1 Maugore

Sindh Festival 2014 Essay Writer

Festiv­al starts with a bang at the lumine­scent and majest­ic Moen jo Daro.

PHOTO: SINDH FESTIVAL FACEBOOK PAGE

MOEN JO DARO: 

It’s a party…it’s a concert…no, it’s the Sindh Festival 2014!

The celebrations have officially begun as contemporary trends and history were exquisitely fused at the inaugural ceremony of the Sindh Festival at Moen jo Daro. The ruins of the Indus Valley civilisation were transformed into a gorgeous, tinselled venue – a manifestation of the rich heritage it hoped to represent.

Spearheaded by the Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the two-week festival is part of a campaign to conserve the heritage of his home province of Sindh.

Instead of dusty plains, Moen jo Daro was a palette of red, green and purple hues. A large wooden and steel scaffolding formed the grand stage, which was decorated like an ancient kingdom. But the cynosure was the stupa, luminescent and majestic.

“This is the first time in the country’s history that we pulled off an event of such importance at such an important site,” Bilawal said when he came up on stage to thank the artists and all those who made the event possible.

Clad in a black sherwani with an ajrak pocket square, he arrived on Saturday in a caravan of four vehicles. It was reported that he had been visiting the site daily for the past couple of days to ensure the arrangements were impeccable. Tents, poles and other material were removed and rearranged a couple of times as they were dug up in the relics or in the area that comes under the heritage site.

But in the end, Moen jo Daro looked even more beautiful than the Mohatta Palace in Karachi.

And the show had it all. From a star-studded line-up of events – a laser presentation of 3D animations, LED dances, concerts and a fashion show – to gentry of the political cream of the province, the event was a celebration of “hope and civilisation”.

Humaima Malik and Shehryar Siddiqui hosted the night, describing the festival as a cultural ‘coup’ as opposed to the “vultural” coup imposed by military dictators. “Superman is fictional, but the Sindhi man is a fact that has sustained for 5,000 years,” they said, referring to the logo of the Sindh Festival.

The dazzling night kicked off with short dance performances featuring a fashion show, followed by a multimedia presentation illustrating the history of this region, particularly the Aryan invasion.

The laser presentation by Laseronix, who created a 3D review of Sindh’s history, through 3D animation wowed the crowd. Laser forms of the Indus dolphins, Sindhi farmers, the Lansdowne Bridge linking Sukkur and Rohri as well as other cultural elements floated and flashed over the stage.

Artists and bands, who are known for creating socially relevant music, such as the Beygairat Brigade, Ali Gul Pir and Azal performed songs especially composed for the festival, apart from their hits. Ali Gul Pir sang “Super Saeen”, written exclusively for the Sindh Festival, and he also tweaked his hit, “Waderai ka Beta” to “Pakistan ka Beta” for the show.

A number of foreign visitors, some wearing traditional Sindhi Ajrak outfits, were also seen among the approximately 1,000 guests.

To summarise, Sharmila Farooqi said, “Today we made a statement by cerebrating the true essence and diversity of Sindh in a very engaging and entertaining manner.”

As the show ended, Fakhr-e-Alam, who is the coordinator of the entire festival, said, “This was a landmark event in the history of Pakistan. The grandeur and immensity of this is a testimony to what is to come in the next 15 days. This is just a teaser.”

However, he admitted that the real challenge is to pull off the entire festival “with equal grace and precision”. “I am thankful to the more than 500 people who have worked day and night to make this dream into a reality.” And that is when the fireworks began, drawing the night to a close.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2014.

The young chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, made a splash over the weekend with the glitzy opening a 15-day celebration of the culture of the Sindh province. But the location and politics behind the event have stirred a controversy.

Mr. Bhutto Zardari is the only son of assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and former president Asif Ali Zardari, who was in power until early 2013. On his mother’s death, Mr. Bhutto Zardari assumed the position of chairman of the PPP.

While the 25-year-old had previously seemed reluctant to enter politics, Mr. Butto Zardari has recently become more active on the national stage The Sindh Festival is seen as an attempt to raise his profile.

“I’m throwing the Sindh Festival to reassert the Pakistani-ness of Pakistan. It is our cultural space and our societal space, and we’re fighting against the Arab-ization on one side and the Westernization on the other extreme,” he told India Real Time. “The societal space actually shouldn’t be political, it shouldn’t be to do with the government, this is for the people of Pakistan to fight back for, and that is what the Sindh Festival is about.”

Annabel Symington for The Wall Street Journal
Backstage at the Sindh Festival at the site of the ancient city, Moenjodaro.

The backdrop of Saturday’s extravaganza was the ancient city of Moenjodaro, the world’s oldest surviving city that dates back to the pre-Hindu, Indus Valley civilization. UNESCO has declared it a world heritage site but its remote location and limited government resources mean that it is little visited and poorly maintained.

Mr. Bhutto Zardari decided to change that by flying in three plane loads of senior party members, foreign media and a bunch of his friends from Oxford University for the Sindh Festival’s opening bash.

Performances for the event took place on a stage being built over parts of the ruins of the ancient city. Last week a group of Pakistani archeologists wrote a letter to UNESCO accusing the Sindh Festival organizers of harming the historic site.

“The organizers of the events are damaging archaeological assets, history, culture and art of Sindh province,” read the letter addressed to the Director-General of UNESCO. “We welcome his speech to protect the secular civilization fabric of Sindhi society but unfortunately the way the show is going to happen, it is going to further destroy the already weakened ruins and structures of the site.”

The festival organizers denied they were causing any damage to the site. Sharmila Farooqi–the Sindh culture minister, a member of the PPP and a key organizer of the event–said the accusations were made up “by political opponents.”

Mr. Bhutto Zardari told India Real Time that special care was taken to ensure that the site was not damaged.

While measures may have been taken to reduce damage hundreds of guests, a huge security detail, cast and crew for performances, along with stage and lighting structures took their toll on the site. The backstage makeup and costume area was on top of the ruins and was littered with cans of hairspray and bits of sparkly cloth.

The event was meant to celebrate Sindhi culture and included an opening dance depicting ancient Indus Valley culture followed by a fashion show of Sindhi clothes. It then took an odd turn with a laser light show of Sindhi animals to blaring techno music that wouldn’t have been out of place in a nightclub.

There may have been some Sindhi flutes in the music, but they were difficult to make out over the pounding bass.

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