ISLAMABAD    -        Annual folk festival, popularly known as Lok Mela organized by the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa), National Heritage and Culture Division will commence from Friday (today) here at Lok Virsa Complex, Garden Avenue, Shakarparian. The Heritage Library of National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) Garden Avenue Shakarparian will remain closed for public from 25 November to 4 December due to Lok Mela. Ms. Fareena Mazhar, Federal Secretary, National Heritage & Culture Division along with Shahzad Durrani, Executive Director Lok Virsa addressed a press conference and briefed the media about salient features of the 10-day festival. Other senior officers of Lok Virsa were also present on the occasion. Secretary, National Heritage & Culture Division apprised that the promotion and perpetuation of Pakistan’s folk heritage is central to the basic objectives of the festival. She said this festival serves to strengthen national harmony and integration among all federating units through their effective participation. This festival provides an opportunity to master artisans, folk artists and folk musicians from all over Pakistan for demonstration of their skills and recognition of their talent at national level. This festival also helps ameliorating poverty among master artisans. They will have the opportunity to sell their products directly to the public without involvement of middleman. Around 500 master artisans, folk artists and folk musicians are participating in this Mela from all over the country. All provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir are participating in the Mela. Provincial pavilions serve as a major attraction during the festival. These pavilions will present the indigenous culture, arts, crafts, folk music, folk cuisine and folk crafts of their respective provinces and regions. Every province, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir will hold its special musical evening during the Mela. Lok Virsa will also hold a special “Sufi night” and musical evening during the festival. Informal opening of the festival will take place on Friday (today) whereas its formal inauguration will be held on Saturday (tomorrow) at 1430 hours at Lok Virsa open air theatre, Garden Avenue, Shakarparian. Adviser to the Prime Minister for National Heritage and Culture Engr. Amir Muqam will be the chief guest on the occasion. Mela entry ticket would be Rs 100 per head for adults and Rs 50 per head (discounted) for students. Children below five years would be free. A part of the earnings from the festival will be donated to the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund. Mela timings would be from 1000 hours to 2200 hours daily. The main objectives of the festival include encouragement of master artisans and folk artists so that they should continue transferring their skills to the future generations. Every year, “chadarposhi” or “dastarbandi” of one established craftsman or craftswoman and one eminent male or female folk artist is performed at the time of inauguration. This ceremony is a way of proclaiming Lok Virsa’s commitment to the high stature that craftspeople and folk artists have in the cultural mainstream of the nation. This year chadarposhi of an established female artisan from Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Dastarbandi of an eminent folk artist from Gilgit-Baltistan and a male master artisan from flood affected area of Fatehpur, Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be performed. Other major attractions of the festival would include exhibition of artisans-at-work, craft stalls, performances by folk dancers from different areas, traditional food stalls, PNCA performing art theatre and puppet theatre, etc. Mela would conclude on Sunday, 4 December, 2022 with an awards ceremony at 1600 hours, wherein, awards will be granted to the deserving master artisans and folk artists on the recommendations of a national jury constituted for the purpose.