Pakistan’s Guardians Of Culture

By Sonya Rehman

Running for three consecutive days, the popular Daachi Exhibition, held by the Lahore-based not-for-profit, Daachi Foundation, came to a close last evening.

A local artisan with his products at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Daachi Foundation.
A local artisan with his products at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Daachi Foundation.

Launched in 2009, the foundation was initiated with the main aim of promoting local arts and crafts in a bid to preserve the country’s rich heritage and culture. And since its inception, the foundation has put together a number of exhibitions featuring numerous Pakistani artists, craftsmen and entrepreneurs from across each province who, through Daachi, have found a profitable outlet to market their products.

Ethnic footwear at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh.
Ethnic footwear at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh.

Amidst clay pottery, stone and slate carved products including Ghandara, ethnic fashion accessories, delicate silver traditional jewellery, salt lamps, rolls of local fabric in every hue imaginable, souvenirs from Pakistan’s diverse heritage, wooden furniture – hand-carved and with stone inlay, frames with intricate carvings, and more, the exhibition witnessed a heavy footfall on each day.

The Founder of the Daachi Foundation, Ayesha Noorani. Photo by Sonya Rehman.
The Founder of the Daachi Foundation, Ayesha Noorani. Photo by Sonya Rehman.

An architect by profession, who also taught at Lahore’s well-known National College of Arts (NCA) for years, the founder of Daachi, Ayesha Noorani, stated that she gave up her career to do something which gave her life a sense of purpose.

Crafts on display at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh.
Crafts on display at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh.

“Architecture was not satisfying for me,” she said, “Having to deal with rich clients on a daily basis while pandering to their whims! I just felt there was more to life than buttering up the rich. I don’t believe in the ostentatious lifestyle, I never did. I always wanted more meaning to my profession.”

Truck art coasters at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Daachi Foundation.
Truck art coasters at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Daachi Foundation.

Seated in a sunny spot on the second day of the exhibition, as vendors ran about frantically setting up their stalls before the public arrived, Noorani stated; “I was always interested in crafts because there’s so much painstaking labor involved in the process, plus it comes without recognition. But the work speaks for itself. People buy crafts because of the time and energy devoted to it.”

Handmade products at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Daachi Foundation.
Handmade products at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Daachi Foundation.

Having visited artisan villages around the world throughout her travels, Noorani said that her trips abroad instilled within her a strong yearning to set up something similar in Pakistan.

While the foundation’s own village for local artisans is still currently underway, its exhibitions have continued to grow two-fold over the years.

Syed Akbar Ali and Anila Naz, two entrepreneurs from Chitral, Pakistan, at the Daachi exhibition. Photo by Sonya Rehman.
Syed Akbar Ali and Anila Naz, two entrepreneurs from Chitral, Pakistan, at the Daachi exhibition. Photo by Sonya Rehman.

“No one believed in me initially; everyone I talked to said it would never work” she said with a light chuckle. But she’s quick to forgive friends and family who she’d shared her vision with. “The enormity of the project daunted those around me.”

Stunning lamps for sale at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Daachi Foundation.
Stunning lamps for sale at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Daachi Foundation.

Regarding the government’s lack of interest in the country’s rehabilitation and revival of Pakistan’s dying arts, Noorani was quick to state; “Leave the government, what will we possibly achieve by cribbing? We need to focus on what we can do first. Our purpose is to continue with our mission to draw the youth back into the fold of culture and honor those who have served Pakistan.”

A vendor at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo by Sonya Rehman.
A vendor at the Daachi Exhibition. Photo by Sonya Rehman.

In the distance, behind Noorani, hung a huge poster of Pakistan’s eminent humanitarian, the late Abdul Sattar Edhi, who passed away this summer.

“See that?” Noorani had stated, pointing behind her, “This exhibition is a tribute to Edhi. Never mind the Noble Prize…we’ll honor our own people.”

Forbes

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