Reviving culture of Lahore

LAHORE - The Awami Art Collective (AAC) has presented its new art project for public in the Walled City of Lahore, which will continue from Saturday 13th February till 20th March 2016.
Titled ‘Surkh gulabaan dey mausam wich… phulaan dey rang kaaley’ (Black Spring), this project is aimed at reviving the banned festival of Basant in Lahore.
AAC is a group of concerned academics, artists, and social activists, who consider it important to intervene in the public space for the cause of peaceful co-existence and celebration of diversity.
The members include: Ammara Khalid, Asad Changaizi, Farida Batool, Haider Ali Jan, Maria Khan, Mohsin Shafi, Naira Mushtaq, Rabia Hassan, Raheemul Haq, Raza Khan, Samra Mir, Sehr Jalil and Yasir Azeem.
Talking to The Nation, organiser Farida Batool said the project is initiated by Lavinia Filippi and Amanda Masha Caminals as part of PROJECT-16, the first initiative of translocalia.com. The video documentation of this project will be exhibited as part of the graduate projects of the Curating Contemporary Art Programme, Royal College of Art, London, 2016, from 9 -19 March 2016.
The installation is a web of lights that traverses the roofs of old city homes where once Basant (kite flying festival) used to be celebrated.
This web of lights both laments Basant’s forgotten announcement of the coming of spring, as well as highlights the seizure of Lahore by urban development projects, which are changing the very character of this ancient city.
Sadly, these projects do not care for the city as a living organism with its own ethos, culture, traditions, and heritage, and thus disregard the important of footpaths, trees, street vendors and the cultural microcosm of neighbourhoods.
Batool said that art installation - Black Spring - made with 1620 meters long led lights, can only be experienced by climbing the stairs of neighbouring houses to reach the roof-tops in order to see the web of lights capturing the surrounding area highlighting the entrapped heritage.
The breathtaking view is reminiscent of the old days when people from all walks of life and areas would go to Walled City and climb the stairs of friends and local people’s houses and enjoy the Basant Festival.
This exhibition invokes many issues regarding our cultural identity and how strategically it has been curbed to give way to extremist ideologies, thus, the whole nations becomes a target of extremist groups. In the wake of fight against terrorism, it is of dire importance to revive centuries old festivals, which have given Lahore its identity internationally.
“It is important for our government to realise that when people identify with their roots, culture, and festivals, a society is much healthier and free from fear,” added Batool.
The field research conducted with people of Lahore, Walled City residents, Basant groups, and local government officials including police department, has shown that regulating this festival and reviving the marvels of Lahori culture is not an impossible task. Once the government is willing to impose its writ, it can be revived to make Basant the largest and unique festival of the world.
This exhibition of lights on the roof-tops is a demand to bring back Lahore’s cultural identity by regulating Basant, controlling harmful factors and people responsible for importing, circulating and selling of a killer ‘dor’ (string).
Awami Art Collective demands the government to bring back Lahore’s cultural identity - the only way to fight terrorism at home and around Pakistan.