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Fauzia Minallah is an Islamabad-based artist, environmentalist and writer. She has been a vocal advocate for conservation of the area’s unique cultural heritage.

She is also the director for Funkor, a children’s arts centre. Through her work, she aims to democratise art education, making it accessible to children from low-income backgrounds. Dawn spoke to Fauzia about her work.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for Funkor?

A. The word ‘Funkor’ is a combination of two words ‘fun’ which means art or talent in Urdu and ‘kor’ which means home in Pashto. So Funkor is the home for children’s art. We launched the website for Funkor in 2002 but the realisation came to me in 2001, after 9/11, that the world is changing. As a mother of two boys, I wanted to create a better world for children. Now I distribute my illustrated books to children through this website. So far, 10,000 books have been given to under-privileged children in different schools.

Q. How many books have you written and illustrated for children?

A. I started with ‘Amai’s Wish’. Amai is the Balochi word for mother and her wish is that children inherit a better world. The second one was Sadako’s Prayer, which is also available in Japanese and was published by an NGO called ANT Hiroshima. This book was also translated to Dari, Pushto, Urdu and Torwali - a language spoken in the Kohistan area of Swat.

These were followed by Bano, Billo and Amai, a book about paper dolls of Pakistan, and Amai and the Banyan Tree. Both these books were published by Oxford University Press.

‘Titli and the Music of Hope’ was published by National Book Trust of India, and is only available in India. The book ‘Children of Light’, and ‘Amai’s Wish’, were both self-published. People can contact me for these.

Q. In addition to Islamabad’s ancient heritage, what else have you written on?

A. I have written two books on this region ‘Chitarkari and Banyans - engravings on stone’, published in 2010 and ‘Glimpses into Islamabad’s Soul’ published in 2007. The first book is about Gandhara art and the second about Islamabad’s ancient natural and cultural heritage.

I am from Sirikot, which is a two-hour drive from Islamabad and 40 minutes away from Taxila. While I am a proud Muslim, I am also a South Asian and cannot disown my heritage which includes the ancient Buddhist civilisation of Gandhara.

Q. What have you been working on lately?

A. Last week, I showed my work at the Children’s Literature Festival at Karachi Arts Council. I made a special animated tribute for the children of Army Public School Peshawar. Ten children, survivors of the attack, attended the festival.

The animation is called ‘Amai’s Paintings of Peace’ and talks about a world for children where there is love and respect for all, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. It is a vision of a place where mothers don’t have to lose their children.

Published in Dawn March 20th, 2015

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