A lot of people whine about western funding for promoting Sufism and a tolerant (western as some ‘ll protest) brand of Islam. I can empathize with them. It is a valid concern. We have a history of misadventures; Petro-Riyal funded institutions have tarnished ethos of a tolerant society for long and a knee-jerk reaction or a jump across the spectrum will probably create mayhem. If there is anything like western funding for reversing the damage then it has to go to an institute socially responsible and run by brains, and not monsters.
I have an advice. Invest in Ajoka.
Ajoka was in Karachi to perform two of their plays, ‘Burqavaganza’, a controversial play, followed by the brilliant ‘Dara’. If ‘Burqavaganza’ was outrageous (in writer’s own words) then Dara was humble, if ‘Burqavaganza’ was satirical then ‘Dara’ was tragic, if ‘Burqavaganza’ focused on struggle of a street romeo then ‘Dara’ depicted those of a crown prince and if ‘Burqavaganza’ was shrewdly dedicated to Jama’at Islami senator for ‘being source of inspiration’ then ‘Dara’ was sagaciously dedicated to a boy named Dara in the audience. Both plays however were very very relevant to the statuesque.
‘Burqavaganza’ was provoking and bold in every sense. It was banned by PNCA for mocking national dress i.e. Burqa of a brotherly country called Afghanistan. It was supposed to be witty but struggled. jingles were good. Dances were fantastic. Dialogues and delivery lacked originality: Molvis (though with good vocals) part was disastrous but overall ‘Burqavaganza’ is higher-pass for its energy and audacity.
‘Dara’ was near perfect; Qawallis and dances were overwhelming, Dialogues and acting superb, costumes colorful and sets practical. The only slight problem was the length of the play which was aggravated by ageing seats and air-conditioning system at Arts Council.
Four day marathon was concluded by Madiha Gohar’s speech. The concern for financial viability was apparent from her conculding remarks. I could imagine what it would cost to bring a contingent of 50 people without significant corporate support. I felt sorry for myself. They probably wont be coming back to Karachi for a very long time. She expected more people to pop up for the performances and why not? In a city with diminishing cultural activities, Ajoka offered affordable, informative and a very desi show.
I sincerely yearn that Ajoka gets funding and support it deserves for spreading message of tolerance and I give a hoot if its western.
Photo Credits: Ajoka and Dawn