The four-day festival was held under the patronage of Lok Virsa, the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, in collaboration with the Provincial Directorate of Culture and the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The festival was a symbolic representation of the historical Qissa Khawani Bazaar, featuring its crafts, food, music, recreational activities and enchanting stories.
This ambitious project aimed to attract and educate the masses about the importance of preserving the historical and cultural heritage of Pakistan, an asset that in essence helped shape South Asia as we know it. The inaugural ceremony started with a quick tour of the recreated bazaar, with chief guest Kadim Hussain, a renowned scholar of culture and social sciences and a member of the Lok Virsa Board of Governors.
Day 1 of the festival kicked off with the launch of a book titled "The Bazaar of Storytellers" by Wilma Heston and Mumtaz Nasir. The book includes a versatile collection of tales based on life, society, culture and romance. Originally, these stories would be narrated to small gatherings of singers, poets and storytellers at the Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar. Since then, the stories have been preserved on paper as well as in movies and drama serials, but the tradition of the act itself has faded dramatically.
The Executive Director of Lok Virsa, Dr. Fouzia Saeed, explained that Lok Virsa attempts to rejuvenate and preserve the treasure of our culture for posterity. “It is important to point out that bazaars such as these served as prisms of diversity, where colors of all sorts blended and developed appreciation, and became the birthplace of new ideas”, she said. “I personally feel that in a multicultural and multiethnic society like ours, we cannot pass on these glorious traditions to our coming generations simply by oral rendition.”
The second day of the festival was filled with music and dance. The grand finale of the Rubab Playing Competition took place, as 15 contestants touched many souls through their music. The judges for the competition were Ghulab Afridi, Nazir Gul and Sabz Ali. Federal Secretary Muhammad Azam from Broadcasting and National Heritage, the Ministry of Information, and the Adviser to KP Chief Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism, Amjad Khan Afridi rewarded the top three contestants with cash prizes, and the rest with consolation awards. Later in the evening, the traditional Pukhtun dance of swords was displayed, followed by a live concert of renowned Pukhtun singers Abasin Yousufzai, Bukhtiar Khattak, Nabeela Wadood and Shahid Ali Khan.
"Yousuf Khan Sherbano", a Pukhtun film, graced the festival on the third day. Lok Virsa Mandwa Film Club hosted the event, which was attended by a massive Pukhtun community in the form of students and families. “I am glad this has happened. It is the first event of its kind in the capital”, said Dr. Fouzia Saeed. “We have done our best to recreate the ambiance of the Qissa Khawani Bazaar, so the audience can fully experience the cultural heritage of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”.
At the concluding ceremony on the fourth day, the guests appreciated the efforts made by Lok Virsa and congratulated them on a successful endeavor to rejuvenate the pride in Pukhtuns, and in Pakistanis as a whole. Hundreds of people from different walks of life attended the event on all four days, enjoying a truly rare opportunity to peek into the past. “It is necessary to document such stories to show our youth the real essence of our pluralistic past”, concluded Dr. Fouzia.
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