Lahore Literary Festival's second edition in New York attracts large audience

NEW YORK, May 7 (APP): New Yorkers again came in large numbers on
Saturday to the day-long second edition of Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) showcasing Pakistan’s intellectual, cultural, historical and creative aspects of life in a spacious hall of Asia Society.
A number of distinguished speakers at the event underlined Lahore’s
standing as Pakistan’s cultural hub and one segment even highlighted
Emperor Jahangir’s fascination for the historic city where he is also buried.
“I am delighted to join you to welcome Lahore for the second time to
the Asia Society and to this city that never sleeps. Just like New York, Lahore does not either,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, said at the start of the festival which continued late into the night.
“As the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore has led our national
engagement with modernity, as a purveyor of ideas, innovation, and enterprise. But it has also been a jealous guardian of our rich traditions and cultural heritage,” she told the audience.
“In a world beset with turmoil and strife, the “soft power” of culture
can also serve as the most powerful bulwark against the walls of hatred, division and xenophobia. It is soft and not hard power that helps to create a sense of our shared destiny,” the Pakistani envoy said.
“It is an invaluable vehicle to build bridges, and take down walls, across civilizations and promote peace.”
LLF founder and CEO Razi Ahmed said the festival aims to reclaim
Lahore’s cultural significance and influence.
The festival, he said, was all about celebrating the intellectual and
creative vitality of this city, its cosmopolitan and syncretic past, its storied cultural contributions, as well as its place in global literary world today.
“Lahore has historically been the firmament of big ideas, a home to the
arts since the Mughal empire,”, he said.
Razi Ahmed thanked Ambassador Lodhi’s role in helping to bring LLF to
New York, saying she was an excellent conduit to Asia Society, New York, which co-hosts the event.
“Having played a modest role in bringing the LLF to New York, it is
personally gratifying for me to see this labour of love, grow and take strength,” Ambassador Lodhi said.
“Our culture defines our humanity, gives life and soul to our identity
and enriches our lives. It is a reflection on our ethos, values, and attitude towards life”.
During the course of discussions about ‘fake news’, moderated by Amna Nawaz of ABC News, a major US TV network, Ahmed Rashid, a prominent Pakistani author and journalist, Ambassador Robin Raphel, a former US assistant secretary of state for South Asia and Tom Freston, a former CEO of Viacom, expressed a wish for the return to fact-based news and to basic roots of journalism.
Both Ms. Raphel and Freston said the media has become commercialized and there was not enough investigation to establish facts.
Leading artist Shazia Sikandar’s “Disruption as Rupture”, a video
animation of her works won loud applause. A discussion on the video with Shazia and Ali Sethi, a Pakistani singer and writer and Dun Yun, a Pulitzer Prize composer who provided music to the video, was moderated by Rachel Cooper of Asia Society.
Famed singer Tahira Singer sang some of her popular kafis, ghazals and folk songs to the delight of the audience in a segment on “the Sounds of Data Darbar,” moderated by Raza Rumi, a well-known columnist and talk show host.
Art historian F.S. Aijazuddin and the Curator of Metropolitan Museum of Arts, Navina Najat Haidar discussed Lahore’s contribution to art, culture and music in the region and especially focused on Emperor Jahangir and his patronage of art.
Author Basharat Peer, Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University, Saskia Sassen, co-chair of the Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University, discussed ‘Populism and the Global Rise of Strongmen’, in a segment moderated by Akbar Noman, associate professor, SPA, Columbia. They were of the view that weak institutions gave rise to populist leaders.
In a segment moderated by Dwight Garner, literary critic of the New York Times, he spoke to leading Pakistani novelists Mohammed Hanif and Nadeem Aslam about the factors, and situations and events that led them to write their novels.
The festival was rounded off with a qawwali session in which Fareed
Ayaz, Abu Muhammad Qawwal and Brothers, who enthralled the audience with their performance.