Stepping into the limelight, inhibitions swept aside -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Stepping into the limelight, inhibitions swept aside

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: The eve of Tuesday brought about a quiet, controlled lull to the city, on account of the public holiday. But inside the small and warm Faraar Gallery of The Second Floor (T2F), brewed gales of artistic awakening.

Almost 50 Karachiites gathered together for the first public reading put forth by Open Letters, a society of young individuals — mostly students — determined to create a space for writers and artists.

As the evening progressed, it transpired that the term ‘public reading’ was, in actuality, a flexible, all-encompassing one. The nine performers shared a motley of their passionate pursuits with the audience, ranging from poetry and prose to music and documentary film-making.

“When we started Open Letters, we wanted to ‘create a space’ for writers. While that was a very noble idea, it was also very vague,” said Amna Chaudhry, co-founder of Open Letters, and a student of the Lahore University of Management Sciences. “But today, we have these nice brave performers and it all makes sense.”

Mariam Paracha, spoken word, started off the night, which ended with musical maestro Usman Riaz, who shared parts of the biographical documentary he is working on with the TED team. The eight performances in between by seven artists (poet Zahra Shah went up twice) were all dynamic and very personal.

The use of language, too, it seemed, was unrestrained. Performers spoke about everything — life and loss and desire — in a free, uncensored way. While most pieces were in English, some were laced with Urdu, and poet Ammar Rehmani refreshingly shared two poems exclusively in Urdu. Both his pieces, tinged with elements of Sufism, spoke volumes about love and the search for meaning.

In this vein, Omer Chaudhry forwent poetry and prose all together. While simultaneously playing the guitar and harmonica, he expressed his thoughts via lyrics of his own musical piece, Blue Eyed Boy.

A night gone well

“Open Letters provided such a comfortable space and an important platform,” expressed 17-year-old Hamza Iftikar, an aspiring writer hoping to participate soon. “It seemed so easy for these performers to express. We really need this right now.”

Ishaq Akhtar, an actuary by profession, agreed with Iftikar. “This is the first event of its kind that I have attended,” he said. “We need many of these, hopefully with more advertisement next time.”

According to poet Zahra Shah, it’s all a question of finding those that are interested and bringing them together.

“That’s what this platform is doing,” she said. “I am happy. It all went very well.”

The performers included Mariam Paracha, Zahra Shah, Asad Alvi, Ammar Rehmani, Marvi Altaf, Akbar Shahzad, Omer Chaudhry, Neha Makhdoom, and Usman Riaz.

Open Letters hopes to hold another public reading soon. In the meantime, the group holds writing workshops every two weeks, open to all, and can be reached via Facebook.

Express Tribune

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