA). Paper was presented in Second International COMSAT Conference on Environmentally Sustainable Development that was held in Abbotabad from Aug 26-27, 2007.

This article discusses the basic concept of sustainability and its dependencies in cultural contexts. This corelation has hardly been considered from the technology oriented side and lesser and lesser in general scientific circles. This is by no means a sign of superiority but more a sign of philosophical poverty and one sidedness, which is contra-productive, without the concerned and interested parties being even aware of it. The following contribution compares the concept of Vertical Sustainability to the Horizontal Sustainability, while making it clear that the latter is not suitable for income generating measures in urban areas.

The scientific community agrees that the Earth’s climate is changing and severe impacts are inevitable. Global warming leads to the melting of both Artic and Antarctic polar ice sheets. Such melting is bound to change the ecological conditions and may cause a break in food chain of living organisms. Under the prevailing conditions, the scientific community of the twenty-first century both anticipates and fears the challenges that are presented. Humanity has reached a “defining moment” in our dominion over the planet and our ability to sustain or destroy it depends on our forthcoming behaviour and actions.

As custodians of our planet we should do more to counter the dangers posed by climate change, “destroying” the biosphere. Achieving environmental sustainability requires managing and protecting ecosystems, maintaining the diversity of life in both human- managed and natural systems and protecting the environment from pollution to maintain the quality of land, air and water.

The ESDev-2007 Conference has brought together hundreds of professionals from academia, industries, local enterprises and agencies to translate ideas, success stories, case histories, current trends, and technologies into solutions for environmental protection and enhancement. The proceedings hold about 150 technical and research papers and review articles covering almost every aspect related to environment. Over 70 papers were presented in two parallel sessions and the remaining papers were displayed in poster form. The papers presented at ESDev-2007 cover topics related to local, regional and global environmental and development issues. These topics are merged into eight main themes and each section of the proceedings is marked with the title of the topics. The content pages and the author index in all volumes are identical. The author index includes the co-authors as well.

The number of themes and unequal distribution of the papers under these themes represents particularly the academic response to the call for papers. Issues of local concern and expertise are particularly well represented. Perhaps in future years it would be appropriate to encourage participation from a wider environmental perspective.

The ESDev-2007 Conference has initiated a dialogue among all the stakeholders in an area of immense importance which must result in specific actions, to craft suitable policies and to take the necessary action to protect and sustain the environment. We hope research papers and technical work presented in the ESDev-2007 proceedings will evoke interest and subsequent discussion and practical implementation not only by the delegate attending the conference, but also by others involved in environment related activities like research and teaching institutions, NGOs and individuals working in private and public sector.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:51 AM, ,

Dolly Good

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Husain Qazi

SAJ Shirazi's article Dolly good (appeared in Dawn) opened up a basket of sweet memories and took me back in year 2000 when someone told me about a doll village apparently belonging to the fairyland. So strong was the impact of narration that I was soon in that village which was surely more than my expectations, a classic example of a dream coming true by vision, determination and action.
Dr Sahiba’s visualization of tapping the potential of village girls for making soft toys came true in just a year and the dolls of Thatta (near Gogera, Southern Punjab) were being sold in the European market which -besides the apparent financial gain, provided confidence -particularly for the women folk of the village and sparked a quest for sustainable development, which continues unabated ....

The village farmers were trained in modern agri methods resulting in immense growth of agriculture, health and sanitation standards improved, the village school was revamped, massive tree plantation was carried out, a vocational centre was established for the training and skill development of village folks and of course the dolls and a host of other crafts are being produced and sold in and out of the country.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:26 AM, ,

Rajasthan Art

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By F.I.

"Handicraft is one of the most important aspects of Rajasthan’s life. People have been involved in hand-made crafts for ages which are now being modified by the new generation with the help of contemporary designs to make the products competitive in the market,” said Amita Gupta, founder member of Routes 2 Roots, an NGO which organised a festival in Karachi, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) as part of the initiatives to bring together people, cultures and values across Saarc countries, reports F.I.

Popularly known as the ‘treasure trove of Indian handicrafts’ and ‘shoppers paradise’, Rajasthan, one of the most fascinating lands of India, has been able to preserve its craft over the centuries. In fact, unique in colour and workmanship, Rajasthani art is an institution in its own right.

Recently, Karachiites were given an opportunity to enjoy the culture and cuisine of Rajasthan. A five-day-long festival, which was organised at a local hotel, was the first of its kind in the country. A team of 22 people, including musicians, chefs and artisans from India, participated in the event which also showcased performances by traditional Kalbelia dancers.

A part of this festival was a handicraft exhibition. The items on display included enameled jewellery and jewellery boxes embellished with semi-precious stones, glass bangles, embroidered dresses, saris, quilts, purses, handbags, bedsheets, decoration pieces and handloom fabric called kota doria.

“Handicraft is one of the most important aspects of Rajasthan’s life. People have been involved in hand-made crafts for ages which are now being modified by the new generation with the help of contemporary designs to make the products competitive in the market,” said Amita Gupta, founder member of Routes 2 Roots, an NGO which organised the festival in collaboration with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) as part of the initiatives to bring together people, cultures and values across Saarc countries.

Though on a steep side, the handicraft with intricate designs intrigued many who took time to inquire about the techniques used in making the striking jewellery and kota doria fabric, two popular features of the handicrafts from Rajasthan.

“The enamellers of Jaipur design the best pendants, necklaces, anklets, naths and even spoons, knives, key chains and cufflinks. One of the best known Jaipur enamellers was my father who made a small elephant of gold which was exhibited at many art exhibitions in various parts of the country,’ said Deepak Sankit, who won the National Merit Award for Enamelled Gold Jewellery in India.

About the process of enameling a product, the visitors were told that once gold is given the required shape, it is covered with a sealing wax. The ornament is then scratched on with a pointed instrument and the required designs are carved on it. The designs are usually images of birds, flowers and even landscapes. After the designs are made, the enamel dust or powder of different coloured glasses is put into the cavities. The ornament is placed in a hot furnace; the enamel melts and diffuses proportionately into the cavities. It is then taken out and burnished with a wet stone. The process is repeated until the required polish is attained. Sometimes it takes months to finish one piece of jewellery.

Women took special interest in kota doria. Skillfully made of cotton and silk yarn in different combinations, kota doria is transparent and its beauty is further enhanced by batik and block printing, embroidery, cutwork and tie and dye techniques. Among the decorative items, metal carved doors, a pair of silver hookah, wooden chairs and paintings on handcrafted pieces of marble with old polish and modern day colours were marvellous.

“This was an overwhelming experience. We are extremely impressed by the hospitality of the Pakistanis. Yesterday, I received a call from Hyderabad and was requested to hold a similar festival there. We are looking forward to organising more such programmes that can bring people of the two countries together,” said Tina Vachani, one of the organisers.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 1:22 PM, ,

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