The Adab Festival took place over a course of three days, from 31 January to 2 February, at the Art’s Council, Karachi. Organized by Dr. Asif Farrukhi, Ms. Ameena Saiyid, and Ms. Shayma Saiyid, the second iteration of the now annual festival possessed a schedule teeming with intriguing panel discussions, displays, and performances, engaging the public of Karachi in increasingly relevant discourses.
The first day began with keynote speeches by the organizers and sponsors Stefan Winkler and Ahmed Shah, followed by speeches of Asif Saeed Khosa, Maleeha Lodhi, and Francis Robinson. Additionally, His Royal Highness, Prince El Hasan bin Talal of Jordan, sent a video message emphasizing the necessity of a dialogue between the cultures of world civilizations; a dialogue that is not only conducive of a meaningful transposition of cultures and beliefs, but also one which would allow us to humanize the Other and generate mutual empathy.
His Royal Highness believes in the importance of citizens coming together in such festivals to acknowledge the contributions of the many artists and architects, and the platform in itself that inspires people and communal services.
Following the speeches was the commencement of the panel discussions, book launches, and workshops, the schedules of which would span the next two days in three venues across the property.
With over thirty panel discussions, every theme was grounded in a different genre of life and did not hesitate to ask questions that are usually avoided. From speaking on civil and constitutional liberty ‘in Conversation with Sherry Rehman’ and the inherent classism in the corrupt system in the ‘History of the Sindh Police’, to questioning the government’s ability to develop Karachi in ‘Karachi’s Urban Planning, Public Spaces, and Garbage Management’ and answering the tough questions regarding toxic masculinity that results in violence in ‘Ask Me Anything.’
It is evident and commendable that the organizers of the Festival put in a substantial amount of thought into the structure of the program as well as the formation of every individual panel. Irrelevant persons were not featured on panels about which they would have no authoritative knowledge. For example, in ‘Demystifying Sexual Harassment at the Workplace,’ female lawyers comprised the entirety of the panel, amplifying a voice that is not often heard, bringing to light
The loopholes in the law that allow perpetrators to escape the law, and turn the blame onto the victim of harassment. Similarly, the workshop ‘Challenges faced by Students and their Effects: Is the Existence of a Student Union Bill the Solution?’ was led by student leaders and educators enthralled in their cause, discussing the rights of the students to be involved in the decision making processes of their universities and imploring the Higher Education Commission to stop the privatization of education.
Each day concluded with an artistic performance as a breather from the day’s loaded proceedings, featuring a musical performance by the Sketches, Qawali by Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Group, Mushaira by a variety of Pakistani poets and poetesses, and a Sufi dance performance by Mani Chao.
With the conclusion of the Adab Festival, participants most likely left with saturated minds filled to the brim with newfound information and questions. Keeping aside all the different topics tackled in the discussions, one question that puzzled me was what exactly is ‘Adab’? In the Urdu language, the literal translation is ‘Literature,’ which is why an unassuming individual would expect the Festival to be purely literary, however, in languages such as Arabic, Farsi, and even Malay, ‘Adab’ translates to ‘to educate,’ ‘decorum,’ and ‘manner,’ these translations would explain the breadth of topics included in the Festival, attempting to educate the participants on life. The organizers saw the opportunity and seized it, creating a platform to engage the public in a meaningful way, and in doing so, they did a service to the entire community of Karachi.