Lok Mela – Recognizing the less publicized artists of Pakistan

Art and music has incredible power to inspire and cheer up people as well as convey peace. This saying remains true for the culture festival in Islamabad, known as ‘Lok Mela’ which is considered as a breath of fresh air for the citizens of the twin cities in these times of confusion in the society due to ongoing tensions.
Lok Mela is an annual folk festival organized by Lok Virsa where a number of artisans, folk artists and rural musicians from all over Pakistan participate and display their creative work.

Apart from offering entertainment to the people, the 10-day festival is an excellent opportunity for the less publicized artists to showcase their artistic ability to a larger audience.
Saleem Mughal is one such artist from Gujranwala who has put on display his marvellous miniature wood architectural pieces. “This artwork is rare Pakistan and I have been working in this field since 1970s while imparting the artwork to students at my hometown” he enlightened.
The pavilions of Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Sindh, Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) and Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) are truly window to Pakistan’s cultural diversity as it offers the native folk music, traditional household items and cuisine of the respective region. The vibrant Lok Mela can be rightly termed as ‘mini Pakistan’ due to the rich cultural variety of each pavilion.

Tehseen is another unrecognized artist of Pakistan who excels in the field of calligraphy on leather, a rare artwork. “My exquisite style of art is marker-dot or edgeless painting technique which is highly appreciated by the visitors” he informed.
Sindhi folk dance was a main attraction of the festival while Sindhi traditional household items such as hand-fans and pots were highly appreciated by the visitors.

Stunning and colourful beadwork by Sadaf Aziz added beauty to the Punjab pavilion, which welcomes people with a splendid gate. The pavilion include more than fifty artisans, expert in bone work, lacquer art, Multani blue pottery, tie dye, block printing, wood carving, handloom weaving, pottery, metal work, block printing, and camel bone carving. Hajan Fateh Bibi, Zainab Bibi, Kaneez Fatima from, Jhang; Samina, Shaheen, Suraya, Aziz Bibi, Ameer Bakhsh and Zahid Hussain were the prominent artists.

Over 30 participants from AJK including Zulfiqar Ghazi, Muhammad Saleem Malik, Taj Muhammad, asmin Bano, Nisar Ali, Rubina Zulfiqar, Muneer Sheikh are also part of the festival who excel in papier mache, wood carving, Namda, Gabba, Kashmiri shawl, and embroidery. Yasmeen Mustafa, a participant told that “people like Kashmiri embroidery due to its fine work and unique beauty.”

This is the first time that G-B is participating in this national event with a group of about 50 artists. Sultana Iqbal is one of the master artisans in the field of Hunza embroidery who learnt the art of typical cross-stitch embroidery from her mother at an early age and is now “striving to keep this art alive by teaching it to students in her region.”

Another major attraction of the festival is the KPK pavilion, which has a huge model of the Khyber Pass at its entrance. The artists of the pavilion include Sahira Parveen, Shahzadi Bibi, Zainab, Karam Swati, Gulzar Bukhari, Farhat Bibi, Muhammad Ilyas from Haripur with his stone carvings, Fahim Awan and Waseem from Dera Ismail Khan with their wood lacquer work, Nawab Gul from Mardan with beautiful baskets, Kashif from Charsadda displaying traditional chappal (shoes), Shahzaman Khan from Swat, Khawaja Safar Ali from Peshawar exhibiting metal work, and Shah Behram from Dera Ismail Khan demonstrating taghar.

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