Art and Culture Unify Pakistan


By Mehr F. Husain
Daily Mail, Feb. 26, 2015

Festivals like the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), pulled off with great success and aplomb last week, are not a reaction to violence and terrorism, but more of an attempt to hark back to what needs to be protected from the barbarism of militancy: creativity and tolerance.

LLF was a celebration of what already existed in the country and defined it linguistically, culturally, spiritually, ethnically and politically. After all, there was plenty of cultural activity in Lahore in the past, and consequently this festival too was a way of continuing to retain some sense of normalcy. The Lahore that my generation and those before it grew up in had theater, music, dance, and the much-cherished, and now longed-for, festival of Basant. This is a city that was once the cultural and intellectual heart of the subcontinent, and it deserves to be remembered and preserved as such today.

Whether it was the sessions on offer or the impressive panel of writers and intellectuals from all over the globe, Lahoris turned out in full force, which was most heartening, for LLF 2015. At a time when Pakistan’s culture is slowly being chipped away in the search for an identity that encompasses the mosaic that forms the country, it is natural for people to want something that reminds them of the city we inhabit.

LLF reminds one to ensure that Pakistan could be a more open society with regards to the past, and indicates what should be preserved as culture at a time when religion no longer unifies and solidifies the Pakistani identity. There is nothing better than the written word to capture the consciousness of a nation and prompt debates to examine how the country has landed up where it has today. It is worth recognizing that language and political concerns via literary and art forms might finally help to resolve the country’s existential crisis. After all, that is what has been exploited most, ensuring that the importance of the literary expression and debate in defining and protecting the Pakistani consciousness cannot be stressed enough.

See the full piece here.

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