ISLAMABAD  – The 10-day folk festival, popularly known as “Lok Mela” opened on Friday at Shakarparian, disseminating the dynamic creativity of countryside and giving rural folk a pride in their identity.

Federal Secretary, Ministry of National Heritage & Integration, Asaf Ghafoor inaugurated the mega cultural event, organized by Lok Virsa, National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage and will continue till April 15. Asaf Ghafoor said “This event is a true depiction of rural Pakistan and the direct beneficiaries are rural folk including craftspeople, folk artists, musicians and other performers participating from each and every corner of the country. The festival, therefore, serves to disseminate the dynamic creativity of our countryside and gives rural folk a pride in their identity”.

“Artisans and folk artists are our national assets. While performing abroad, they act as our ambassadors to the visiting countries. No one else than these folk artists can  effectively project our culture in the outer world. They have an important role to play in promoting our soft image at the international level through their skills and performances. Our ministry would certainly facilitate them in carrying out this national task”, he maintained. In her message on the occasion, Federal Minister for National Heritage & Integration, Samina Khalid Ghurki who is also the minister incharge of Lok Virsa said, “Traditions and cultural values are the identity of a nation. Changes over the time can diminish them but they cannot be wiped away. Lok Virsa is striving hard to preserve our indigenous folk traditions, promote them and project them at the international level. This is not only important but also essential and the need of hour”.

The minister further added “We can defeat terrorism and extremism by promoting our cultural heritage. By projecting it properly, we can highlight the soft image of Pakistan all over the world.

It is policy of the government to give equal representation to all provinces and regions in safeguarding their traditional culture”.

The minister said “I am glad that Lok Virsa, which was founded by Quaid-e-Awam, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1974, has grown to such an extent that it is now known the world over for its landmark achievements in the field of culture”.

The PPP government is always trying to strengthen the national institutions, for which concrete steps have been taken. Culture is one of the priority areas of present government because we understand that it is the path that leads to the provincial solidarity, religious harmony, love, peace and brotherhood among the nation.

Earlier, Lok Virsa’s executive director, Khalid Javaid gave a brief overview of the concept and objectives of the festival with special reference to the mandate of Lok Virsa.

ED, Lok Virsa said, “the major thrust of the festival is the focus on provincial harmony and national integration highlighting the contribution of our people in building future Pakistan. Khalid Javaid apprised that festival aims to reviving endangered traditional arts of Pakistan. It will provide an opportunity to craftspeople not only to display their workmanship at a central place at the federal capital but also to sell their products to public without involvement of middleman, thus contributing a lot towards poverty alleviation among poor rural community.

The festival also serves to afford an opportunity to the diplomatic community and residents of Rawalpindi/Islamabad to witness authentic folk musical and cultural entertainment for 10 consecutive days besides buying traditional items on reasonable prices.

More than 500 artisans and artists from different parts including remotest regions are participating in the festival, bringing with them their creativity in arts, crafts and innovation, ED Lok Virsa maintained.

The festival includes a number of important features such as artisans-at-work exhibition, provincial cultural pavilions, folkloric song and dance ensembles, rural musicians, cultural evenings, promotional stalls by public organizations & NGOs, general assembly of craftspeople, an exotic craft bazaar, traditional food cuisine, food stalls and special attractions for children amusement.

During the inaugural ceremony, vibrant cultural performances were also presented by each of the participating provinces/regions showing national solidarity and proving that this unique festival is a symbol of federation’s recognition.

The performers were Raza Alan from Sindh, Saleh Baloch from Balochistan, Qurban Niazi & Sain Mushtaq from Punjab and Javed Khan from Gilgit Baltistan.

According to the tradition exists in Lok Virsa for the last thirty years, the festival opened with a “Chadar Poshi” of an established female craftswoman from Sindh province in the field of Hurmuch (Sindhi embroidery) namely Mst. Naseem Sultan. The chief guest performed her chadar poshi by placing a chadar on her shoulder.

‘Dastarbandi’ is a symbol of Lok Virsa’s sustained campaign to keep the heritage of Pakistan alive and continuing. A turban in folk mythology of Pakistan is synonymous to doing great honour.  After the turban is placed on the head, a poetic composition called “Sehra” is recited to honour the master artisan/artist. Drums resound proclaiming his attainments, and coloured balloons go up in the air.

A large number of people from different walks of life including art & craft experts, cultural personalities, diplomats, media persons, students and general public attended the ceremony and enjoyed the thrilling performances of the artists.

Later, the chief guest paid a visit to the cultural pavilions, witnessed indigenous folk entertainment and met participants coming from every nook and corner of the country bringing with them their creativity in arts, crafts and innovation.

The festival will continue with all its colours till Sunday, 15 April daily from 1100 to 2200 hours at Lok Virsa Complex, Garden Avenue, Shakarparian.