Arts & Culture
Kashmir’s plural ethos and communal harmony
Peace is the foundation of prosperity among the nation states of the world and harmony forms the basic foundation of that enterprise.Man is the wonderful creation of God with an inherent sense of metaphysical and worldly belongings. The savage societies of the pre-historic times without any order and hierarchy of social organisation subsequently in the long timeframe paved way for the foundations of nation states and social organisations with a proper moral and a social order.
Although, the onslaught of the forces of globalisation after post-modernism have added a new colour to the contours of social dynamics and set in motion a new wave of societal organisations in the world, the case of Kashmir portrays a different tale of ever evolving, unaltered communal harmony. The only narrative that can ensue an atmosphere of peace and prosperity is that of the peaceful coexistence in the society in order to avert the crisis that makes inroads within a society from time to time.
Jammu and Kashmir is the only northern state of India with a longest tag of amity and brotherhood that has survived the currents of time and remains so in the contemporary times. Kashmir called as the land of rishis, saints, seers and sadhus is known for its communal harmony not only at the local level, but also the world over since times immemorial.
The sort of mysticism that the Sufi and Bhakti movements have lent to the cultural ethos of Kashmir is found much nowhere in the world besides Kashmir. The vale of Kashmir is full of various religious faiths who have survived the onslaught of the forces of globalisation with the changing signs of time. Muslims form the majority of the vale along with the religious people of Hindus, sikhs, Buddhists, Christians; etc.
Over the period of time, a sort of communal harmony has permeated the socio-cultural space of the society creating a congenial atmosphere of communitarian responsibility and social bond among the people of Kashmir surpassing religious lines of thought. This has not only added to the peace horizon of the land, but also created a sense of mutual trust and unified bond among the various communities of the land. In Kashmir, the communal harmony is deep rooted in the historical narratives.
The ethos of the Kashmir culture has time and again withstood the travails and tribulations of the time despite the currents of odds and challenges through the changing times. On a miniscule scale, there has been disturbance to the communal harmony of the state following the partition of the Sub-continent into India and Pakistan.
The exodus of the Hindus in nineties ascribed to the circumstances was a gory chapter in the chronicles of Jammu and Kashmir history. However, the return of the same has added a new threshold to the scene. The separatist leadership has time and again been vocal for their return as being part and parcel of our composite Kashmiri culture.
However, the time has served as the best healer of the same wounds and paved renewed ways for the cherishment of the communal harmony. The social harmony vindicates the notions of love and affection among different religions and is a blessing in disguise for the times.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir reflects the true plural ethos of the secular India where people of different communities strive for the love and harmony, complementing the lives of each other on a day-to-day basis.
The festivals of one community are celebrated with gaiety and fervor by the other religious community, solidifying the ethos of multiculturalism and pluralism. Kashmir represents the thread of the confluence of communal harmony and brotherhood. The communal harmony of the state is neither instant nor accidental, but is a legacy of the past times till date that has permeated the psyche of the people and created a bond of unity in the socio-cultural milieu of the valley.
The recent installation of a church bell in a church at Srinagar after a span of 50 years by the Christian community with the support of the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu communities is a reminder of communal harmony that is deep rooted in the cultural milieu of the state.
The annual Hindu pilgrimage of the Amarnath yatra is the biggest and ever glaring example of the amity where old and young, men and women, etc all are hospitably treated with care and concern by the native Muslims and even carried on their shoulders towards the sacred place of cave through the difficult terrains and ways enroute to the cave.
In the town of Seer Hamdan, Anantnag, the legal heir of a deceased hindu Pandit namely Arzan Nath is a Muslim man namely Nissar Ahmad Wagay. Long ago, through the oral history of the people, have heard of him serving the former during ups and downs of life. Arzan Nath was a govt employee with no one to look after. Nissar Ahmad served him through the turbulent times and offered heart-catching services, which even a true descendent, could not offer. Nissar used to accompany Arzan Nath through thick and thin times of life. Having personally observed, both of them used to pay the dusk obeisance at the shrine of Hazrat Shahi Hamdan (R.A.). At the time of his death, it was none other than Nissar who performed the last services to the deceased.
Another Hindu Pandit Shadi Lal in the same town is a hope for the hopeless patients who turn up in large numbers at his Ayurvedic shop. The most important trait of the said person is that he cares and heals the patients of the whole South Kashmir. In other words, he has turned out to be a savior of the whole community. Come dawn, the people could be seen in large flocks outside his shop. People respect him out of reverence and reciprocate in great regard. Recently, after suffering from body disease, the final remedy to my ailment surfaced only after i took the herbal medicine of the pandit gee.
The biggest obstacle and roadblock for the cherishment of the ideal of communal harmony in India is the fanaticism and extremism of fringe elements of the society. Since, all religions preach the message of peace and harmony, there can be no way to justify the claims of the demeaning and demoralizing of whatsoever religious community a society carries on. The biggest issue of the current and contemporary times is to contain the fringe elements of the society and let the people live in whatsoever capacity they live to carry on the cog in the wheel of the life.
The Few reasons in the path of communal harmony are:- Egoism, Lack of vision in Education, Lack of discipline, Lack of Cooperation, Social disorder, Casteism, Violence, Immorality ,Lack of faith in true religious values, deficit of good leadership, etc.
Education can be exploited as a powerful tool against these threats in the path of Communal Harmony. On his return from South Africa, Gandhiji envisioned for a unity among different communities of India and did his best in capacity for the realization of the same.
In order to realise the goal of communal harmony, peace is the main pre-requisite and a necessary condition. Disharmony creates the forces of disarray and disruption, rendering harmony handicapped and ultimately towards a state of paralysis. To promote the ethic of communal harmony, it is imperative for all the stakeholders of the society to play a part in particular and work in sync for the realization of the same in general.
Youth as a main driving force and an asset of a nation can be the best ambassadors of peace and communal harmony. The only way to achieve that goal is the proper education of the youth across the spectrum of education spanning the whole level of education. This way youth can learn to make communal harmony as a way of living, rather than ethic in simpler terms. Besides, the govt of the state as well as the centre have a shared responsibility to promote communal harmony further.
Although, some ground work has been done, but, there are still miles to go before we sleep. The need of the hour is the further promotion of the communal harmony in the society. The recent publication of ‘Living in Harmony’ books for school going children by Oxford University Press (OUP) in India to foster values of peace and cooperation is a good attempt.
Also, the Social media and yellow journalism of the mainland India should try to cherish the instances of communitarian love and amity in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of fomenting trouble to earn TRP’s and portrayal of the news which creates wedge in the bond of the society, the main urge should be to plead the cases of injustices and show a solidarity for the same. The problem of binary has to do away with.
Today, when the world is envisioning for the state of annihilation of crisis, the crisis in Kashmir takes a major sway with each passing day. The gory tales of widows, half-widows and orphans who have been rendered so after the loss of their dear ones has permeated the society deeply and created a multidimensional layer of unwithering pain and sorrow and a state of unabated alienation of the masses.
The question is not of the otherness of the other, but, of oneself in tandem with the other. Not a single day is devoid of pain, agony, and other tragedies. The question is the question of order. The major onus lies on the representatives of the people who represent the masses which have been rendered heart-broken and empty hoped. Let the seers of politics take on. The answer to all the problems can be cherished in unity within the broader perspectives of the humane approach by which peace can return to a treacherous path within the domain of the whole society. Government in J&K should understand and circumvent in Toto and try to dive from the static deficit of governance to good governance. After all, time in consonance with care serves as the best cosset.
Arts & Culture
The film ‘Cuba in Africa’ wins Thomas Sankara Prize
From late February to early March, in Ouagadougou the capital of Burkina Faso, there was the week-long Africa’s largest film festival FESPACO. In fact, FESPACO was launched in 1969. This festival provided some kind of entertainment, but the most important aspect was the platform created show screening different films with diverse themes. The competition was very keen with rewards for winners delivering excellent results.
Wolfram Vetter, the European Union ambassador in Burkina Faso, called the film festival “an important contribution to peace and reconciliation in Burkina Faso and beyond.” The EU was the event’s largest funder after the Burkinabe government, and has contributed approximately €250,000, equivalent of ($265,000).
Records showed that there were more than 15,000 people, including cinema celebrities from African countries such as Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast, and from abroad including France and the United States. Some 1,300 films were submitted for consideration and 100 selected to compete from 35 African countries and the diaspora, including movies from Dominican Republic and Haiti. Nearly half of those in the fiction competition this year were directed by women.
Among them was Burkinabe director and producer Apolline Traore, whose film “Sira” – considered a front-runner in this year’s competition – emblematic of many Burkinabes’ suffering. It tells the tale of a woman’s struggle for survival after being kidnapped by jihadis in the Sahel, as her fiancé tries to find her.
An interesting film, “Cuba in Africa” has received a warm, emotional response all over the world. Most people never heard of this story. Screening this film, people were touched by the altruism of Cubans who sacrificed their sons and daughters on behalf of Africa.
Negash Abdurahman, producer of Cuba in Africa, told us that his film has won the Thomas Sankara Prize. Abdurahman is an Ethiopian-American filmmaker and an educational technology specialist. He is also the Founder of RI Systems Inc.
His award-winning film Cuba in Africa was years in the making, overcoming many challenges. Cuba in Africa tells the story of Cuban volunteers who gave everything to win the independence of Angola, Namibia and contributed to the fall of apartheid in South Africa.
Abdurahman spoke briefly with us from Ouagadougou. Here are the interview excerpts:
How would you interpret the film festival that took place in Burkina Faso? What are the key features during this gathering?
Abdurahman: FESPACO is the biggest, oldest and most prestigious film festival in Africa. FESPACO is the French acronym for the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougu. The 28th edition of FESPACO took place from February 24 to March 5 in Ouagadougu, the capital city of Burkina Faso.
The festival opened with much fanfare and cultural pageantry. The heads of state of both Burkina Faso and Mali attended the opening ceremonies. For me, one of the emotional moments of the opening ceremonies was Sidiki Diabate of Mali playing the mesmerizing Kora, a traditional string instrument of several West African countries.
In your critical assessment, what were some of the messages translated to the audience there? Are these related to the Africa’s political culture, traditions and history?
Abdurahman: FESPACO celebrates African cinema and tells African stories through the eyes of Africans. This was very clear at this year’s festival as well. This year’s theme was “African Cinema and Culture of Peace.”
Before the festival, there was much tension because of the conflict going on in the northern part of Burkina Faso. Some people feared that it might not even be held at all. Playing on this fear, according to a few Burkinabe I spoke to, the French threatened not to protect the festival if they did not get their way.
French troops did, in fact, depart a few days before the opening of the festival. Fortunately, the Burkinabe were able to provide their own protection. The festival and all associated music and cultural celebrations concluded without a hitch.
What place was the film “Cuba in Africa” in the festival? What other films have similar themes to this film during the demonstration (show) in Burkina Faso?
Abdurahman: My film, Cuba in Africa, was an official selection in the short documentary category. Cuba was the only country in history that came to Africa’s aid without expecting anything in return. An Island nation of roughly 8 million people at the time, sent over 400,000 people – military as well as civilians – to help Africans in their fight for freedom.
This was unprecedented. I am honored to report that we won the much-coveted Thomas Sankara Prize. You can watch a two-minutes trailer for Cuba in Africa at http://www.cubainafrica.com
How was the final conclusion, in spite of the challenges and setbacks, of the festival?
Abdurahman: The best films won trophies and monetary awards in their respective categories. The mood was celebratory. FESPACO is a truly African institution with its own warm, unique characteristics.
Arts & Culture
Mirroring the Heart of Heaven and Earth: Ideals and Images in the Chinese Study
Mirroring the Heart of Heaven and Earth: Ideals and Images in the Chinese Study, an exhibition designed by New York-based firm OLI Architecture, has opened in the Palace Museum. Located in the center of the 72-hectare complex in the Forbidden City, built in the fifteenth century, the museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of ancient Chinese artifacts, calligraphy, paintings, and porcelain. Working closely with curators at The Palace Museum, OLI Architecture has created a space that brings together art and objects spanning from antiquity to contemporary art within the historical architecture.
Housed in the Meridian Gate Galleries, Mirroring the Heart of Heaven and Earth centers on the evolving role of the scholar throughout Chinese history, exploring the relationship to the court, to other scholars, the natural world, and the universe. The exhibition brings together 105 works ranging from antiquities to contemporary art, including books, scrolls, vases, sculptures, paintings, screens, cups, and seals. Alongside the art, the displays also include materials such as brushes, ink, and paper ranging from the 6th to the 21stt centuries. The three gallery wings are divided into three chapters: “Chapter One: Sanctuary of Literature and Music,” “Chapter Two: A Channel for Enlightenment,” and “Chapter Three: A Bond of Companionship.” These chapters deal respectively with the themes of a spiritual haven; self-cultivation and the bond between humanity and nature; and the appreciation of the finitude of life against the infinity of the universe.
The exhibition encourages a dialogue between heritage objects and modern artworks. For instance, an eighteenth-century plaque bearing the words ‘Chamber of the Five Classics’ in the Qianlong Emperor’s hand, that typically hangs in the hall that served as the imperial study, is prominently displayed at the beginning of the exhibition. The Five Classics include some of the oldest surviving Chinese texts and are the central works of Confucianism.
Contemporary artists represented include:
- Liu Dan (b. 1953) an ink painter trained in traditional style ink painting, he lives and works in Beijing, China.
- Xu Bing (b. 1955) is a multimedia artist known for his calligraphy and printmaking, who divides his time between New York City and Beijing.
- Xu Lei (b. 1963) an ink painter heavily involved in China’s 1980’s New Wave movement who currently serves as the Art Director of Beijing’s Today Art Museum.
- Bai Ming (b. 1965) a ceramicist and painter who teaches at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Young Ho Chang (b. 1956) an award-winning architect and researcher who is currently a professor of architecture at MIT. Hiroshi Okamoto, Founding Partner of OLI Architecture, remarks, “Our office often works with contemporary art and artists. It was a challenge to design this remarkable exhibition with pieces from famous contemporary artists paired with such rare and prominent antiquities. When we started the project the idea of the scroll and the ephemerality of paper became a central concept. Where the art and antiquities were displayed on a transparent softly glowing surface which flowed from the vertical to the horizontal at the datum of a scholar’s table height giving the viewer an intimate experience.”
Arts & Culture
World Economic Forum Announces 2023 Crystal Award Winners
Artist Maya Lin, acclaimed soprano and arts/health advocate Renée Fleming and actors and humanitarians Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba are the recipients of the 29th Annual Crystal Award, the World Economic Forum announced today. The winners will be honoured at the opening session of the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on the evening of Monday, 16 January. The award celebrates the achievements of leading artists who are bridge-builders and role models for all leaders of society.
The Crystal Award is presented at Davos each year by Hilde Schwab, Chairwoman and Co-Founder of the World Economic Forum’s World Arts Forum. The cultural leaders receiving the 2023 Crystal Award are bridge-builders. They connect us to each other; they help us reflect on the human condition and they provide visions of the world that can cut through the limitations of short-term or linear thinking.
Maya Lin receives the 2023 Crystal Award for her extraordinary creative talent in combining science, art and architecture and her exemplary leadership in the promotion of nature and environment. Lin has fashioned a remarkable interdisciplinary career through her highly acclaimed art and architectural works, showcasing sustainable design and emphasizing a stronger connection to the land and nature.
From her first public work, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., Lin has been committed to focusing attention on the key issues of our time: women’s rights, civil rights, Native American history and the climate crisis. In 2016, on awarding Lin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Barack Obama said her Vietnam Veterans Memorial “changed the way we think about sacrifice and patriotism and ourselves”.
Lin’s latest memorial, What is Missing?, is experimental and multidisciplinary in nature. In this work, Lin uses science-based artworks to raise awareness of the current mass extinctions of species, while emphasizing that by protecting and restoring habitats and reforming our land-use practices we could significantly reduce emissions and restore and protect biodiversity
Renée Fleming receives the 2023 Crystal Award for her leadership in championing the power of music and its relation to health, community and culture.
Renée Fleming is one of the most acclaimed sopranos of our time and a leading advocate for research at the intersection of arts, health and neuroscience. She launched the first ongoing collaboration between the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. It also led the NIH to recently award $20 million in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years. The Renée Fleming Foundation is now partnering with the Foundation for the NIH to develop a toolkit for standardizing music and health clinical research for brain disorders of ageing. Fleming has presented her programme, Music and the Mind, around the world.
Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba receive the 2023 Crystal Award for their leadership in addressing food security, climate change and environmental conservation.
Actor, filmmaker and humanitarian, Idris Elba, and his wife, the model, actress and humanitarian, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, were appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadors for IFAD in April 2020. As IFAD Goodwill Ambassadors, they focus on issues related to food security, climate change and environmental conservation. The couple recently visited an IFAD-supported project in Sierra Leone, where they met farmers who received support for rice production and assistance with rural finance after the Ebola crisis.
The late Queen Elizabeth II awarded Idris Elba with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2016 and the Prince’s Trust, founded by King Charles in 1976 – which Elba credits with helping to start his career – appointed him as its anti-crime ambassador in 2009
Elba supports causes related to poverty, HIV/AIDS, at-risk and disadvantaged youth, health and education. He worked with the UN and the Department for International Development in the UK during the Ebola health crisis and filmed campaigns in support of UNICEF, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. He has recently created a number of youth-focused campaigns to promote education and learning and discourage violence.
Sabrina Dhowre Elba works with a variety of civil society organizations, including Farm Africa, raising funds to help farmers across eastern Africa, and Conservation International on environmental issues. She promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls worldwide. She chairs the European board for Global Citizen and has been a keynote speaker at leading global events.
Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elbaare board members of Conservation International.
Crystal awardees are part of a large community of cultural leaders in Davos.
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