Although conscious thought is something we humans have prided ourselves in, there are very few places where the human mind can openly think without fear. The need of having a safe haven for thinkers was provided by Information Technology University and the Centre For Governance and Policy. Al-hamra Arts Council was transformed to accommodate a Nobel Laureate, an Academy award winner, 112 high profile speakers (25 of them from around the globe), authors, journalists, artists, and representatives from 35 universities and delegations from 6 different institutions. The festival stretched for two days, providing a sea of knowledge on topics that many shy away from.
Primarily divided into two categories, Thinkfest showed a plethora of documentaries on varying social issues in their Film Festival and had the sessions in their Speakers’ Corner.
Film Festival: Located in the Art Theatre of Al-hamra, the film festival showed documentaries and held interactive sessions with people who were directly or indirectly related to either that documentary or the issue it portrayed. The selection of the documentaries was a deliberate effort, focusing on the dimensions the Indo-Pak subcontinent is headed for.
The star session was with Haya Fatima, an academy award winning doc filmmaker, who co-produced A Girl in the River. She talked about her struggles in being a female independent filmmaker, how unidimensional we have presented Pakistan to be and how media plays a role in social reforming. Other sessions included a very interactive talk on climate change and the evils of patriarchy in today’s era. A panel from the Pakistani Film Industry was also there to talk about the revival of the industry.
The Speakers’ Corner: The Opening Day Speaker was the Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Kamran, who was awarded the price in recognition of her work in non-violent struggle for the safety of women and women’s rights in Yemen. She spoke on how peace was the only way to contest violence. Her speech also had a lot of desi euphemisms as she specified her how she had finally been ‘born’ after seeing Lahore.
Other talks focused on ‘extremism in universities’ or how the extremist element was slowly showing itself in educational institutions; the state of minorities in Pakistan and what we can do to improve it; the Rohingya Muslims and Jerusalem.
Jibran Nasir gave a very captivating talk on the state of minorities. He says it’s not only an academic issue, rather also something that concerns everyone.
My favourite discussion was on Mr and Mrs Jinnah: The Marriage That Shook India, by the acclaimed journalist Sheela Reddy who also wrote that book. It focused on Mr Jinnah’s marriage with Ruttie, and the complications they faced. Mrs Sheela Reddy was extremely nice, engaging in conversations with everyone who approached her.
The first day ended with a Qawali Night whereas the second hosted a Cultural event, so to have adequate music with the art that many had been witnessing. The Afkar-e-Taza is a small representation of what Pakistan can potentially turn into with a little hard work and acceptance. Having people who respect your views, albeit different than theirs, is a very liberating experience. Hopefully we will get to see an even better version next year.