Saturday, August 29, 2009

Art Begins To Flourish In Kashmir

ARTIST: Masood Hussain, a sculptor and teacher, brought an arts conference back to Srinigar after it had gone years without such gatherings.

from the article,

SRINAGAR, India -- At times it was enough just to stay alive, or to keep from breaking down when friends were dying and soldiers came knocking. Ugliness replaced beauty, and the finer things -- art, music, poetry -- seemed unbearable luxuries, like a rich dessert on an empty stomach.

But after nearly two decades of devastating conflict, of violence made more horrific by the achingly lovely natural surroundings, times are better now in Kashmir, the Himalayan region fought over by India and Pakistan. The two countries are engaged in a peace process, and the arts here are slowly coming back to life.

Over the last two or three years, Kashmiri painters, sculptors, filmmakers, poets and playwrights have again started plowing ground that had lain fallow for so long. Their cautious reemergence comes at a time when civil society as a whole is beginning to reclaim the space formerly monopolized by the Indian army and Pakistani-backed militants, whose confrontations have left more than 60,000 people dead since 1989.

"People have started to come out of their fear," filmmaker Akmal Hanan said as he sipped a cappuccino at a hip cafe here in Srinagar, the summer capital of the portion of Kashmir controlled by India. "I see a lot of potential."

Last year, a documentary Hanan shot about the travails of traditional Kashmiri potters screened at Srinagar's first festival of documentary, animated and short films. The year before that, an audience of hundreds gave a standing ovation to the premiere of the first digital feature film in the Kashmiri language, a story of star-crossed love set in the 19th century, directed by Aarshad Mushtaq.

Both men's films touched on themes of traditional Kashmiri culture, which bears more affinities with the Islamic culture of Central Asian nations to the west, such as Iran and Afghanistan, than with traditional Indian civilization to the south. Though fiercely proud of their heritage, the people here have struggled to preserve their identity under Indian rule and amid the same globalizing trends that have put indigenous cultures under pressure the world over.


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