Lahore: In an evening of music, dance, visual arts and words beautifully strung together in poetry and song, the Women Action Forum (WAF) and the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) paid tribute to the charismatic personality of Lala Rukh, an activist, artist and teacher at the Alhamra Art Centre, The Mall, on Monday.

The commemorative event opened with a walk-in exhibition of Lala Rukh’s artworks titled Rupak.

A large number of Ms Rukh’s friends, family, activists, members of the civil society and other guests attended the exhibition of paintings, drawings and posters, which will remain on display till Nov 9.

Following the exhibition, the guests gathered in Hall 3 for the memorial ceremony and to pay homage to the late activist and artist through speeches, poetry recitals and music.

Anees Haroon from Karachi, who is one of the founding members of the WAF, read a poem in memory of her friend Ms Rukh.

“I am really grieved over her death,” she said, adding that she had found it hard to come to grips with the fact that the indomitable Ms Rukh was no more.

Remembering her struggles as a part of the WAF, writer and activist Zahida Hina from Karachi said that Ms Rukh was an integral part of WAF’s activism.

“We used to discuss what was happening in Pakistan’s politics,” she said.

For Ms Hina, the life and personality of Ms Rukh had multiple facets – she was an artiste, a literary personality, classical music aficionado and a political activist.

Ms Rukh was among the 15 members who had founded the WAF in 1983. The posters she designed during Zia’s regime became very popular even when, in those days, no printing press was willing to print WAF’s posters, she recalled.

Rubina Saigol, another WAF member, said she had known Ms Rukh since they were teenagers.

She recalled her friends work to preserve the heritage and further the cause of the labour movement in Pakistan. She was a classical music connoisseur who would break into dance, but she was also well versed in the visual arts. Ms Rukh was a die-hard activist. She was fond of flying kites during Basant and enjoyed looting kites.

Ms Saigol remembered fondly, Ms Rukh’s love of wearing red and green glass bangles.

Visual artist Saba Hussain shed light on the journey of artistic influence Ms Rukh had had on her own work, and Umar Butt, another artist, shared his memories of Mr Rukh, his mentor and teacher, and spoke about how she had played a pivotal role in his art education.

Ustad Pervaiz Paras and theatre aficionado Huma Safdar recited poems in the memory of Ms Rukh, highlighting her love for minimalism and rejection of crass consumerism.

Ms Rukh’s niece Mariyam Rehman said her aunt had changed many lives and was a source of inspiration for many generations.

APMC joint secretary Waseem Gillani spoke of the years he had spent close to Ms Rukh’s family and the APMC, and shared anecdotes from her life.

The evening concluded with vocalist Sara Zaman singing a tarana penned by revolutionary poet Habib Jalib, Ab dehar mein bay yaro madadgar nahi hum, and a kafi by Shah Hussain.

Classical dance aficionado Sheema Kirmani paid tribute to her friend Ms Rukh by performing an improvised piece as well to a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz – Koi ashiq kisi mehboob say.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2017

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