Lok Virsa explores cultural richness of Gilgit Baltistan

Islamabad: (PR) The National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa), a specialized 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.

Executive Director Lok Virsa Shahera Shahid informed that in pursuance of Lok Virsa Ordinance promulgated by the Government of Pakistan in 2002, major responsibility assigned to the Institute is research, collection, documentation, preservation and dissemination of Pakistan’s traditional culture.

It includes both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, said a news release issued here on Monday.

Recognizing the need, the new management of Lok Virsa deputed a 5-member team of professionals headed by Anwaar-ul-Haq, Deputy Director (Museum) 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 here at Shakaparian.

The team undertook the assignment between June 19-29 by adopting the mechanism of interviews of traditional practitioners, on-location visits to workplaces in their home towns, making audio visual and photographic documentation 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, 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/Carpet weaving, Traditional Musical Instruments Making, Basket weaving, Stone Carving, Wood Work, Jewllery, traditional embroidered dresses/ costumes, etc.

Lok Virsa team also collected a number of important artifacts/crafts/ ethnological material from artisans for 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 District Ghizer.

Before starting their field work, the team held a meeting with Saadia Danish, Minister/Adviser for Information, Culture, Tourism and Youth Affairs, Government of Gilgit Baltistan 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 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 Program (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 & craft festivals in collaboration with 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 at Islamabad.

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