Value your heritage
We have a world today that has destroyed much of its heritage through war and neglect. Our itinerant society and speedy world has caused us to forget much of our heritage, culture and values. This is not the case with Pakistan only, the entire world, to some extent, is undergoing the same dilemma. Our generations are spending time in meaningless pursuits. Leisure and travel through heritage is vanishing away from our lives. We have relegated our history books to the dusty corners of our library. We have forgotten our traditions and culture; rather we have lost the essence of our true culture. What is our culture? Ask the new generation and they will be answerless. We have confiscated the older generation to retirement communities and as they grow old and die – so does the stories of our heritage. This is because we have lost our culture of spending time with our elders, the stories die as the elders die.
Heritage is the history, unique knowledge, values and traditions that have developed by a combination of genes and environment over a passage of time. It is responsible for how we originated, what our roots were and it is a very large part of whom and what we are and it can determine what we will become. Since it is a part of us that we cannot disassociate from it and it is imperative for us to understandand embrace our heritage. Heritage has no race, religion or color – heritage is ours.
To celebrate the colours of heritage and culture recently a festival was organised by the Walled City of Lahore Authority and British Council Pakistan with partnership of French Embassy and UNESCO. I think this was a good step for driving our new generation towards our heritage and culture. Through this two day festival I think that a message of importance of heritage was transmitted through different interesting activities. The vision behind the festival was to aware the masses and especially the new generation that heritage and culture are among the most wonderful and precious treasures of mankind built up in the process of human development and cultural heritage creates identities, which differ a nation from others and makes our world more colorful and more attractive.
Heritage Now, an interesting setting of activities, was held to rejoice the treasures of heritage. It aimed to bring together heritage and museum professionals from around the world to showcase examples of best practice as a step towards addressing some of the most pressing concerns of the museums and heritage sector in Pakistan. The driving idea was to engage local audience on the dialogue of heritage with all its manifestations, and celebrate the rich cultural and historical identity of Pakistan.
The festival provided a unique opportunity to interact with the most renowned artists, heritage curators, experts, social workers, educators, philosophers, thinkers and other influencers from around the world. Interestingly the themes of the festival were Heritage & Education – Engaging Youth, Culture, Heritage and Identity, Audience Development for Museums and Heritage, Trafficking of Objects and Cultural Heritage Items, Tourism — The Impact of Heritage on the Economy, Intangible Heritage — Its Role and Impact on Public Life, Development and Sustainability and Potential of Digital for Heritage, Diversity of Cultural and Religious Expression. I think it was high time that such themes should have been brought into limelight and discussed.
The best initiative was to take all the national and international delegates on a tour of the Walled City of Lahore. They visited the Cathedral Church, Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and Badshahi Mosque as well. They were taken on Rangeela Rickshaws to the Sonehri Mosque, Wazir Khan Mosque and Shahi Hammam inside Delhi Gate. This was important to show them as they got a clear image of how Pakistan is now investing in heritage and engaging partners for technical assistance as well.
Speakers in the conference were Quddus Mirza (National College of Art, PK), Suleman Shahid (Lahore University of Management Sciences, PK), Sandra Smith (Victoria & Albert Museum UK), Omar Shiekh (Colorful Heritage, UK) , Thomas Laurain (French Archaeological Delegation to Afghanistan, FR), Aarfa Syeda (Forman Christian College, PK), Tariq Rehman (Beaconhouse National University, PK), Omar Shaukat (University of Johannesburg, South Africa/IBA, PK), Jasdeep Singh (National Army Museum, UK), Helen Watkins (History, Glasgow Museums, UK), Kamran Lashari (Director General Walled City of Lahore Authority, Pakistan), Salman Beg (AKCSP, PK), Haroon Sharif (World Bank, PK) , Pierre-Arnaud Barthel (French Agency for Development, FR) , Duncan McCallum (Historic England, UK) , Lashley Anne Pulsipher (Hashoo Hotels, Pak), Vibeke Jensen (Director, UNESCO, Pakistan), Cesar Guedes (Country Rep. UNODC), Celso Corracini (UNODC HQ) , Ieng Srong, (UNESCO HQ) , Junaid Akhlaq (Department of Archaeology & Museums) , Muneeza Majeed (FBR, Pak) , Sajid Akram Chaudhry (Federal Investigation Agency, Pak), Wajahat Ali, AKTC, Pak, Raza Kazim (Sanjan Nagar School, PK), Amen Jaffer (Lahore University of Management Sciences, PK) , Nur-Sobers Khan (The British Library, UK) , Christophe Jaffrelot, (Sciences Po University Paris, FR) , Pia Brocaccio (Drexel University, US) , Ross Burns (Macquarie University, Australia).
Several exhibitions were held at different spaces inside Alhamra. A Home 1947 exhibit was done by Sharmin Obaid Chinoi. The Wekh Lahore Photography Exhibition, Heritage through Child Art and 40 arts works on heritage and culture by children were also displayed. A Virtual reality showcase of Heritage sites was done for the first time in this festival and people enjoyed the new technique. A series of posters with photographs taken in the Walled City supported by the Annemarie-Schimmel-Haus (German Cultural Centre Lahore) was displayed. An exhibition of very recent photographs from the selected Heritage sites from across Pakistan, telling stories of how Heritage is central to our lives was displayed. Showcase of artifacts (or replicas) from Pakistani museums, representing a taste of collections in Pakistan, was held in gallery 1. A showcase of 70 antique books, selected for an exhibition from British Council Library archives – books that represents history and heritage of written text were displayed during the festival. Terracotta showcase made by the students of National College of Arts and films from the Lahore International Children’s Film Festival Competition were displayed in outdoor activities. My City My Story was a showcase that led into the windows of perceptions of our youth in Pakistan and how they portray them through moving images. All these were interesting items and especially the folk music evenings, dance performances by Harsukh stole the show. Throughout the two days festival a message of harmony, peace and respect for heritage was seen in the air.
I think such activities are need of the hour. We need to highlight our heritage before the world and take it out of the dusty heaps. We need to bring the new generation back to its culture by holding such colorful events so that they are attracted to it. I have observed that when it comes to discussions like heritage and culture youth consider it boring, so telling these things in an interesting manner is the only key to achieving this goal.
Photo credits: Fareed Ahmed Khan