ISLAMABAD - The folk festival of Pakistan (LOK MELA) organized by Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage) has proved to be an important national event giving equal representation to all federating units by way of projecting their indigenous folk culture.
Like other provinces and regions, the rich culture, arts, crafts, folk music, rituals and traditions of the beautiful Kashmir valley are also being showcased in the festival through a representative participation of craftspeople in different specialized fields, folk artists and musicians.
The Kashmir pavilion has been set up by Lok Virsa in collaboration with the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. A performing pit has also been created in the pavilion. Many professional and amateur singers give periodic performances and present Kashimiri folk music. When one enters the Kashmir pavilion, sweet voice of the young folk artists from the beautiful Kashmir valley singing national, devotional and folk songs strikes his ears.
A contingent of over 30 participants from Kashmir is taking part in the festival. They include craftspeople (in the field of papier mache, wood carving, Namda, Gabba, Kashmiri shawl, embroidery, etc.), folk artists, musicians and performers. Artisans are Zulfiqar Ghazi, Muhammad Saleem Malik, Taj Muhammad Tajal, Qazi Ali, Amjad Ali Butt, Ghulam Mustafa Shishgar, Muhammad Azeem, Sajida Azhar, Pervez and others.
Among the prominent master artisans, Zulfiqar Ghazi specializes in the famous Kashmiri art of “papier mache”. He excels not only in the art of papier mache and miniature but is also an accomplished artist in stain glass, fabric designing and traditional furniture painting.
Ghazi paints nature, floral motifs, birds, animals, mughal monarchs in his paintings as well on papier mache artifacts. With artistic skills and creativity running in his veins, Ghazi is determined to preserve and revive the golden era of Mughals. He has participated in scores of festivals, fairs and exhibitions in the country and abroad and won cash prizes and certificates in recognition of his talent.
The other one is Muhammad Saleem Malik. He is a master craftsman in wood carving from the Kashmir valley. He learnt this art from his forefathers at the tender age of seven. Due to oppressive policies of the Indian occupied forces, his family migrated to Pakistan and has settled in Rawalpindi permanently. He is imparting training to several students, thus ensuring continuity of his art to the younger generations.
Saleem uses walnut wood, cedar, Dalbergia sissu (Shisham) for creating exquisitely carved furniture, doors, boxes and decorative items. He often uses teak wood for crafting most profusely intricate carved items. He carves nature, leaf patterns, animals, floral designs, etc. Saleem took part in a number of festivals and exhibitions in the country and abroad. He has been attending Lok Mela annually, since long and winning recognition of his talent.
A visitor Haroon while talking to this scribe appreciated Lok Virsa’s contribution in holding the festival and said “This unique event of its kind serves to disseminate the dynamic creativity of our countryside and give rural folk a pride in their identity”.
In a nutshell, Lok Mela is a complete entertainment package that offers something for everyone including variety of knick-knakcs, arts and crafts, folk music, folk dances from all regions of Pakistan, commercial stalls, playland for children, traditional cuisine, etc. It seems like Lok Virsa has created a mini Pakistan under one roof.