WASHINGTON: “Focus on the light. Try to take it in,” said Karachi artist Riaz Rafi as a guest asked him to explain one of his works.
The guest, who only gave her first name Nancy, turned and faced the painting, a piece of calligraphy.
“Illuminating, soothing,” she said with a pause. “These lines, do they mean something?” she asked.
“This is a Quranic verse and highlights God’s kindness,” the artist explained.
“And it does so very effectively,” said Nancy.
Saturday, May 7, was the Passport DC Day, “when international diplomatic community displays its lively and varied culture”, explained Press Counselor Sarfraz Hussain.
Celebrated annually in May, which is International Cultural Awareness Month in Washington, “Passport DC” facilitates embassies in showcasing their art, culture and music. Thousands of people enjoy the popular embassy open houses, street festivals, performances, exhibitions, workshops, and more.
”We had more than 2,000 visitors today,” said Mr. Hussain, “although it rained all day”.
Most visitors were non-Pakistani Washington residents, followed by Pakistani Americans, Americans from other states and citizens of other countries.
“We showcased Pakistan’s rich cultural diversity, representing all regions and ethnic groups,” Mr Hussain said.
Some stalls also highlighted Pakistan’s economic and tourism potential. Diplomats from other countries, US government officials and IT professionals were seen inquiring about business potential in Pakistan.
One stall displayed cricket bats, balls, pads and soccer balls from Sialkot. For many visitors, it was a pleasant surprise that Pakistan was a major producer of sports goods.
A father and his son wanted to know if cricket was like baseball. There was no one in the crowd who knew enough about both sports to explain. But the effort earned an American kid a cricket ball.
This year’s festival happened after a gap of three years — due to Covid-19 — so people started queuing up outside embassies much before the scheduled opening.
Stalls at the embassy’s Jamshed Marker Hall had a wide selection of Pakistani handicraft and dresses, showcased in the backdrop of Pakistani folk tunes. The display included stitched and unstitched designer clothes, paintings of renowned Pakistani artists, books, and photos of historical places.
One stall also had objects made from rock-salt while another had agricultural products including basmati rice.
American guests also patronised the henna stall and had their hands “tattooed with henna”, as a guest said. At least two men also got “the Pakistan henna paint” on their hands, as one of them said while displaying his “tattoos”.
The visitors also enjoyed rich menu of Pakistani food that was served to introduce unique tastes of Pakistani cuisine. Some also picked Urdu books, asking why they opened right to left.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2022