Over the past few years, JK Academy of Art, Culture and Languages has multiplied its efforts to promote and preserve the composite culture of state. In conversation with Ruwa Shah, Khalid Bashir, Secretary JKAACL highlights some of the endeavours the academy has embarked upon, lately.
KL: Cultural academy got reformed when you joined as secretary. What major changes you brought in?
KB: The academy was already in good form. I did a couple of major things. Firstly more efforts were put in organizing different festivals. Initiatives like digitization of important manuscripts, collection of paintings including the valuable paintings of M F Hussain, rare photographs and miniature paintings were taken up earnestly. All these things are being preserved electronically. Also, we have a website providing access to the information related to activities undertaken by the academy. We also started issuing the newsletter “Saqafat” of which 5 issues have already been published. This is done so as to document things and make people aware of our doings.
KL: Tell us about the various endeavours, academy has recently taken for promotion of regional languages and literatures?
KB: We have started organizing a series of language conferences. We have done Kashmiri Conference, under the topic “Kashmiri: Challenges and Opportunities”. Under the same topic a Dogri conference was also held. The same conferences will be shortly held in Punjabi, urdu and Pahadi languages.
We have also started memorial lectures in Srinagar and in this regard we recently invited a speaker, Abul Kalam Qasmi from Aligarh Muslim University.
After 24 years, we restarted writers’ camp where we called writers from all the nine languages. It was held at yusmarg. The earlier one was held in 1989.
KL: And the recently concluded folk festival?
KB: The recently concluded folk festival has been the longest ever held by the academy. The two month long Kashmir folk festival included band-e-pather, folk dances, folk music and chakri. It was held in different tourism spots like pahalgam, gulmarg, verinag, achbal, kokernag, zabarwan park andchinarbagh. A total of 51 programmes were held during the festival in which all the important theatre groups and folk dancers and singers were involved.
Also, a two day “Quranic manuscript and Calligraphy exhibition” was held in Srinagar. It drew lot of people. It was held after more than 3 decades, earlier it was held in early 1980’s.
We got a scheme called “Writers and artist’s welfare fund” approved by the centre. Under this scheme, the writers who need financial help, and those who are not looked after by someone, are being provided travel and other kinds of assistance. An amount of Rupees fifty lac has been approved for them.
We also have a plan for renovation of the two theatres in J&K that is Tagore Hall in Kashmir and in Jammu the Abhinav theatre.
KL: What were the major challenges you had to face to reform the academy as a whole?
KB: I did not have to face any specific challenge. But yes, to preserve the work academy has so far produced was definitely a challenge.
KL: What is the network you have provided for the general public interactions?
KB: We have a website (Jkculture.nic.in) on which we update about all the activities. We also release press notes through which the public is made aware. And in the form of paid advertisements also we make the masses aware.
KL: How do you see the young talent in Kashmir? Do you have any plans to up-bring that?
KB: Not yet. But if we are suggested some plans or advices we will appreciate it. And in case the advice is feasible we will definitely consider that.
KL: What are the new forms of art that the new generation is coming up with? Do you provide any space for that?
KB: Youngsters are more driven towards paintings and all. For them we held certain painting competitions in different schools so as to promote the art among children.
KL: Recently many music festivals were launched by the academy. Do you feel people of Kashmir are accepting it at a greater level?
KB: Yes, definitely people are interested. The jam packed halls at different functions prove that. Recently a program was held for Rosul Mir and it was a very successful event.
KL: Your academy focuses on reviving the old singers of the valley like Raja Begum. But we have many young singers as well. Do you have any coaching or training programs for them?
KB: No, we do not have any such plans for that. Although apart from the academy there is separate musical institute for that.
KL: How is Tahzeeb Mahal going to help preserve our cultural heritage? What will be the focus?
KB: Tahzeeb Mahal was an idea that remained in the conceptual stage for many decades. Nothing however could concretize until 24th of June 2011 when the Chief Minister approved the construction of Tahzeeb Mahal at the present site. It is a 64.89 crore project.
The main focus is to blend the technology with tradition. The three story building will have special architectural finishes in tune with local heritage architecture including maharaji bricks, dejidewari look,, devri stone cladding, khatamband ceiling, pinjra and jaffri work, papier machie and sozni work on walls and log bridge and heritage fort wall.