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CPEC Cultural Caravan held to strengthen China-Pakistan people-to-people contact

Munir Ahmed@EmmayeSyed

MARCH 3, 2018

Launched in November 2017 by the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA), the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Cultural Caravan culminated a grand showcasing of the outcome of the mega project from 25-26 February in Islamabad, on Wednesday in Lahore and on Friday in Karachi.

The concept behind the CPEC Cultural Caravan was to engage a diverse group of artists from all strands of art and culture to embark upon a journey along the Silk Route to document and reflect upon the cultural diversity of the region. The cultural excursion was composed of diverse groups of Pakistani and Chinese artists, musicians, dancers, photographers, anthropologists, writers and filmmakers.

This caravan, with its enthusiastic group of explorers, traveled from Xi’an (China) to Gwadar (Pakistan), documenting and reflecting upon the land, life and people along the CPEC in two phases of journey. The Cultural Caravan was facilitated both by the Chinese and Pakistani governments to explore the abundant diversity of culture, heritage and terrain. The close interaction between the artists during travel and periods of sojourn was enriching, not only amongst themselves, but also with the local tradition-bearers that resulted in transformative works of art.

The mega fest included a seminar titled ‘art and culture enabling creative economy’, an exhibition of photographs, screening of the documentaries, a fusion of Pakistani and Chinese music, dance performances, and ethnic fashion show of both countries.

The seminar provided policy-makers with an introduction to some of the key measures, policy and regulatory frameworks to be implemented in order to benefit from the opportunities presented by the creative economy and Culture and Creative Industries (CCI) in general

Graced by the Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing and State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriram Aurangzeb and diplomats from different countries, the event was well-received and appreciated by the audience from both countries as well.

Speaking on the inauguration of the festival in Islamabad, Chinese ambassador Yao Jing said the success of CPEC depends on the interaction and collaboration of people from both the countries, adding that the cultural collaboration would enhance the ties between the people to people contact for lasting bilateral economic and political bond between China and Pakistan.

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyam Aurangzeb said the CPEC was not about the performance of the present regime but also the future of next generation. The successful implementation of the CPEC would bring prosperity to the nation thus leading to regional integrity.

Seminar on creative economy

An academic seminar titled ‘Art and culture enabling creative economy’ was the first-ever opportunity for the creative and cultural industry experts to interact with each other on the topics of mutual interest and deliberate upon the contribution of art and culture to the economy, livelihood and sustainability of the country and region.

The seminar provided policy-makers with an introduction to some of the key measures, policy and regulatory frameworks to be implemented in order to benefit from the opportunities presented by the creative economy and Culture and Creative Industries (CCI) in general. The seminar also focused and evaluated the potential of bilateral trade and co-operation in culture and creative industries and cultural exchange between China and Pakistan. The experts deliberated on the importance of creative economy and the potential it holds as an industry for Pakistan, and ways to benefit from China’s creative and cultural development.

Deputy Chairperson Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz,while speaking at the seminar, said creative economy is one of the most rapidly growing industries in the world. In developing countries, the creative economy heavily relies on informal sector, which is why it is critical to develop infrastructure including research and cultural centres for the creative economy. Mapping of the local creative economy, formal and informal, is one of the basic steps, which need to be analysed and deliberated on. Boosting creative economy between China and Pakistan will increase the people-to-people affinity between the two countries.

The Chinese Cultural Councilor You Yi was of the view that the trade and cooperation in creative economy between China and Pakistan would enhance the bilateral relations and people-to-people interaction and joint business. The Chinese government is willing to introduce Pakistani industrial and local handicrafts in China. He spoke on the cultural economy as a basic point of the Chinese experiment and emphasised on the point of inclusiveness in which there is mutual benefit for people of both countries.

Advisor to UNESCO Dr Salman Asif read his paper and said that creative industry means nurturing and developing not just an economy but also a society, which allows creative expression. The equality, diversity, freedom of expression and expression of freedom come to the heart of the discussion. The cultural workers and advocates are the vanguard of this exploration of political and economic possibilities.

Maryam Rab from the British Council presented the findings of the research ‘Creative cities in Pakistan’ conducted by British Council. The key findings of the report are focused on the challenges, recommendations and interventions for establishing a Creative Economy in Pakistan. She said that the creative economy employs 15 per cent of the population, mostly women, while the overall work sector in Pakistan only includes 22 per cent of women the report shows the potential and openness of creative industry for women employment.

Yasmin Lari, an architect from the Heritage Foundation, focused on the intangible culture of Pakistan, which dates back to the Bronze Age. She highlighted the presence of diverse vernacular traditions and the range of intangible cultural heritage of Pakistan and the need to preserve it.

The Maharghar Dance

Maharghar is the oldest civilisation that dates back to 9500 years. Keeping in view the significance of the Maharghar civilisation, PNCA Director General and actor Jamal Shah researched and developed a special dance. He composed the music in collaboration with young talented musician and singer Mehdi Raza while the dance was choreographed by classical dancer Amna Mawaz. The enthralling dance was performed by the vibrant and talented young dancers of the National Performing Arts Group (NPAG).

The exhibition of photographs

Three Photographers Danial Shah and Aleem Dar from Pakistan and Yuan Zhang from China travelled with the caravan and documented life, land and people living along the CPEC route passing through both countries. Their work comprising 107 photographs was put on display at PNCA Islamabad, Alhamra Lahore and Karachi Arts Council. It is also published in a coffee-table book.

The screening of documentaries

As many as six short documentary films were another output of the festival. Screened several times during the festival in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, the first short documentary film was on cultural caravan by Jawad Sharif. The film is be based on symbolic and landscape shots from the journey.

A film by Aamir Tehseen Rao was about the life and career of Chinese artist and photographer Yuan Zhang, while the short animation by Ms Zhang Jiwen about the cultural caravan journey was another different experience. Jamal Shah himself documented the entire journey of the Cultural Caravan and people on the Silk Route. A Chinese participant came up with ‘Holy Land’, a short documentary on the people of Pakistan and its culture.

Visual arts

Three visual artists Nadir Ali Jamali, Aleem Dad Khan and M Saeed Kureshi were engaged during different phases of the caravan. They came up with marvelous work of paintings in different styles and formats.

Nadir Ali Jamali is an artist of exceptional talent and skill. Basically a sculptor, he has a flare for drawing and painting. His work is marked by flamboyance, spontaneity and desire for colour. Nadir seems to have documented the fleeting moments of his sojourn with is counterparts from China and Pakistan in a very interment manner. His images reflect the warmth, interaction with his colleagues must have generated in the process of getting to know each other better and sharing thoughts with them.

Aleem Dad Khan, a Hunza-based visual artist, was among the group of Pakistani artists selected to represent the rich cultural diversity of Pakistani art. This work during the Caravan is a narration of his interaction and response to the experience of this whole journey, starting from Dalian, Shenyang, Liaoning province of China which is the starting point of the old Silk Route from the ocean side, passing all the way through Urumqi, Kashgar, Khunjerab, Hunza, Gilgit, Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Karachi and culminating in Gwadar. Aleem Dad Khan’s work is a creation of his unique first-hand experiences with the nature.

Fashion Show

‘New Silk Road’ got inspiration from the traditional colourful Pakistani costume and truck art. Beautiful clothes depicted Pakistan’s profound history, culture and costume. The vivid pattern, brilliant colours and impassive truck art are all talking new story and expectation about New Silk Road in new context. The friendship between Chinese and Pakistan lives forever. Theme of collection is New Silk Road Chinese Cultural Caravan artist/Designer Yuan Yan from Xian Polytechnic University presented a mixture of Pak and China Culture with their 39 dresses.

The design concepts from Mehrghar are collected and implemented by Jamal Shah and Qammar Abbas in collaboration with IVT, Hunerkada and the Iqra University. A total of 45 models participated in this show including 11 male models. Three designers are participating from IVT while Hunerkada is featuring four designers.

The CPEC Youth Contest

Different competitions among the youth were also organised during the journey of the CPEC Cultural Caravan. The selected work was also displayed in the festival while prize distribution of youth contests of documentaries, photography and digital stories about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was also done. The aim of these contests was to give exposure to youth and introduce and highlight the art and culture found along the Silk Route from Khunjrab Pass to Gwadar.

The writer is an Islamabad-based art and culture, policy advocacy, strategic communication and outreach expert. He can be reached at He tweets @EmmayeSyed



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