Khayaal Festival: We're not in competition with the Lahore Lit Fest, say founders

Published 18 Nov, 2015 02:52pm

Images Staff

From regional literature to gender politics, this festival covers Pakistan's arts and letters with diversity and depth

Come November 28, filmmakers and writers, musicians and actors will converge at Lahore's Al-Hamra Arts Council for the two-day Khayaal Festival 2015. This year's edition has been modelled around the theme of 'Pushing The Boundaries' – that ties into the festival's parent organisation Khayaal Creative Network's goals of promoting discourse and debate about the arts and letters in Pakistan.

Images talks to the individuals behind the Khayaal Creative Network, Ayesha Husain, Nuria Rafique-Iqbal, Zainab Qureshi and Amna Omar, about what this year's edition of the festival has in store for us.

Ayesha Husain, Nuria Rafique-Iqbal, Zainab Qureshi & Amna Omar are the driving force of the Khayaal Festival – Publicity photo
Ayesha Husain, Nuria Rafique-Iqbal, Zainab Qureshi & Amna Omar are the driving force of the Khayaal Festival – Publicity photo

Images: Before we talk about this year's edition of the Khayaal Festival, could you talk us about its birth? What was the idea behind organising the first Khayaal festival in 2013?

With the hope of celebrating the magnificent and varied literary and artistic legacy of Pakistan and to recognize and give back to the community, Ayesha Husain founded the idea of Khayaal Creative Network in 2012.

With this in mind, she partnered with three extremely dynamic women with diversity of strengths and commonality of purpose namely, Zainab Qureshi, Amna Omar and Nuria Rafique-Iqbal.

When Ayesha and co. began to bring their concept to fruition in 2012, the idea was to push boundaries in terms of highlighting art, music, culture, philosophy, current affairs, poetry, film and dance and to give back in a small measure to the people of the city.

Images: How did the core team of Khayaal Festival's organisers come together? We understand that you're all educationists...

Our profession and vision has brought us together. All of us feel that there was a dearth of such topics at various festivals (they used to concentrate on a specific genre) – this allows us to give flexibility to the event and tap into a larger audience as per their interests.

Juggun Kazim and Zeba Bakhtiar speaking at the first Khayaal Festival – Publicity photo
Juggun Kazim and Zeba Bakhtiar speaking at the first Khayaal Festival – Publicity photo

Images: Will the Khayaal Festival 2015 is different from the first edition in any way?

Yes, this year’s theme is ‘Pushing the Boundaries’, which can be interpreted widely – it could mean those who think out of the box and break new ground in their own field of interest, to those who raise their voices for those who can not, to those creative individuals who are always striving to carve a new narrative in the world.

We shall be getting quite a few foreign speakers such as Dr. Andrew Small (UK), Mr. Aamer Husain (UK), Ms. Shahbanu Taj Baksh (UK), Mr. Vladimir Boyko (RUS), Ms. Mina Keshavarz (UK), Mr. Reza Mohammadi (UK) and Ms. Annie Zaman (UK) as well as speakers from all over Pakistan as we believe strongly in celebrating our own talent i.e. Vasay Chaudhry, Ahmad Ali Butt, Anam Zakaria, Imrana Tiwana, Rashid Rana, Jami, Adnan Sarwar, Farida Batool, Dr. Ali Cheema, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Nighat Chaudhry, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat and Kanwal Khoosat, to name a new.

Raza Rumi and Aitzaz Ahsan at the Khayal Festival 2014 – Publicity photo
Raza Rumi and Aitzaz Ahsan at the Khayal Festival 2014 – Publicity photo

Images: Can you elaborate on the theme of the festival? The theme 'Pushing the Boundaries' suggests that the festival will hold talks/performances that touch on under discussed subjects...

As the theme of the event is 'Pushing the Boundaries', our panel of speakers will be touching base on quite a few topics such as ‘Revisiting the new world order’, ‘Punjabi sufi shairi’, ‘Nandita Das In conversation with Sarmad Khoosat’, ‘Being a woman in South East Asia’, ‘Religion and State’, ‘Art and the concept of boundaries’, ‘Post Revival of Pakistani Cinema’, ‘The Challenges of Afghanistan and Central Asia – Thinking through troubled times’, ‘Memories of Faiz’, '67 years of Pakistani Writers', ‘Rediscovering Pakistan and India – challenges and opportunities’ are just a few topics that will be under discussion.

Munna Lahori and Haseeb Pasha, famous for playing Zakoota and Hamoon Jadugar in Ainak Wala Jin, gave a major dose of nostalgia at Kahayal Ferstival 2014 - Publicity photo
Munna Lahori and Haseeb Pasha, famous for playing Zakoota and Hamoon Jadugar in Ainak Wala Jin, gave a major dose of nostalgia at Kahayal Ferstival 2014 - Publicity photo

In addition to this, we will have live music by Mekaal Hasan Band as well as music by the Peshawar-based band Khumariyan. We are including a documentary section in the festival and will be screening various documentaries throughout both days in one of the halls.

We will also be sharing various letters from prisoners, which highlight their experiences and thoughts. It promises to be a very dramatic session. Full details will be revealed next week.

Festival attendees check out the arts and crafts on sale – Publicity photo
Festival attendees check out the arts and crafts on sale – Publicity photo

Images: Could you talk about how the Khayaal Festival is different from the Lahore Literature Festival?

We really don’t see ourselves in competition with The Lahore Literature Festival – Khayaal is about celebrating creativity and that is not literature-specific. Our festival gives equal weight and recognition to all fields such as art, music, dance, literature, poetry, films, documentaries and current affairs.

The festival offers something for everyone and creates a public space where discussion and debate can exist which we believe is crucial for our society.