In part one I tried to capture the experience, this was a festival that had every intention of being present and wasn't going to be ignored, regardless of any local opposition that the organizers and the core team of people involved in making it a reality.
Here is quote from AIF19:
"Islamabad Art Festival a Project of Islamabad Art Festival (SMC – Private) Limited is built upon the foundation of cultural diversity that is so deeply embedded in the land that is now Pakistan, and in the people that are now Pakistani. Art has the unique capability of enabling people to engage intimately with their natural and cultural heritage in a creative and critical manner. The spirit of creativity and innovation brings people together and strengthens society as a whole."
For me the key focus here is "The spirit of creativity and innovation brings people together and strengthens society as a whole." This is what the festival managed to achieve and much more, which the effects are still being felt now in 2021. Unfortunately the festival was cancelled last year due to Covid, but this has not stopped the organizers as they have managed to keep entertainment alive and accessible by holding weekend live streamed jamming and music events.
You go on to the official Hunerkada face book page and like their page to see live stream of current/weekend live performances. https://www.facebook.com/Hunerkada
Above are the flags of the countries that took part, either through performing or contributions of photography/art/sculpture/Lectures and workshops. Turkey, America,France, UK, Canada, Egypt, Denmark, Austria, china, Cuba, Japan, Iran, Indonesia, Germany, Russia, Saudi, Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Algeria, Brazil, India, Italy, Nepal, Nigeria, Cote de Ivoire, Romania, Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, Vietnam, Thailand, Sudan, Syria, Palestine.
The hotel I was staying at had an exhibition of Christian religious photographic images from Italy, I came across them by chance while exploring the hotel and its many corridors and shops that are contained within the hotel. So lets focus on three of the diverse range of performances, exhibitions and lectures I came across, as there is just too much to talk about.
I met one of the journalists whom I have got to know more over the past year called Betnai Akhatar Munir (see photo above me with Betnai) Who was very keen for me to meet the Sufi Opera Singer Saira Peters, he went out of his way to get both of us to meet. I was introduced to Saira and her husband Stephen and Saira's father. They also have a house in London. I hadn't heard of Saira's music before, so was totally engaged with the blend of Sufi Opera, which was a new experience.
Photograph above: Me talking to Saira, Saira's father and her husband Stephen, no idea what I was saying, but obviously very engaging.
For information and background of Saira's career please look up her website on:
I was so fortunate to see Sarah and Stephen perform on stage at the Sir Syed Memorial Society, the sound was seductive, intoxicating and engaging I have never experienced Sufi Opera before. Saira is referred to as one of the worlds first ever Sufi opera singers from Pakistan and visits regularly to perform. I suppose if I hadn't had that chance encounter in my local cafe I wouldn't have ever come across Saira and Stephen, as well as all the other experiences.
At the PNCA exhibition of the work of Jamil Naqsh, I was given a copy of the book Najmi Sura it was an extraordinary gift. After much thought I felt it would be lost on my bookshelf and should be accessible to many other people. I contacted Saira as she is the director of NJ Arts which is a Pakistani Cultural art centre in London. I arranged a visit and met up with Saira and her family and was taken on a tour of the centre. Do check out their website: http://www.njarts.org.uk/ photograph bellow is me presenting the book to Saira at the NJ Arts Centre.
Whirling Darvesh from Turkey.
I had no idea what to expect, my first encounter of the Whirling Darvesh dance was again at the Sir Syed Memorial Society. At the beginning of the performance we were asked not to applaud, not to make any sound and to stay quiet. I was being judgemental in my thoughts, and thought to myself who are these people, I may have been tired but I felt impatient. When the dance started I became more focussed and throughout the performance I was in a trance.
For me it felt like a prayer in motion, I understood how important that we must not clap. It was a beautiful and spiritual experience, it was very emotional and deeply moving. I found the dance took me to another place in time, I lost track of where I was, I found myself rising into a different state of consciousness, it was extraordinary. The quality of the dance was sublime, its slowness invites you in, it takes you by the hand, it leads you to a new place, a new experience. This was Turkey in Islamabad.
I was very fortunate to see the dance a few more times throughout the festival at different locations and each time the experience became much deeper. On my return to London I spoke with a friend who lives locally and is from Turkey he explained to me about the sacredness of the dance and what it meant. Here is some bio about the dance taken from Wikipedia. Do look it up if you want to learn more, its fascination and if you ever get the opportunity to see a live performance do go.
A dervish practices multiple rituals, the primary of which is the dhikr, a remembering of Allah. The dhikr involves recitation of devotional Islamic prayer. This dhikr is coupled with physical exertions of movement, specifically dancing and whirling, in order to reach a state assumed by outsiders to be one of "ecstatic trances".
"In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen's camel's hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt (tennure) represents the ego's shroud. By removing his black cloak (hırka), he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to god's unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive god's beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth.
The semazen conveys god's spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love.
Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says:
"All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!"
Ballet Beyond Borders from America.
I met this group in the first week as we all headed up to the restaurant in the mountains where they were performing along with some of the other artists attending the festival. This was quite an amazing group of people, who danced, sang and who performed what seemed like at almost every venue throughout the festival, there was no stopping this hard working group.
I found an article written about them during their time in Islamabad: (https://www.rmbt.org/bbb-press/2020/1/28/usa-artists-group-ballet-beyond-borders-mesmerized-audience-at-islamabad-art-fest )
"ISLAMABAD, Nov 24 (APP):The international artists of Ballet Beyond Borders (BBB) of Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre USA on Sunday mesmerized audience here at on-going Pakistan first ever mega Islamabad Art Festival 2019 in federal capital Islamabad.
President Ballet Beyond Borders Charlene Campbell Carey said that BBB embraces the changing landscapes of our global dance art form, adding that she is very happy to be here and the opportunity to enjoy with these wonderful people. “It was so amazing as large number of people were came together from different countries” she said.
“While excellence is our goal, we also seek to preserve the heritage we passionately share. We strive to protect, inspire, and connect the next generation of young artists with professionals of the highest caliber and with mentors that align with these ideals” she said. She said that dance is a cultural phenomenon and dancers are natural diplomats.
Charlene Campbell Carey said that Ballet Beyond Borders is a Ballet Nation that serves as a catalyst for promoting cooperation and easing conflict by creating mutual understanding and using dance to advocate for human rights, justice, and global peace. She said that Ballet Beyond Borders is an open land, with an open heart and an open dialogue.
Charlene created the highly regarded Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre (RMBT) School and established the renowned international danced festival, Ballet Beyond Borders (BBB) that is held annually in Western Montana. The artists of Ballet Beyond Borders performed various forms of dances from native America and modern forms and got big applause from the audience at jam packed PNCA auditorium.
Earlier, Presient Islamabad Art Festival 2019 Jamal Shah welcomed the international Ballet Beyond Borders artists. He said that that the idea of international festival was produced with aim to bring all the artists together. e said that more than 230 artists was being participating in Islamabad Art Festival. He said that we are lucky to have them here to establish links with them so we can continue a dialogue for years to come. He said that dialogue will be productive which encourages us to come closer and together.
He said the festival was being organized by the consortium of public and private educational institutions, art galleries and artist associations from across the country in collaboration with foreign embassies, with generous support from the corporate sector. He thanked all the international artists on the occasion."
This was just a small taste of three performances out of countless of many that was on offer to experience throughout the festival.
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Spike Mclarrity is a duration based conceptual performance artist.