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Lok Virsa explores cultural importance of Gilgit-Baltistan

ISLAMABAD: The National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa), a specialised cultural institution working under the Federal Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, has carried-out an extensive research field work in Gilgit-Baltistan to document and promote its indigenous folk culture and craft heritage.Lok Virsa Executive Director Shahera Shahid informed that in pursuance of 'Lok Virsa Ordinance' promulgated by the government of Pakistan in 2002, major responsibilities assigned to the institute are research, collection, documentation, preservation, and dissemination of Pakistan's traditional culture. It includes both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, said a news release issued on Monday. Recognising the need, the new management of 'Lok Virsa' deputed a five-member team of professionals headed by Deputy Director (Museum) Anwaarul Haq, on a museum-related research field tour of Gilgit-Baltistan in June 2014.The team was assigned to authenticate existing data of crafts people already registered with 'Lok Virsa', to identify new unexplored talent of master artisans, folk artists, folk musicians, and folk dance groups as well as to make ethnological/craft collections from bonafide craftspeople for the Pakistan National Museum of Ethnology, popularly known as the Heritage Museum at Shakaparian. The team undertook the assignment by adopting the mechanism of interviews of traditional practitioners, on-location visits to workplaces in their home towns, making audio visuals and photographic documentations of relevant crafts, craftspeople, folk artists, and musicians.The team covered six districts of Gilgit Baltistan, including Gilgit, Hunza Nagar, Ghizer, Skardu, Gaunche, and Astor, including their remotest villages and far-flung areas. 50 master artisans and 25 folk artists and musicians have been authenticated and identified along with their detailed documentation. During the visit, the team was able to enlist 15 special persons in Karimabad and Hunza practicing the dying craft of 'Sharma' weaving. Sharma is a traditional floor rug of GB made from the hair of yak, goat, and sheep wool. It is a time consuming craft and requires a lot of hard work and dedication.The team also recorded a special person, Niaz Hunzai, in Karimabad, who beautifully plays traditional flute (Surnai in local language) and imparting his skill to the younger generation. The important craft areas focused in the tour included embroidery, Sharma, traditional musical instruments making, basket weaving, stone carving, wood work, jewellery, traditional embroidered dresses/ costumes, etc. The 'Lok Virsa' team also collected a number of important artifacts/crafts/ ethnological material from artisans for the Heritage Museum during its village-to-village and town-to-town field work. The team also documented a typical/traditional Gilgit Baltistan house in a remote village of Ghizer.Before starting their field work, the team held a meeting with the Information, Culture, Tourism and Youth Affairs Minister Saadia Danish, and sought cooperation of her department in successful implementation of the task. Appreciating Lok Virsa's ongoing efforts in documentation and preservation of indigenous folk culture, the minister directed the relevant senior officials for necessary facilitation in the matter. The team subsequently held detailed interactions/consultations with the representatives of Gilgit-Baltistan Culture Department and office bearers of the Gilgit Arts Council, Hunza Arts Council, Ghizer Arts Council, Agha Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), and Karakorum Area Development Foundation (KADO), wherein certain matters relating to mutual cooperation between 'Lok Virsa' and these community-based cultural bodies came under discussions.Based on the report of the field work, 'Lok Virsa' is planning to nominate local voluntary research coordinators in major districts of Gilgit-Baltistan for undertaking a series of activities, hold art and craft festivals in collaboration with the GB Culture Department and Arts Councils in major cities, and create a new three dimensional display on "Traditional House of GB" at the Heritage Museum in Islamabad.

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