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January 30, 2017

A celebration of Sindh’s cultural splendour


January 30, 2017

The grounds of the National Museum of Pakistan were buzzing with activity on Sunday evening as people came out in droves for the colours and festivities that marked the last day of the two-day Sindh Folk Festival.

Attended by people from varied backgrounds, the festival organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism was aimed at promoting Sindhi culture by providing for people all of the province’s arts, crafts, music and lifestyle elements under one roof.

Such was the success of the event that even before the day was drawing to a close the multiple stalls selling striking varieties of apparel, footwear and other items were seen wrapping up as most of their stock had already been sold out.

Selling off one the last remaining pieces of chunri at his stall, proprietor Naveed Hussain said they had brought a wide variety of colours and most of them had already been bought by customers. “People in the city buy suits and dupattas of chunri but back in the village women use the material to make ghagras, which are not worn here. We are selling a single piece of dupatta for Rs300, while the suit can go up to Rs1,500.”

Another vendor, Raja Bheeshum Lal, had come all the way from Kandhkot, Sukkur to set up a stall for khussas and sandals at the festival. “Priced between Rs800 and Rs1,800, these shoes are handmade from leather and are very comfortable for wearing. They will never cause shoe bites.”

The stall next to Lal’s drew in a constant stream of visitors as it featured installations of various forms depicting the culture of Sindh. From a woman carrying rotis, to another making lassi, the installations featured motorised puppets which used linear and rotary arrangements.

But most of the attendees hovered around the centre stage which had Dilbar Chandio, next in line to Jalal Chandio, a famous Sindh folk singer whose face often adorns truck art features, as he recited a Sufi kalaam.

A little further away from the live performance, three men dressed in the traditional attire balanced clay pots on their hats and danced to the beat of a drum and a flute. “We call this a ‘ghara raqs’ and it dates back to the pre-partition days. I have been performing with my crew for the past 40 years now. This is a celebratory dance often performed at weddings to mark the groom’s arrival,” said Saeen Daad Faqeer who is from Keti Bundar.

Near the festival’s exit point, a woman, Siyani, and her son sat on two separate khaddis both busy in weaving ‘khes’, a hand-woven material used in many ways.

“We learnt this art from our forefathers and have been practicing for years now. It can be very tiring work; often our feet are swollen by the time we end the day’s work,” Siyani explained.

While the income generated from this truly intense labour seems meager, Siyani felt that it was enough to cater to her rent and other basic needs. Her son, on the other hand, said that it was important to preserve the art of weaving khes because ‘hardly 45 people are left who can use the manual machine’.

“The cloth produced on a khaadi, which takes three days, can outlive the one manufactured by a machine. The former can be used for at least five years, but the latter loses its quality in five months.”

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