Tehreek-i-Niswan, a cultural group formed in 1979, celebrated its 35th anniversary with Tlism — a festival of theatre, dance and music celebrating diversity — at the Arts Council of Pakistan.
Sheema Kermani, who heads the group, is known for her classical dancing and social activism ever since Zia-ul- Haq’s regime, when dance came to be seen as an activity highly disliked by the state and the clergy. Kermani and her troupe use dance as a medium for conveying their message of harmony and equality for women. It is not a mere spectacle or entertainment, but a representation, by means of gestures, of the social issues binding women in Pakistan.
“It was 35 years ago on March 8 that we started work as a cultural action group that uses dance and artistic impressions to highlight issues of human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, minorities rights, etc,” said Kermani
A documentary about the group also showed their years of struggle in a country that at one time looked down upon women who indulged in dance and music as it was thought to be against religious practice. But they sailed through each storm to reach here.
Dancing was a regular part of life in Pakistan until the rise in 1977 of military ruler Ziaul Haq, who used religion to suppress cultural traditions and only permitted women to appear on state television wearing veils.
Read more: Week-long ‘I am Karachi Tlism Festival’ begins