The Ajoka Theatre

Linked with Madeeha Gauhar – Pakistan.

Homepage: PAKISTAN: CAMPAIGN TO TERRORIZE THEATRE GROUP

1. The pro-Taliban elements and their political patrons have made an issue of an Ajoka play “Burqavaganza’, which was staged in Lahore in March 2007. Five MMA MNAs submitted an adjournment motion in the National Assembly, which was discussed on 26 April 2007. MMA members used extremely provocative language against the writer/director of the play and director of Ajoka, accused them of ridiculing Islamic injunctions and demanded action against them under blasphemy laws. Although several MNAs from Government and Opposition including women MNAs wanted to speak on the motion but the speaker did not allow them. The Minister for Culture Mr. G.G. Jamal announced that the Government had banned the play and further action will be taken after a report from the Punjab Government is received … (full text).

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A THEATRE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE: Ajoka has been part of the struggle for a secular, democratic just, humane and egalitarian Pakistan for the last 21 years. Few cultural institutions have been able to thrive, even survive, in the climate of hostility and apathy towards performing arts that has existed in Pakistan. Ajoka is an exception.

Set up by a small group of cultural activists in 1983, during General Zia-ul-Haq’s politically and culturally repressive regime, Ajoka has struggled with determination against very heavy odds. All governments have been disinterested, if not antagonistic towards socially meaningful art. Conservative elements have been opposed to the very idea of theatre and the corporate sector has not played its role in promoting art and culture. But the commitment of the volunteer members of Ajoka and its audience has enabled the group to overcome all hurdles. It has not only survived despite the absence of financial support from the private or public sector, it has in fact grown from strength to strength. It has dealt with bold subjects, experimented with technique and blended contemporary reality with traditional form. Today Ajoka is an internationally respected name in the world of theatre and its contribution to the promotion of art and culture and the struggle for social justice and peace in Pakistan is well regarded.

AJOKA and PEACE: Ajoka has been committed to the ideals of peace and tolerance, within Pakistan and in the region. Ajoka has collaborated with theatre activists from other countries of South Asia particularly from India & Bangladesh, even in times when any contact across the border was considered treason. The first play performed by Ajoka, “JALOOS” was written by the veteran India revolutionary playwright Badal Sircar. Ajoka has worked with the (late) Safdar Hashmi, Anuradha Kapoor, Ratti Bartholomew, Kamla Bhasin and Kewal Dhaliwal. Ajoka first performed in India in 1989 when “ITT1 was staged in Delhi. The plays which have performed in India since include “K.ALA MEDA BHES” (in Delhi, Kolkatta and Chandigarh in 1997), “AIK THEE NANI (in Delhi in 1999 & 2003 and Bombay in 2004), “DUKHINI (in Delhi, Chandigarh and Kolkatta in 2000) and “BORDER-BORDER” (in Chandigarh and Amritsar , in 2001 and 2005 respectively). In Nov. 2003, “BULLHA” was first performed in several cities of Indian Punjab including Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Chandigarh and Jammu.

OBJECTIVES: To do socially-meaningful theatre and thus contribute to the struggle for a secular, humane, just and egalitarian society in Pakistan.To promote theatre in Pakistan by blending traditional theatre forms with modern techniques and to provide entertainment which has a social relevance.

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