Events related to calligraphic arts dominated the cultural scene in Lahore this past week. Other major activities were pegged to the observance of World Tourism Day and Senior Citizens Day and the importance of cartoons in journalism.
Two major events, the Fourth International Calligraphy & Calligraph-Art and Competition 2004, and the First International Conference on Culture and Calligraphy along with the launching of the book Calligraphy & Calligraph-Art held at the Lahore Arts Council on October 1 and 2 stole the limelight of cultural activities in the city.
On October 1, provincial senior minister Raja Basharat, substituting for the ailing Chief Minister of the Punjab inaugurated the fourth International Calligraphy & Calligraph-Art Exhibition and Competition 2004 on October 1. Federal Minister for Culture Mohammad Ajmal acted as chief guest on the occasion.
On October 2, the Punjab Governor, Khalid Maqbool acted as chief guest on the occasion of the holding of the First International Conference on Culture and Calligraphy and the launching of UNESCO-co-sponsored book Calligraphy & Calligraph-Art at the Lahore Arts Council. On both occasions, which were sponsored by Pakistan Calligraph-Artists Guild, Lahore, the spacious halls of the Lahore Arts Council were packed with standing-room-only audiences.
The Punjab Textbook Board and Pakistan Calligraph-Artists Guild jointly sponsored Children's Festival of Art and Calligraphy on October 3.
Over 300 extremely pleasing-to-the-eyes calligraphy pieces drawn by artists from Pakistan and 17 other countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Britain, Canada, China, Iran, India, Italy and several Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa were put for public viewing at the fourth International Exhibition.
A non-government welfare organisation - the Pakistan Calligraphy-Artists Guild (PCG) - which was founded in Lahore in 1997, is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the time-honoured heritage of penmanship in all forms, media and languages. It embraces this important tradition of creative human endeavour, which is currently threatened by modern technological developments. Consequently traditional sources of employment such as the daily newspapers, magazines, journals and advertising agencies have rendered many a calligrapher jobless. Lack of job opportunities consequential to modern technological devices has caused a rapid decline in the numbers of practising calligraphers in Pakistan.
The primary objective of PCG's establishment in Lahore was to preventing this more-than-a-millennium-old tradition from being consigned to the dustbin of history. The historic city of Lahore has remained a big centre for this widely practised art form since eleventh century. It has seen the flowering of many scripts and has also added striking variations to the art. Under the Mughal dynasty the city earned fame throughout South Asia and the Middle East for the superb penmanship of its artists. Before the emergence of Pakistan in 1947 in Lahore alone 157 schools of calligraphy flourished all of which have slipped into historical oblivion.
To remedy the current sorry state of calligraphic affairs, the PCG was established, which covers all the scripts by the pen and brush. It consists of renowned calligraphers and calligrpah-artists, whose services have been recognised at national and international levels. The membership of PCG consists of such luminaries as Ismail Gulgee, Profs. Saeed Akhter and Ahmed Khan; Sufi Khursheed-raqam, Khurshid-qalam, Ustad Irfan Ahmed Khan, Bashir Moojid, Ustad Ikram-ul-Haq, Mehmood Hassan Rumi and M. Athar Tahir.
Totally reliant on its own initiatives for fund raising the objectives of PCGs are to preserve, promote and propagate traditional calligraphy and modern calligraph-art in all forms, whether two or three dimensional, and in any media or language.
In his remarks at the inauguration of the 4th International Conference on Culture and Calligraphy on October 2, Governor Khalid Maqbool said that his government would take steps to introduce formal education of calligraphy in all the educational institutions in the province and promised maximum support to calligraphy.
His personal interest in the Islamic art of calligraphy and the modern genre of Calligraph-art was manifest in the instructions he has issued to the College of Art and Design, University of the Punjab to start a two-year diploma course in Calligraphy and Calligraph-art.
The Tourism Development Corporation of Pakistan on September 27 sponsored a fair pegged to the observance of World Tourism Day at the Lahore Arts Council. The theme of the day was Sport and Tourism: two living forces for mutual understanding of culture and development of societies. It featured photography as well as painting exhibitions, a poster competition in which school and college students participated. Thirty-four artists, including five winners of Pride of Performance medals displayed their works.
The Press Institute of Pakistan on September 29 sponsored a seminar on Cartoons' Importance in Journalism in which renowned puppeteer Farooq Qaiser and cartoonists Javed Iqbal and Shaukat Mehmood participated. Speakers included Munoo Bhai, Abdul Qayyum Hijazi, Dr. Ajaz Anwar, Professors Samia Jameel and Ahsan Akhter Naz. All the speakers highlighted the role of cartoons in depicting sensitive issues effectively.