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- Monday, February 07, 2011 - From Print Edition




Creating an intense dialogue on the healing power of culture and the need to expand the debate on culture, development and sustainability, filmmaker, Samar Minallah organised the screening of her new documentary film titled ‘Land of a thousand colours’ at Kuch Khaas Cultural Centre on Saturday.


Made in collaboration with Unesco and the Norwegian Embassy, Samar Minallah’s documentary-film emphasises the fact that culture needs to be brought to the core of development programmes and activities.


Sharing her experience with the audience, Samar Minallah said that by documenting the tangible and intangible cultural heritage and history of parts of Southern Punjab, she aims to raise awareness on cultural rights issues and bring to the forefront the significance of culture in all its diverse forms. Cultural tourism is one effective mechanism for poverty alleviation, Samar stressed.


Norwegian ambassador also shared his views and expressed that Pakistan should highlight its vibrant cultural heritage to the whole world.


Conceptualised by Farhat Gul, ‘Land of a thousand colours’ brings forth a glimpse into the culture of parts of Southern Punjab, the rich crafts, folk music, food, traditional sport, forts, river songs sung by ‘Mors’ lamenting the drying of the Hakra River, and several other aspects that are taken for are not given due attention and appreciation.


This is a region where saints like Khwaja Bahaudin Zakria, Shah Rukn-i-Alam and Khwaja Ghulam Farid left their imprints in the form of philosophy and poetry. Shrine is shown as a cultural space where a living culture that is intangible lives and thrives. There is an emotional function that these forms of living culture plays by helping individuals cope with anxiety, sorrow and misfortune.


Samar Minallah has also drawn a link of women and culture through emphasizing that when it comes to the shrine culture, it emphasizes that ‘women find solace in a culturally accepted place called ‘Mazar’. Performing a traditional ‘dhamaal’ can be a spiritually empowering experience for them. In areas where women have restricted opportunities to express their feelings find ‘dhamaal’ as an active form of communication. Shrine culture, thus has an emotional function in the lives of the people.


The documentary film also highlights that when it comes to the economic empowerment of women, culture can play a significant role. This is exemplified by the women of Abbas Nagar in Bahawalpur. For these women the days when they were seen as an economic burden are long gone. They have been able to revive the traditional ‘chunri’ that has been vital in alleviating poverty. Though revival of the ‘chunri’ remains a ray of hope, there are many crafts that need to be rediscovered. Inspite of priceless treasures that their hands possess, many craftspeople still languish in poverty. These local crafts can be an important means of alleviating poverty.


Samar Minallah is an anthropologist and a documentary filmmaker with an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, UK in Anthropology and Development. She won the Asia Foundation’s Cheng Lin Tein Fellowship in 2010. Through her documentaries she highlights the positive and challenging aspects of Pukhtun culture in particular and Pakistani culture in general.


In order to film ‘Land of a thousand colours’ she travelled to different parts of Cholistan, Bahawalpur, Multan and Vehari to interview craftspeople, musicians, villagers and document different aspects of culture. Samar has won several international awards for her documentaries and her struggle for social change through media. These include Roberto Rosellini Award 2009 in Maori, Italy, Cannon Award 2009 in Maori, Italy, Civic Courage Award 2009 by Centre for Civic Education Pakistan in recognition of courageous contributions through media in the field of Civic Society in Pakistan, Unesco Best Documentary Filmmaker Award 2007 in a regional competition on HIV/AIDS and Women, United Nations Association of the National Capital Area awarded Perdita Houston Women Rights Activist Award 2007 for her work in the field of media, Unicef/ABU/CASBAA Girl Child Rights Award for being one of the top finalists in Asia in highlighting girl child issues through media.


Samar Minallah’s new documentary-film is yet another effort to provide Pakistanis with a sense of pride and ownership through identification with their heritage. Samar’s earlier documentary on the hidden beauty and cultural heritage of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa titled ‘The Hidden Colours’ celebrates the culture of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The proud owners of this culture continue to urge the importance of preserving it and preventing it from the influences of modernity and globalisation. It is time to hold our heads up high as proud owners of a vibrant culture that can be a saviour if linked to development and tourism.