The arts in Pakistan


When people think of Pakistan lots of things come to mind – its historical connection to terrorism, struggles with development, women in burkas and military coups. Art isn’t something that often rises to the top.

But in the last week I’ve experienced incredible arts in two different parts of this country – Islamabad and Karachi.

Art is seemingly everywhere – from the ornately decorated cargo trucks and passenger vans to museums and art galleries in many pockets of the community, I feel constantly bombarded (in a good way) by color and artistic expression.

What we learned though is that the penetration of Pakistani arts to the public is very small. Syed Jamal Shah, director general for Pakistan National Council of the Arts, said only about 10 percent of Pakistan’s population has access to the arts – both visual and performing arts.

Much of the lack of access is that cultural and artistic hubs are in the urban centers and access to transportation to many is limited or not available at all. Knowledge of where public arts are or why they are so important is also nonexistent.

Shah said the council has made major recommendations to increase arts education and funding in the country.

So, I consider myself lucky to have seen so much Pakistani art while I’ve been here. There are many ways they are trying to incorporate art into everyday life. We lunched at a Koel Café which had a gallery attached. Even the Parliament building (which was a very cool experience) has wonderful art hanging throughout. And the museum has this incredible timeline talking about the history of the country’s government. And while it is certainly educational, it was amazing and artistic as well.

So, while Shah may say only 10 percent of the country has access to art (and I certainly agree there should be more funding and education to help with that) the country is filled with art. Amazing music. Incredible beauty. Color, color, color everywhere.

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