LAHORE: With the theme of ‘Pushing Boundaries’, the two-day Khayaal Festival started at Alhamra Arts Council here on Saturday.
It hopes to promote dialogue through a series of talks, performances and documentaries on the subjects ranging from politics, culture, economy, art, dance, music, literature, empowerment identity and sociopolitical issues.
On the first day, the sessions with panelists from various professions explored a variety of topics such as women writers and writing, cultural conservation, Pakistani literature, arts, Punjabi Sufi poetry, politics, religion and state, music and cinema.
Zainab Qureshi, one of the organisers of the festival, said the response on the opening day was outstanding, adding that the inaugural session was ‘especially very uplifting and inspiring’.
The first day kicked off with an inaugural session where Khayaal Festival invited four achievers, including, Taimur Rehman, Jibran Nasir, mountaineer Samina Baig, Zar Aslam, who made a difference in society with their work. Each speaker gave inspiring speech on how to ‘push boundaries’ and stand up for what one believed in.
This was followed by an enthralling performance by Horeya Asmat, a female Dhol player, who managed to set the mood of the day.
A session on Lahore’s drastically evolving landscape, titled, Lahore Badlo Ya Lahore Bachao?-Protecting Lahore for All, comprised of architects, academics, conservationist and urban planners of Pakistan including Nayyar Ali Dada, I.A. Rehman, Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Maryam Hussain and Imrana Tiwana.
Ms Maryam said with the new railway line threatened to displace thousands of people who were already deprived of basic resources and it would cause damage to 30 listed and protected heritage sites which were no less than historical treasures.
I.A. Rehman was of the opinion that these heritage sites were not just buildings or a reminder of emperors or princesses but they told the history of people who created these magnificent architectural masterpieces, hence, there was a dire need to protect them.
After the session, Imrana Tiwana said she felt that ‘Khayaal,’ the name itself, was indicative of the message the organisers were trying to convey to the city of Lahore and its people. She said it was a wonderful opportunity to attend so many activities and panels.
Kamil Khan said that it was a great event and more events like this should be held round the year.
Talking about the festival, Jibran Nasir said: “I am glad that events and gatherings like this are happening where people can indulge in free speech and free thoughts”.
He went on to say such events should be encouraged as they would help the society improve by motivating people to talk freely about various topics so much so that it would soon become a norm and someone might be encouraged tomorrow to stand at the Liberty Roundabout and discuss an issue .
In his own session, Waking up Society, Jibran narrated his experiences of interacting with terrorism survivors, internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, minorities, the oppressed and victims of natural disasters, who were living among us.
He said ‘any human should be recognised as human regardless of religion, ethnicity, colour, creed or caste as the segregation or discrimination were dividing the nation further. He urged the audience that there was no more time left to complain about the issues that Pakistanis faced but it’s time to address them.
The festival also featured lots of outdoor activities and exhibition of traditional items. There were colourful charpoys in the courtyard, bookstalls, musicians playing instruments from different parts of Pakistan, handicrafts stalls by Daachi and Rising Sun Institute besides food stalls with items ranging from pan, fresh juice, biryani and organic food.
Sarmad Khoosat said, “I think in the second year, its pretty good that the scale of the event has increased and the lineup of speakers is also quite exciting. The theme of ‘Pushing Boundaries’ is not just metaphorical, but could be felt by attending the sessions that are based on some important issues.
Talking about his session with Nandita Das, Mr Khoosat said it went well because the audience were very engaged and we were able to talk about things that we generally don’t talk about. He said television was now ‘furniture like’ and could not be used to share ideas like this; however, at the events like ‘Khayaal Festival’ with receptive audience, there was a great chance to express opinions and ideas.