On The Mall: Sixth iteration of literature and cultural fest commences
LAHORE: The 6th Alhamra International Literary and Cultural Festival kicked off on Friday at Alhamra on the Mall in the presence of celebrated writers such as Intezar Hussain and Bano Qudsia.
“I stand here today in the presence of some living legends…I have been rendered speechless,” Lahore Arts Council Chairman Ataul Haq Qasmi said. He said he hoped the festival would carve a niche for itself in people’s hearts.
Distinguished novelist Bano Qudsia also spoke on the occasion. Despite her failing health, she stood up from her chair and took to the podium to speak amid applause. Qudsia said the applause was therapeutic. “You have breathed new life into me,” She said.
Celebrated writer Intezar Hussain praised the efforts made by Qasmi to bring noted people from the arts on one platform. “This is not the norm here and it is by no means an easy task,” he said. Hussain said the festival had been initiated at a time when terrorism was at its peak. “Terrorism and target killings had become widespread and then came democracy that brought with it the phenomenon of fake degrees,” he said.
Hussain said the advent of literature and cultural events in such times demonstrated that the society had a soul. He said the events had not materialised as part of a greater organised movement challenging the narrative but instead had endogenously emerged.
“I started my career from the council when poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz was its secretary,” thespian Kamal Ahmed Rizvi said. He said the Lahore Arts Council had played an important role in promoting art and music by arranging classes. He said Shakir Ali had been the principal of the academy at the time and had recruited prominent people to pass on their knowledge of the arts.
Acclaimed artist Ijazul Hassan said the reach of art as a medium went beyond that of literature. “Literature can only be understood by the literate but that is not a requisite for art,” he said. Hassan said it was important to bring art closer to the people by bringing it into public space. “But that is far off right now. We can barely take care of our museums,” he said while bemoaning the lack of funds for such institutions.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was also scheduled to attend the ceremony. His adviser, Bilal Soofi, spoke on the occasion as he was unable to make it to the event. Soofi said the government was committed to promoting artists and writers. “We want to work for your welfare,” he remarked while addressing writers present on the occasion.
Broadcast journalist Javed Chaudhry, Indian writer Kewal Dheer, actor Qavi Khan, Pakistan Academy of Letters Chairman Muhammad Qasim Bhogio and actor Munnu Bhai also spoke on the occasion. The three-day festival, which features sessions on an array of topics, will conclude on Sunday.