Day one of the Lahore Literary Festival 2018 featured a range of interesting sessions on history and art. Among them was ‘Istanbul: Magnificence through the Ages.’ It had Christopher De Bellaigue, Kaya Genk, and journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and poet and scholar Sinan Antoon as moderator.
The panelists discussed analysed modern architecture of the mosques built by Turkey’s current leadership, terming it poor imitations of Ottoman architecture and Mimar Sinan’s work as they were devoid of organic elements of the contemporary life and culture and historical significance of Istanbul.
They discussed whether Istanbul was a romantic city or collection of neighborhoods – with each neighborhood having its own unique elements, culture and vibes. Most panelists agreed with the second assertion.
They also talked about the existing divide between Islamists and secularist persons in the current political landscape of Istanbul. They said the current leadership and the conservatives, despite working tremendously in developing transport infrastructure, had not given similar importance to the historical and culture legacy of Istanbul.
Another session, ‘The Multiple Lives of Shoaib Hashmi,’ was a conversation between TV artistes Adeel Hashmi, Nadia Jamil and Salman Shahid. They shared anecdotes and stories about Shoaib. Nadia Jamil called him a ‘quintessential teacher’ and talked about his ability to speak and write beautifully.
Salman narrated how Shoaib excelled both in academics or acting. He said. Shoaib’s profound talent was theatre and he had been a phenomenal guide throughout his career. Adeel also narrated various interesting stories about Shoaib Hashmi.
The much waited session, ‘Delirium of Stories’ with writer Ben Okri’ was moderated by Zareen Saeed at the end of the day. Okri talked about his journey of becoming a writer. He told how he started of his writing career as a realist, influenced by the tradition of ‘realism’ while growing up. His approach was majorly influenced by his mother’s stories which she had told him as a child and his father’s lessons on philosophy. He talked about the power of words and the need to reinvent new words that could touch people’s ‘humanity’.
Another interesting idea he talked about was of how work of every writer uses set images unique to their imagination and repeatedly seen in their work. Okri read out two short stories from his latest book: ‘The Magic Lamp’.
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2018