By: Atle Hetland
ISLAMABAD: When the opening of the Islamabad Art Festival 2019 (IAF19) took place a few days ago, it was done in grand style by Jamal Shah, Director General of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA). More than a dozen foreign envoys, other dignitaries, local and foreign art lovers, sponsors and, most importantly, the art creators themselves, were present in the packed grand auditorium. Dr. Feriyal Aslam, a classical dancer and anthropologist, including a dance troupe from China, entertained the audience before all were invited to make a tour of the painting exhibitions. Later in the day, NGOs and other organizations held separate opening events, setting the tone for the two-week long IAF19, the first of its kind in the capital, from 18 to 30 November.
The large number of programme items included both artistic and scientific events. At Sir Syed Memorial Hall there was a live painting session using modern technology on screen, organized by Nigar Nazar of Gogio Studies, the first woman cartoonist in Pakistan, with Chinese artists. When that session was over, a lecture was organized there by the Swiss Embassy, where Dr. Dagmar Reichert, a cultural geographer and professor of aesthetic theory in Zurich, spoke about ‘Art at Risk: Creative Work in Challenging Contexts’.
“It was an excellent overview of the field, but since it was a short talk and just an introduction, I don’t think the audience became much wiser”, said a foreign participant. “Perhaps that is a shortcoming of events like festivals with many and very diverse topics. They draw attention to issues without going into detail. Well, that is important, too”, she added diplomatically.
A group of young university students, who came a bit late, seemed to enjoy the event, being away from campus and meeting other people than just their own teachers and fellow students. “We will certainly try attend as many events as possible”, said three young students from Gilgit, Faisalabad and Balochistan.
“Our curriculum books in history will be put aside for a few days. Since we are in our first year only, we have plenty of time and must try to see as many diverse things as possible”, they said. “We also went to the Satrang Gallery art exhibition in Islamabad Serena Hotel. It was our first time to visit the fantastic five-star hotel and that was as interesting as the paintings we looked at”, they said.