Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fashion Show: Safar-e-Balaad (The Creative Journey), 2014.

STEP we all know today has come a long way in the last one decade. A long journey in achievements though not so long in time and years. Started as an NGO SAEL movement (Synergist for Advancement in Educational Leadership) .STEP started its journey in 2003 with a small team but a big vision. Today, STEP is the parent body for multiple projects; the NGO SAEL, the Institute of Art, Design & Management - IADM, Mélange the beauty lounge & institute, Business and Management, English Language Centre, Mary Popins apparel, STEPWise consultancy, and Training & Development. Today, ninety above 90 % of our graduates are working progressively in the industry or have become successful entrepreneurs.

Institute of art design and Management rigorously promotes creative and innovative collection themes based on individual design ideas and synergized with local/regional concepts. Therefore last year show was “Ralli” conceived from culture of Sindh and this year, the thematic inspiration is taken from Gilgit Baltistan region, titled as “Safar-e-Balaad” (The Creative Journey).The annual Fashion Show “Safar-e-Balaad” (The Creative Journey) is arranged to exhibit the final collection  of  our  one  year  BTEC  Level  3 Diploma  students  of  Fashion  &  Clothing. These students hail from Bhawalpur, bhawalnagar, Vehari, Khanewal, Lodhra, Muzafargarh,Bhorewala, Rahimyar khan And Chistian. The show promises to help our students in communicating their creative conceptions with fashion industry and hence giving them a push in their career.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hunza is situated at the point where Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and China meet. It is over 2500 m above sea level and is surrounded by seven-thousand-meter-high mountains. But at this entirely mountainous elevation there are grown vegetables, various fruits and grains such as potatoes, beans, wheat, barley, watermelon, grape, cherry, apple, pear, peach and apricot.

The Inhabitants are great farmers and they have created their own system of irrigation and drainage; the drainage channels are called KULLS. The high snowcapped mountain, which is called RAKAPOSHI (ra kah posht – Albanian for fell downwards), supplies the valley with drinking water. Hunza people, who live in complete harmony and enjoy good health without the diseases of the time, are known in the world for their longevity.

They live up to approximately 100-140. Hunza mothers breastfeed their sons up to 3 years, whereas their daughters only up to 2 years. There is no separation of married couples in Hunza. They call themselves Hunza (=small nose in Albanian) people or Hunzakurt because of the Hunza valley’s shape like a nose. They speak BURRUSHASKI (burrërrishtja- Albanian for manliness language) which is an unwritten language.

Men wear SHALVARE, while women call their shirt KAMISHA (Albanian for Shirt). Their traditional dances are accompanied by drums, flutes or reed-pipes as they dance hand in hand forming a circle. On festive occasions men wear a woolen cape called Çuka. The wine (alcoholic beverages) festival is in October. Women do not cover their face or head with veils.

The most important holiday is the Solar New Year which is called NA UROSH (Albanian for Wish Us). All the year’s weddings are organized on a single day in December. Hunza people tell from one generation to another their story, how they have remained in the Hunza valley since 3rd century B.C., and that they have descended from the time of Alexander the Great.

Aristidh Kola, arvanitas historian writes in his book “Arvanites”: . . . Alexander the Great, Illyrian by his mother had expanded his army by choosing Illyrian soldiers. But the period after Cleitus was murdered by Alexander the Great constitutes a very significant moment because about 6 thousand Illyrian soldiers left the latter and stayed apart in Braktane until they settled in today’s Kafirstan. . .So we are referring to a large number of Illyrians (about 50 thousand of them) who have remained there since the time of Alexander the Great, since the invasion of Darius’s Kingdom of Persia. The region occupied by them was called Kafirstan (land of the infidels) because they did not accept Islamization. Hunzakuts lived for thousands of years as pagans until the early nineteenth century when Amir Abdur Rahman Khan converted them to Islam. (1895-1896).

After Emir of Kabul‘s conquest, the region was renamed Nuristan (Land of Light). Kafirstan had often been object of invasion before Emir and certainly their identity degraded, their “priests” were killed, religious centers were burned, young boys were forcefully recruited into the military forces, and young girls into Khans’ harems.

What is important is that Hunsakuts, just like our Illyrian ancestors, still drink wine mixed with water. They are tall, with a light skin and red cheek bones. Most of them have blue, green or gray eyes and blond hair, which distinguishes them from the Afghans, Pakistanis and Tajikistanis. Many of them are also red-haired.

High up in the mountains lives a peculiar tribe, the Kalash. The Kalash people are the last surviving animist in Central Asia. As a small group of 5 thousand persons, they have a slightly different history from the other Hunzakuts. Over the centuries Kafiristan was divided into two zones- the zone of the Black Kafirs who are the present day Kalasha people and the zone of Red Kafirs whose descendants still live in Nuristan. The latter subdued to Emir of Kabul’s jihad.

Black Kafirs still cling to Animism, the belief that all things have a soul even wood. For thousands of years Kalash people have survived and preserved their unique culture and their social and linguistic identity, but the new century has faced them with two great challenges: religious fundamentalism and climate changes.

fahri 5Studying Hunza and Hunzakuts is of great importance to Albanian culture, because they have lived for thousands of years apart from the rest of the world which has helped the preservation of Illyrian-Albanian customs and linguistic features.

It is interesting how our neighbors, although uninvited, have the courage to dance in our wedding. . . In fact Greeks for years have sent teachers, open schools and convinced the world of the Hunzapeople’s Greek origin, whereas Slavic-Macedonians have been sending Slavic linguists in Kalash since 1996. Their purpose is to find linguistic continuity between the Slavic-Macedonian language and the burrerrisht.

But the most ironic event took place in 2008 when the FYROM’s Prime Ministers Gruevski invited for a visit the Hunza Prince Ali Khan and Princess Gacanfer Roni Atika, as descendants of Alexander the Great. All of this was supposed to show the Slavic-Macedonian continuity with Hunza people (! ). . . . . . . On the other hand, Albanians have covered their wedding with a veil of oblivion and disregard.

Translated and edited by Margarita Paci

French perspective: Noor shines at French film festival

The film is shot in Hunza Valley, Shandur Pass, along Karakoram Highway, Lahore and Rawalpindi. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Art imitates life in the case of ‘Noor’ — an independent feature film based on the life of a transgender by the same name. Fictionalised in parts, the film provides a rare insight into the life of the ambitious twenty-something who refuses to dub down to a tabooed existence and believes in realising his dream of companionship against all odds.
The film was screened at a two-day film festival ‘A French Filmmakers Perspective’ at the French embassy Friday evening. The festival introduces the new generation of French directors’ featured films inspired by social aspects of South Asia.
Brainchild of French-Turkish directorial duo, Guillauhme Giovanetti and Cagla Zencirci, the film follows Noor on a quest to be accepted and loved as a man. He no longer wants to be associated with the transgender community who he has lived with since he was a child and longs for a lasting romantic relationship with a woman who will accept him as he is.
Doing a man’s job in a truck decoration centre, he has made up his mind to search for that woman who will change his life forever. Riding a stolen truck, he travels uphill to a far flung lake which is fabled to have fairies that make wishes come true. With a burning desire to realise this dream, he drives over the rugged terrain through rain and shine, to meet Uzma who is reeling from the loss of her estranged husband.
United in their misery, they are an unlikely duo that makes perfect sense on the screen. Uzma’s delicate kathak moves and her husky by gentle voice is endearing, complementing the masculine persona of Noor.  Sitting by the lakeside overlooking snow-capped mountains, they epitomise new beginnings in a picturesque setting. Shot in breathtaking locations such as Hunza valley, Shandur Pass and along the Karakoram Highway, the film also integrates culturally-vibrant scenes from Lahore and Rawalpindi.
The widescreen, panoramic photography is surreal and comes alive with the powerful lighting and rich colours of traditional art and natural landscape. Like Noor, other intermittent characters such the dhol walla at a shrine and an old hospitable woman in a village up-north, are playing their own roles except for a drunk rapist who Noor escapes from in his truck.
Speaking about the filmmaking process ahead of the screening, the filmmakers said they had scouted people all over the country before they met Noor, who inspired them and agreed to play his part in the film. The duo who has been visiting the country for about a decade, took seven years to make the film. They said that their experience in the country was in stark contrast to the reasons that the country makes headlines for, adding that they were pleasantly surprised to meet the locals who they could relate with.
Emulating a fairy tale, the film also has a documentary feel and comes with its own share of loopholes. For example, how Noor conveniently traverses the 4,000 feet-high-peak to search for love and is not stopped or checked anywhere along the way. Also how Uzma, who is first shown as a runaway trekker, changes into pristine white costume and ghungroos to dance by the lakeside.
But all in all, it is a poignant tale of the perpetual search for one’s identity, living with grace and taking in stride the challenges that crop up along the way. However, for a subject so serious, the film is not overtly intense and comes with a light dash of humour.
Alia Zafar, an audience member, commented that the film was very touching and realistic. “Noor was a natural actor, he was so effortless and convincing,” she said.

Friday, November 21, 2014

High in Hunza mountains, women break taboos

HUNZA - A group of young girls sit on a carpeted floor listening as their teacher writes on a whiteboard, preparing his students for the rigours of climbing some of the world’s highest peaks.
This is Shimshal Mountaineering School, tucked away in a remote village in the breathtaking mountains of country’s far north, close to the border with China.
While most of Pakistan’s overwhelmingly patriarchal society largely relegates women to domestic roles, in the northern Hunza Valley, where most people follow the moderate Ismaili sect of Islam, a more liberal attitude has long prevailed.
Now the women of the region are breaking more taboos and training for jobs traditionally done by men, including as carpenters and climbing guides on the Himalayan peaks.
“You have to be careful, check your equipment and the rope, any slight damage can result in death,” Niamat Karim, the climbing instructor warns the students. Karim is giving last-minute advice to the eight young women who are about to embark on a practical demonstrations of climbing class.
They are the first batch of women to train as high altitude guides at the Shimshal Mountaineering School, set up in 2009 with support of Italian climber Simone Moro. The women have spent the last four years learning ice and rock climbing techniques, rescue skills and tourism management.
At 10,000 feet above sea level, Shimshal is the highest settlement in the Hunza Valley, connected to the rest of the world by a rough jeep-only road just 11 years ago.
The narrow, unpaved road twists through high mountains, over wooden bridges and dangerous turns with the constant risk of landslides to reach the small village of 250 households.
There is no running water and electricity is available only through solar panels the locals buy from China, but despite the isolation, the literacy rate in the village is 98 percent - around twice the Pakistani national average.
It has produced some world famous climbers including Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest.
The people of Shimshal depend on tourism for their income and the village has produced an average of one mountaineer in every household.
The eight women training as guides have scaled four local peaks, including Minglik Sar and Julio Sar, both over 6,000 metres.
For aspiring mountaineer Takht Bika, 23, the school is a “dream come true”.
“My uncle and brother are mountaineers and I always used to wait for their return whenever they went for a summit,” Bika told AFP.
“I used to play with their climbing gear, they were my childhood toys - I never had a doll.” For Duor Begum, mountaineering is a family tradition - and a way of honouring her husband, killed while climbing in the Hunza Valley.
“I have two kids to look after and I don’t have a proper means of income,” she said.
Begum joined the mountaineering school with the aim of continuing the legacy of her late husband and to make a living.
“I am taking all the risks for the future of my children, to give them good education so that they can have a better future”, she said. But while the women are challenging tradition by training as guides, there is still a long way to go to change attitudes, and so far Begum has not been able to turn professional.
“I know it’s difficult and it will take a long time to make it a profession for females but my kids are my hope”, she said.
Lower down in the valley, away from the snowy peaks, Bibi Gulshan, another mother-of-two whose late husband died while fighting in the army has a similar tale of battling to change minds.
She trained as a carpenter under the Women Social Enterprise (WSE), a project set up in the area by the Aga Khan Development Network to provide income opportunities for poor families and advocate women’s empowerment at the same time. Set up in 2003, the WSE now employs over 110 women, between 19 and 35 years of age.
“I want to give the best education to my kids so that they don’t feel the absence of their father,” Gulshan told AFP.
“I started my job just 10 days after my husband was martyred, my friends mocked me saying instead of mourning my husband I had started the job of a man but I had no choice - I had to support my kids.” With the 8,000 rupees a month she earns in the carpentry workshop, Gulshan pays for her children to go through school, and she has also used her skills to build and furnish a new house for her family.
As well as giving poor and marginalised women a chance to earn a living, the WSE project, funded by the Norwegian embassy, also aims to modernise local skills.
Project head Safiullah Baig said traditionally, male carpenters worked to a mental plan of houses they were building - a somewhat unscientific approach.
“These girls are using scientific knowledge at every step right from mapping and design and their work is more feasible and sustainable,” Baig said.