Land of hope

September 25, 2022

Week-long cultural activities mark 55 years of Pakistan-Mauritius ties

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akistan Week 2022 was celebrated in Mauritius recently to markthe 55th year of the establishment of the diplomatic relationships between the two countries.

Mauritius may be a small country, some islands in the Indian Ocean, known mostly for its exotic location and the high-value sites that attract tourists from all over the world;it may also not bea destination for most Pakistanis visiting abroad as they are sucked in by the shopping malls of Dubai, London and New York; but it is a vibrant society and the people love Pakistanis and have diplomatic relations that span more than half a century.

Due to its integral links with the sub-continent, the cultural affinities and bonds are organic and for Pakistanis visiting the country the feeling of alien foreign-ness is not overwhelming. Its location too has huge strategic significance and it is often viewed through the lens.It is sometimes forgotten that it is a country with a culturethat has its own peculiarities.

Mauritius established diplomatic relationship with Pakistan 55 years ago and as Pakistan was in the process of celebrating its 75th birthday, the two coincided to be an occasion for celebration. The celebration was put on hold due to Moharram. Soon afterwards, the time and date were set for a full Pakistan Week to showcase various aspect of the Pakistani culture.Plonk in the centre of it all was music. The week also hosted a film festival, painting /photographic exhibitions, handicraftsstall, food festival and an essay competition, followed by a cricket match. Music stole the thunder.

Marifat Sufi Band has its majordomo in Zafar Iqbal.A vocalist and a musicologist, he has been performing with his younger members across the world particularly in the Middle East and Africa. He also performs in Muslim countries that hold music festivals to celebrate their own music springing from the vibrant sufi tradition of expression and realisation of the authentic.

It is important for the image of Pakistan to be properly represented across the world. For decades, the country has been the whipping horse of terrorism and many have associated it with violence and seen it as a hotbed of extremism. The image has been unfairly imposed on the country because of the various political agendas. The blame also lies with certain sections within our power structure. But the people of Pakistan are, basically, a peace loving nation.It luxuriates in its artistic expression to distraction and despite great opposition, the growth of the performing arts has had an upward surge in the last three decades or so.

The Marifat Sufi Band has capitalised on the kalaam, the poetical offerings by the sufis of the sub-continent mainly in Persian, Urdu and the regional languages like Punjabi and Sindhi. Experimentation with the centuries-old compositions brings to the audiences the immediacy of the experience. These lyrics and compositions are well known across the cultural spectrum of the society and any innovation particularly in the musical sense is often appreciated and becomes part of the repertoire. These compositions have come down through the ages and the commonality and familiarity has been the bond that has helped the people nurture a sensibility that has a shared cultural heritage.

The members of the Marifat Sufi Band that performed in Mauritius included vocalists Ramooz, Ahmad, Waqar Afzal, Zahid Nazir, Saad Huraira besides Ania Maria on the dholand Soul on the table. Zafar Iqbal himself provided the lead.

Cultivating cultural bonds is the need of the hour.As the world is coming out of the shadow the Covid-19 pandemic, travel and tourism are becoming viable again. Though the digital communication network and the great innovation forced upon it by the circumstances of international lockdown allowed some performances to be shared, face to face interaction is always more valuable and rewarding.

Events in the Pakistan Week were arranged by the High Commission and sponsored by a local FM channel. Government platforms and private initiative can help promote Pakistani culture abroad particularly in destinations that are not on the frequent tourist trail of the Pakistanis. The lack of funds is always an excuse advanced, but then this is an essential part of diplomacy that cannot be left to wither on the vine.


The writer is a culture critic based in Lahore.



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