Lahore Literary Festival’s 3rd edition held in New York

NEW YORK – The third edition of Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) concluded in New York on Saturday night after a series of lively discussions on Pakistan’s arts and literature as well as other key facets of its national life, with Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi stating that the event has become “a prominent voice of our country’s intellectual journey.”


The festival drew a large number of New Yorkers to the spacious hall of Asia Society, which co-hosts the event.


An array of distinguished speakers underlined Lahore’s standing as Pakistan’s cultural hub, and said that LFF had brought ideas and showcased Pakistan’s talent before American audiences.


They said that the festival had made a mark on the cultural life here.


“This is the third time that Lahore has arrived in New York,” Maleeha Lodhi, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, said at the start of the festival which continued late into the night.


“There is much that connects Lahore and New York, two cities that never sleep. And both are acknowledged as cultural capitals of their countries,” noted Maleeha Lodhi, whom LLF founder and CEO Razi Ahmed called an “incredible supporter” of the festival and one of its pillar of strength as a loud applause rang out.


The festival, she added, had become a prominent voice in Pakistan’s intellectual journey, shaping views and perspectives by engaging intellectuals and opinion makers in stimulating conversations about the country’s contemporary issues and challenges.


“It is indeed, a ‘safe place for dangerous ideas’,” the Pakistani envoy added.


“In a world beset with tensions and conflict, the ‘soft power’ of culture serves as the most powerful bulwark against the walls of hatred, division and discord,” she said.


“It is thus, an indispensable vehicle in the effort to achieve greater understanding of ‘the other’ and indeed our shared aspiration for peace.”


Pakistan’s cultural landscape, she said, has seen a flowering of art, music and literature, as well as cinema.


“These creative voices are in turn emblematic of a vibrant society and a living nation that is undeterred by the many challenges it has had to negotiate,” Maleeha said.


“This profusion of creative voices also reflects the confidence of a new generation of Pakistanis, proud of its traditions but also connected to the wider world. Emphasising that art, literature, poetry, music and other forms of creative expression are the very essence of our human existence,” she said. Culture binds people together, and provides them a sense of continuity, an essential link between the past and the present, she added.


CEO Razi Ahmed spoke of LLF’s partnership with Asia Society, stating that the third LFF in New York marks Pakistan’s 70 years of independence this year.


It showcases the repository of talent and expression from Pakistan and also situates how the Pakistani community abroad, fellow South Asians and other Pakistan-observers see the country as it comes of age, he said.


The keynote address was delivered by Ayesha Jalal, the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University, on Liberalism and the Muslim Question was followed by a discussion on Pakistan at 70.


Among other participants were Raza Rumi, editor of The Daily Times, Lahore, and Saroop Ijaz, a noted Pakistani lawyer.


Taking part in a discussion about Mughal art, were Mehreen Chida-Razvi, specialist on the art and architecture of Mughal South Asia, Shahzia Sikander, contemporary artist and MacArthur fellow and Zehra Jumabhoy, art critic and art historian specializing in contemporary South Asian Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London.


This was followed by Lahore-based artist Waqas Khan’s minimalist drawings, which are deeply inspired by the Sufi poets of South Asia.


Khan painstakingly applies with his hand renderings of multiple, minuscule dots, forming weaves and in the organic flow of drawing are disrupted by apertures, which broadly resemble patterns of biological structures and serve as a dialogue between the viewer, nature and the cosmos.


During a session on “Extraordinary Architecture, Everyday Lahore, Nayyar Ali Dada, Lahore-based Aga Khan award-winning architect and conservationist and Tanvir Hasan, accredited conservation architect who has worked with listed buildings for more than 20 years, both in the UK and abroad participated in the discussion.


There was also a session on Urdu language: “Zubaan Ki Nai Bastiyan”.


With South Asian migration to the West, it was pointed out that Urdu has found new homes in New York, Chicago and Toronto.


In its Westward drift, new centers of poetry and prose circles have emerged as well as new scholarship.


A discussion on “Ghost Wars Redux” saw a lively discussion between Barnett Rubin, leading expert on Afghanistan and South Asia, author and Senior Fellow and Director at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, Kathy Gannon of The Associated Press and Zahid Hussain, DAWN columnist.


The session was moderated by Moeed Yusuf, Associate Vice President of the Asia Center at the US Institute of Peace.


The festival was rounded off with a qawwali session in which Fareed Ayaz, Abu Muhammad Qawwal and Brothers who enthralled the audience with their performance.


From: The Nation


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