The play Kaffetår celebrates the Pakistani-Norwegian community in Norway
To celebrate 50 years of the Pakistani community in Norway, Tony Usman, a Pakistani-Norwegian actor and playwright, made an effort to showcase this history through a theatrical performance in Oslo. The play, in collaboration with Arts Council of Norway, is being staged from February 27 to March 2.
Kaffetår (Sip of Coffee) celebrates the arrival of some of the first Pakistani immigrants, centred on the lives of two friends Sadiq and Shafeeq. Sadiq hails from a small village in Kharian area, and arrives in the winter of 1970. As he sets his feet on the fresh fallen snow, he immediately encounters Shafeeq from Gujranwala. Together they share memories of their beloved homeland and families, whilst making new experiences in a strange country which would be their home for the next fifty years.
“The play is a mixture of fiction and facts. It is a historical and political comment with humorous undertones on a 50 years journey and shows how Oslo as a city and Pakistanis as a community have changed over time,” writer and director of the play, Toni Usman tells The News on Sunday. “Perhaps culture and identity change over time. That’s why the play concerns Norwegian-Pakistanis as well as ethnic Norwegians, and makes some effort to underline related issues in the hope to create further understanding and help interfaith harmony,” he adds.
According to the Embassy of Norway in Islamabad, the first Pakistanis in Norway arrived as early as the mid and late 1960s, but immigration from Pakistan gained momentum in 1971, after Denmark introduced immigration stops in 1970. Most of these migrant workers were from the Punjab, especially Gujrat, Kharian and surrounding areas. As of January 1, 2019, there were 38,000 Norwegian-Pakistanis in Norway, of whom 20,674 were immigrants and 17,326 were Norwegian-born. Pakistanis are the third largest non-western immigrant group in Norway.
“The play is a mixture of fiction and facts. It is a historical and political comment with humorous undertones on a 50 years’ journey and shows how Oslo as a city and Pakistanis as a community have changed over time,” says playwright Toni Usman.
In the play, Sadiq and Shafeeq have completely different views but remain fast friends. Their characters are inspired by a number of interviews with several Pakistani men who came to Norway in the 1970s.
Through formulas inspired by Pakistani movies from the 1960s and 1970s and modern soap-operas, the tale of two friends gets told. For those interested in Urdu poetry, note that the poem Khwab Marte Nahi by Ahmed Faraz has been translated to Norwegian and composed as a song especially for the play. With a desire to create a play that concerns Norwegian-Pakistanis as well as ethnic Norwegians, Usman aims to create an entertaining and knowledgeable play for a wide audience.
“Toni’s play is a wonderful effort to document the long history of Pakistanis in Norway. The writer, through the play has beautifully showed a diverse image of the Pakistani community and has highlighted all their contributions – whether good or bad,” says Syed Mujahid Ali, a Norwegian journalist and columnist.
Usman was born in Pakistan but moved to Norway at an early age. He has staged many plays in Norway including some based on short stories by Saadat Hassan Manto, such as Thanda Ghosht, Toba Tak Singh and Letters to Uncle Sam.
The author is a staff member and can be reached at [email protected]