The third day of the Lahore Literary Festival 2022 featured thought-provoking discussions on a host of topics from fine arts to literature and from climate change to tales of fairyland and last but not least placing of a permanent public art installation at Bagh-i-Jinnah.

In one of the sessions titled `One Thousand and One Nights: Antoine Galland and the French Connection`, visual artist, poet and translator Yasmin Seale in conversation with Shafiq Naz discussed the translations by her in Arabic and French of the famous tale. Yasmin Seale was born in 1989 to a Syrian mother and a British father and grew up in Paris. She translates from Arabic and French ‘Aladdin’ which came out in 2018. She is currently working on a new translation of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’. She threw light on her translations and also discussed Antoine Galland, a French orientalist and archaeologist. His version of the tales appeared in 12 volumes between 1704 and 1717 and left a deep influence on subsequent European literature and attitudes to the Islamic world.

In another session titled ‘Fyzee Rahamins: Pakistan`s Early Power Couple`, panellists Muneeza Shamsi and art historian Samina Iqbal threw light on the life and works of the couple. The session was moderated by Naazish Ataullah. The session discussed Fyzee as a painter of portraits, figures, landscapes and murals, and also a dramatist and poet. He first painted portraits in oils, but after his return to India in 1908, soon abandoned this style in an attempt to revive the tradition of Moghul painting. He changed his faith from Judaism to Islam and his name from S Rahamin Samuel to S Fyzee Rahamins in 1912 on his marriage to Atiya Begum of the Fyzee family.

Author Muneeza Shamsi read an article on Atiya Begum. She said Atiya Begum was a wonderful conversationalist. She was a choreographer too, and had a great intellect. She also met Allama Iqbal. She also composed music. They were a power couple because both complemented each other; her husband was a great artist and she herself was so talented.

Samina Iqbal threw light on the works of Fyzee Rahamin and showed his portraits on the screen.

In yet another session titled ‘Climate crisis and the framework of sustainable development, journalist Beth Gardiner and Australian journalist Marian Wilkinson discussed the issues related to climate change. Gardiner shared her journey of journalism and how after becoming a freelance journalist, she started working on climate change. She underlined the need to work on this particular subject as air pollution was leading to many serious health issues, adding that air pollution was a global challenge.

Marian Wilkinson said that climate change was a global issue and the fossil fuel industry was the most powerful industry in terms of high connections of politicians and those powerful people who could affect in this regard.

She said that the climate change issue was something related to the power play in parliaments, as powerful elements often defeat climate legislation. She quoted examples of Australia, where bush fire led to the deaths of human beings, birds and animals and later created health issues. Another panellist of the session Shazia Rafi, who joined the session virtually from New York, said air pollution had no boundaries, adding that both federal and provincial governments in Pakistan should address the environmental issues to avoid health issues.

Another session on ‘Urdu Classics in Translation’ having panellists Musharraf Ali Farooqi and Osama Siddique discussed different Urdu classics and their translations. It was an informative session on Urdu literature and old tales.

Part of the festival was also a book launch and placing of a permanent art installation for the public at Jinnah Garden.

Conor Macklin from Grosvenor Gallery, London, Kylie Gilchrist, art writer, sat with art critic Qudus Mirza at the book launch which was held in the open at the Garden. The book ‘Islam and Modernism’ is the work of iconic artist Rasheed Araeen who was also there.

Macklin said it is an amazing event and such a huge opening is the generosity of the people of Lahore.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2022

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