To commemorate the United Nations’ International Mother Language Day, the second Pakistan Mother Languages Literature Festival 2017 was held to celebrate the diversity of languages in Pakistan at Lok Virsa, Islamabad on the 18th and 19th of February. The event rallied massive support, having been organized by the Indus Cultural Forum (ICF), Lok Virsa and the Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO). It was further endorsed by the Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI), the Sindh government’s Department for Culture, Tourism and Heritage, and the Society for Alternate Media and Research (SAMAR).
The two-day festival was packed with a host of events including a mushaira, musical evening, panel sittings on various literary genres, multi-lingual poetry recitations, book launches in different languages, and screening of documentaries and films. Renowned writers and artists from all over the country participated in the festival. Around 160 writers, intellectuals, critics, poets and artists representing more than 15 languages graced the event to discuss the diversity of Pakistani languages from a historical as well as a modern perspective. A large number of discussions pivoted on the challenges faced by our local languages in the wake of a strong global media onslaught, and technological advancements hindering the growth of these languages among the new generation.
In her opening remarks, the Executive Director of Lok Virsa, Dr. Fouzia Saeed informed the audience that according to UNESCO, Pakistan is home to more than 70 languages, making it one of the most linguistically diverse nations in the world. She further stated that UNESCO has labelled 25 of these languages as endangered, and expressed hope that such festivals would become a catalyst in encouraging writers and readers to promote our languages and culture. “Lok Virsa is committed to the cause of promoting the linguistic and cultural diversity of Pakistan. Languages and literature provide an impressive medium of expression to the common people, and this festival brings together the people’s writers”, she said. “We are trying to bring these languages on the national landscape and show their beauty to our young generation.”
The first festival, held last year, had received a warm response from artists, literary personalities and the public. Fulfilling the promise to be bigger and better, this year’s festival showcased even better quality of programs, content of sessions and famed artists in attendance. Books from Sindhi, Balochi, Pashtu, Brahvi, Seraiki, Punjabi and other languages were also exhibited at the festival along with their translations in Urdu and English.
Linguistic diversity is an under-appreciated strength of Pakistan. We are one of the few fortunate countries in the world to possess a trove of literature, folklore and history that represents cultural plurality and the colorful presence of art from ancient times. Promoting our languages and culture would help forge a stronger and closer bond among various segments of our society, as it is said that languages tailor a flag to unify the masses better than any other. What is needed is a platform for artists and people to communicate and share their literary work. As such, the festival included activities for children so that the gift of having a unique mother tongue could be understood and valued not merely by adults, but also by the younger generation.
“These languages represent centuries-old traditions of an intellectual journey through writings in a number of forms and genres of literature, ranging from strong poetry traditions to fiction and non-fiction prose,” said Naseer Memon, the Chief Executive of SPO. “Literature in these languages from ancient to contemporary times offers a whole new perspective on Pakistani life, society and culture.”
All images have been taken from the Lok Virsa Facebook page.
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