ISLAMABAD - As visitors enter Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) pavilion set up at Lok Virsa Shakarparian, the enchanting melodious sounds of ‘Rabab’ and ‘Tabla’ welcome them. The KP pavilion has been built in the replica of Bab-e-Khyber where the art and culture productions of the whole province are assembled under one marquee.

Around 70 to 80 artisans both males and females from different districts and regions are participating in ten-day Lok Mela. Different stalls are set up for craftsmen and craftswomen showcasing lacquer art, embroidery, carpet weaving, pottery, jewelry, shawl-making, carpentering, calligraphy and stonework etc while one part of the pavilion has been reserved for traditional food like Chappal Kebab and Kahwa. There also a considerable number of musicians and dancers. “The music took me back to my childhood when we would gather at ‘Hujra’ and listen to ‘Rabab’ and Mangay (water pot being used as drum); some boys sing folk songs. But today the Hujra culture is dying,” said Saleem Khan a visitor from Swabi. “Such events can preserve the Pashtun culture”.

In KP pavilion Tariq, 35, who hails from Mardan, plays Rabab while Imran plays ‘tabla’. “In Pashtun society ‘Rabab’ is played with ‘Mangay’ both are considered to be the two sides of the same coin but here my co-artist Imran beats ‘tabla’ instead of ‘Mangay’,” said Tariq who learnt playing Rabab at the age of 12.

Nasar Minullah presents typical Kahwa of Qisawani Bazaar in KP pavilion. “I learnt the art of making Kahwa from my father and grandfather; Kahwa is an integral part of Pashtoon cuisine,” he said. On one side of Nasr Minullah is Peshawar Tandoori while to his right end Chappal kebab and Fish restaurants attract the visitors. One stall also presents the famous sweet of Charsadda popularly known as “Chacha Israruddin Methai”.

Noor Alam Mehsud is leading a 15-member squad of dancers that would perform “Atan” especially on KP night during the Lok Mela. “The squad is all prepared to perform tribal and Khattak ‘Atan’ to the beats of the drum,” he added.

Abdullah, 35, is from Khwaza Khela Swat who is an expert in wood carving. The art of wood carving is transferred from one generation to another in his region. “Lok Mela is a good platform to promote and advertise wood arts,” said Abdullah who’s family is associated with wood carving.

Next to Abdullah is the stall of 70-year-old Awrangzaib, an expert in stone carving. The old man who hails from Mansehra seems worried about the future of his profession. According to him stone carving is going to perish, as the work does not payback. “The work is difficult and time consuming while the reward is not satisfactory; young people do not take interest to learn this art,” he said.

 Farhat Bibi’s stall is located at the entry point of KP pavilion. She is expert in lacquer work. According to her, the art of lacquer work was imported by her forefather from India to Dera Ismail Khan. “This art is restricted to few families; the government should encourage the art by providing different platforms to the artisans,” she demanded.   

Saltanat Khan is a young artist from Swat who is an expert in sculpture art and calligraphy. His work is a blend of Gandhara art and Islamic calligraphy. “Wood carving calligraphy is my passion,” he said.

Hidayatullah has set up a stall with Chitrali jewelry and dresses. He specialised in the dress of Kailash women. Artisan Fazal Wahab is the son of Muhammad Gul who got gold medal from Lok Virsa for his services in Shaal-making. His stall showcasing famous ‘Chadar’ and ‘Shaal’ made in local ‘Khadi’.

Nasim Riaz, 43, has set up a stall presenting traditional jewelries and bags. “All the bags, earrings, lockets are handcrafted; but the reward is very little,” she said. She also teaches her students the art of embroidery and handmade jewelry in her institution in Peshawar. Next to her is the stall of Ihsana Bibi from Peshawar. She is here with handmade “paranda”. Sheikh Muhammad Khalil, an expert in making Jinnah cap has is another craftsman in her neighborhood.  Sardar Ali, 26, is a potter. In Pashto language a potter is called as ‘Kulal’. “Mangay (water pot) has been replaced by water cooler now, so we have excelled in plant pots,” he said and added, “We are not ready to allow this art to die.”