Unesco confers ‘City of Literature’ title on Lahore

Published February 4, 2021
Musicians perform at a plaque unveiling ceremony at the Alhamra Arts Council to mark Unesco honour conferred upon Lahore. — Online
Musicians perform at a plaque unveiling ceremony at the Alhamra Arts Council to mark Unesco honour conferred upon Lahore. — Online

LAHORE: Lahore has been declared the “city of literature” – the first place in the country to have been conferred the title by Unesco.

A ceremony was held at Alhamra Art Center’s Burney Garden where the Unesco director and Punjab government officials spoke about the importance of Lahore as a centre of learning and conviviality. The stage was set in the garden which was nicely decked up and musicians played tunes of songs.

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was the chief guest at the plaque unveiling ceremony as Chief Minister Usman Buzdar could not make it to the venue because of his other commitments.

Unesco Director Patricia Mcphillips said, “I am really honoured to be part of this prestigious ceremony”. She said Lahore was one of the greatest cities with rich cultural heritage. Lahore, she said, had become the first city of literature of Pakistan. “It has rich vibrant culture and is now in the network of cities recognized by Unesco for its literary status,” she said.

Lahore Commissioner Zulfiqar Ahmed Ghuman said Lahore had rich literary tradition; the Pak Tea House, the Coffee Houses on The Mall and many other places had brought laurels to the city. Literary greats such as Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Intezar Hussain, Bano Qudsia, Ashfaq Ahmed, Ustad Daman and Ibn-e Insha gave an enriching literary taste to this city.

He said the government would celebrate 2021 as the year of literary activities and all cultural and literary institutions would hold events. A calendar of literary activities was also being prepared for the year, he said. He said Urdu Bazaar would be decorated and literary conferences would be held. He said efforts were being made to get the same status for Multan and Bahawalpur.

Dr Awan said it was a historic day for the people of Lahore and Pakistan that Lahore would now be globally known as the city of literature. She said Lahore was the city of flowers, monuments, writers and Sufi saints. She said the government would take special measures to celebrate Lahore’s status by organising literary activities round the year. She thanked the Unesco director for honouring Lahore.

MoU: A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Lahore Arts Council and Unesco here on Wednesday at the Alhamra Art Gallery.

Alhamra Executive Director Dr Aslam Dogar and Unesco Country Head for Pakistan Patricia McPhillips signed the MoU at a ceremony.

Provincial Minister for Culture Khayal Ahmed Kastro, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture Nadeem Qureshi, Alhamra Chairperson Moneeza Hashmi, Public Relations Director General Saman Rai, veteran architect Nayyar Ali Dada, artist and writer Amna Pataudi, Kinnaird College for Women Principal Rukhsana David, artist Ayesha Shahnawaz, singer Waris Baig and others were also present on the occasion.

Minister Kastro said the Punjab government was making significant achievements in literature and culture.

Ms Hashmi called the signing of the MoU significant, saying Alhamra was currently the largest institution in Punjab working on culture and followed the same mandate as the UN organisation. These institutions will work together to promote and project the culture of Punjab globally, she added.

Ms McPhillips said that signing of the MoU was a happy moment and it will have positive effects.

Dr Dogar said the agreement with Unesco was a historic moment, and hoped it would prove to be a milestone in the field of art and culture as both organisations shared a common goal.

Participants of the ceremony commended the initiative of Alhamra that they said will further improve the image of the country. Souvenirs were also exchanged at the ceremony.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2021

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