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‘Creativity of rural women must be recognised’

March 11, 2016


Documentary filmmaker and activist Samar Minallah and poet and writer Kishwar Naheed at the seminar. — Photo by Khurram Amin
Documentary filmmaker and activist Samar Minallah and poet and writer Kishwar Naheed at the seminar. — Photo by Khurram Amin

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on Thursday held a seminar to highlight the various challenges facing women in creative fields.

The event was held in connection with the International Women’s Day on March 8, and featured women from various fields, who spoke about how creativity, commitment and knowledge can counter the problems facing women.

Samar Minallah, a documentary filmmaker and activist, said her work focused more on rural women because they preserved traditional arts and crafts despite the challenges they face.

She said: “In the efforts of rural women to keep their culture alive, sometimes the norms and customs of society are challenged, which creates many problems for rural women. My documentaries, like ‘Bibi Sheerenay’, ‘Zarsanga’ and many others feature the courage, bravery and creativity of women struggling in their societies for art and culture.”

She said the importance of creative rural women must be recognised, and they should be given an equal opportunity to flourish in their fields.

“Every girl or woman has the power of creativity; there is a need to understand it and find appropriate ways to polish it,” she said.

A video, ‘Allaho – a Lullaby for You, My Daughter’ by Ms Minallah was screened which highlighted the importance of girls’ education.

Ms Minallah explained that ‘Allaho’ was a traditional lullaby that addressed sons but with the help of Pashto and Dari language poets, the lullaby now addressed girls as well.

Kishwar Naheed said: “Every artist doesn’t get a conducive environment to excel in her or his fields but knowledge seekers always succeed despite facing hurdles and challenges.”

She asked girls to explore their creativity and encouraged them to immerse themselves in literature. She said determination and loyalty can counter any challenge or problem.

Meerab Vinod, an art student from the Postgraduate College Rawalpindi, said: “The real challenge we face being art students is that nobody including our families take art seriously in this society. Art is considered a hobby but not a proper profession.”

International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world to mark the struggle for women’s rights and celebrate successes and build solidarity for future women’s rights struggles. The theme for this year’s celebrations was ‘art and culture.’

Dr Suraya Chaudhry, the head of the arts department at Fatima Jinnah Women University, said the art curriculum should be related to Pakistani culture and tradition. She said: “Many students who come to join the art department from rural areas face many challenges, as art is still not considered something serious in their societies. They came to us with a blank canvas, now this is our responsibility to connect their art with their culture through education. Unfortunately, our curriculum only focuses on international art therefore cultural context is missing from our art.”

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2016