A MUSICAL BRIDGE
The Aga Khan Development Network
The hush at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts is palpable. The lights are dim as people rustle with their programs and scan the stage, waiting for the musical journey they are about to take with the Homayun Sakhi Trio, and to be later accompanied by the world-famous Kronos Quartet. The low platform upon the stage is set. Three spaces for three musicians and their instruments: the rubab, tabla, and dorya. When the musicians enter wearing traditional garb, adorned with colourful scarves, anticipation fills the room. The three men walk barefoot toward their instruments and sit. They tune their instruments, breathe deeply, share a smile, and begin.
Homayun Sakhi breaks the silence with a few melodic notes on the stringed rubab, a traditional instrument of Afghanistan. After a moment, Sakhi nods at tabla player Salar Nader, and the traditional Indian hand drums softly join in. Then, a glance at the last musician, Abbos Kosimov, invites the dorya, a tambourine-like instrument from Uzbekistan, to enter the piece, and so the evening goes. The men play individually and collectively, gently and powerfully, playfully and seriously. They use their eyes to communicate tempo, direction, and respect for one another’s impressive solos. Their fingers move at lightning speed, performing tricky runs and masterful improvisations. Halfway through the concert, they are joined by the Kronos Quartet, who weave their celebrated modern strings in with the traditional music, taking the performance to new heights and eliciting a thunderous applause at the end of the evening.
The performance was a collaboration of the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) and the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia. Its purpose was to foster musical and cultural dialogue and artistic exchange, and brought the traditional music of Central Asia together with contemporary Western sounds to make music that is tradition-inspired but not tradition-limited. As Fairouz Nishanova, director of the Geneva, Switzerland–based AKMI, explains, “The Chan Centre in Vancouver provides such a vibrant platform for students, art lovers, academics, and immigrant communities to experience art—allowing us the opportunity to reach out to many different audiences at the same time in one space. The richness of the community that calls the Chan Centre their home is an example of the pluralism that makes Canada so unique.”
2012 France Musique Prize for World Music Awarded to Aga Khan Music Initiative Artist Abduvali Abdurashidov
Marseille, 15 March 2012 -- The 2012 France Music World Music Prize has been awarded to the Tajik Artist, Abduvali Abdurashidov, at the international Babel Med Music forum in Marseille.
Mr. Abdurashidov was honoured for his mastery of the tanbur and sato, the main accompanying instruments for the performance of the Shashmaqom, the classical music of the Tajik and Uzbeks of Central Asia. The tanbur is a long-necked plucked lute with raised frets while the sato is an increasingly rare form of bowed tanbur.
He was also honoured for his critical and historical study of the music and poetry of the maqom tradition, which he undertook at the Academy of Maqom, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Created with the help of the Aga Khan Music Initiative in 2003, the Academy of Maqom takes its name from the venerable tradition of classical or court music that spans the Muslim world from Morocco to western China.
Six maqoms constitute the systematically organized repertory of Central Asian classical music known as Shashmaqom (six maqoms). The roots of Shashmaqom are linked most strongly with Bukhara, a historically multicultural city where performers and audiences included Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Central Asian (Bukharan) Jews. Shashmaqom performers were typically bilingual in Uzbek, a Turkic language, and Tajik, an eastern dialect of Persian, and sang poetic texts in both languages.
An album, dedicated to the Shashmaqom, is to be published by Ocora and disseminated widely on Radio France. Mr. Abdurashidov’s music is currently available on the Smithsonian Folkways/Aga Khan Music Initiative CD/DVD release “Music of Central Asia Vol. 2: Invisible Face of the Beloved: Classical Music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks”.
For more information about Mr. Abdurashidov and the Academy of Maqom, please see his page on the Aga Khan Music Initiative site.
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About the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI)
The Aga Khan Music Initiative is an interregional music and arts education program with worldwide performance, outreach, mentoring, and artistic production activities. The Initiative was launched by His Highness the Aga Khan to support talented musicians and music educators working to preserve, transmit, and further develop their musical heritage in contemporary forms. Music Initiative began its work in Central Asia, subsequently expanding its cultural development activities to include artistic communities and audiences in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. AKMI designs and implements a country-specific set of activities for each country into which it invests and works to promote revitalization of cultural heritage both as a source of livelihood for musicians and as a means to strengthen pluralism in nations where it is challenged by social, political, and economic constraints.
Learn more at http://www.akdn.org/music
Zenana Bagh gives women a space of their own
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
The park in Nizamuddin Basti is the result of a new initiative by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture
“This space was appropriated by garbage, animals and addicts. There was no way we could even step in here…” Najma says as she encourages you to look around the recently renovated park in the middle of the Nizamuddin Basti in Delhi, christened the Zenana Bagh (Women's Park). Marked by high walls with sandstone jalis (latticework), manicured lawns and the absence of men, this women's only space in a conservative locality is the new hangout for shy adolescents, home makers in need of a breather and the older women who want to exchange notes on recipes and domestic squabbles.
"This year’s program features a whole range of musical genres and international groups including: Checkpoint 303 - Palestine/ Tunisia/ France, Dima Dima –Tunisia and Zapp 4 –Netherlands. Furthermore, with the support of The Agha Khan Music Initiative the festival is bringing together five acclaimed musicians from Central Asia to perform in an evening concert entitled "The Invisible Face of the Beloved” followed by two colorful performances by the Tausi Women’s Taarab Orchestra from Zanzibar ". A concert of the Iranian/ British band AJAM, presented with support by the British Council Egypr, will conclude the festival on 14th of May."
Nairobi City Park to Be Rehabilitated by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Government of Kenya
Prince Hussain Aga Khan, Prof Karega Mutahi, Permanent Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime minister and Minister for Local Government, and Dr Jacob Ole Miaron PhD, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of State for Heritage and Culture, signing the MoU. Photo: AKDN/Aziz Islamshah
Nairobi, 16 April 2012 -- A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed yesterday between the Government of Kenya, the Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture, the City Council of Nairobi and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to collaborate in the rehabilitation and restoration of the Nairobi City Park to international standards in terms of architecture, landscape and horticulture.
Signatories included Prince Hussain Aga Khan on behalf of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Mr. Philip Kisia - Town Clerk, Nairobi City Council, Professor Karega Mutahi, Permanent Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Local Government and Dr Jacob Ole Miaron, Permanent secretary, Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture.
Experts in city to draw up plans for conserving tombs
HYDERABAD: A conservation team from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) arrived in the city on Monday to begin a comprehensive study of the Qutub Shahi Tombs. The trust had last year come forward to take up restoration and conservation works to ensure that the tombs bag the coveted Unesco World Heritage Site tag.
Aghakhan Culture Trust to restore Uhuru park glory
Friday, 20 April 2012 21:53
By Wambua Sammy
The Citizen Correspondent
Nairobi. The Nairobi City Park will be restored to its former glory following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the government of Kenya and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The transformation entails the rehabilitation of the park's gardens and lawns, protection of the forest and wildlife, upgrading of existing facilities and infrastructure, creation of new public buildings and ecological and educational programmes.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is one of the Agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) with mandates that encompass economic, social and economic work toward a common goal: to improve the overall quality of life.
The primary objective of the collaboration and the project is to rehabilitate and redevelop the recreational facility established in 1932 as a major metropolitan park, recognised internationally for excellence in restoration,environmental practices and financial sustainability.
Among many other partnerships, the trust has been involved in the creation of the Azhar Park in Cairo, financing the restoration of the Humayun's Tomb gardens in New Delhi, the creation of the National Park of Mali and the restoration of Zanzibar's Forodhani Park.
The Nairobi project will also create a prototype of urban park rehabilitation in Kenya and restore City Park such that it complements and enhances the existing environmentally important areas.
Signatories to the MoU that was signed in Nairobi on April16, 2012 include Prince Hussain Aga Khan on behalf of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Nairobi Town Clerk Philip Kisia, Permanent Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Ministry of Local Government Prof Karega Mutahi and Dr Jacob ole Miaron, Permanent Secretary Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture.
The rich biodiversity of the park is today threatened by a number of negative developments and worrisome trends which are taking their toll and may eventually endanger the very existence of the park.
Humayun's Tomb: Where the emperor on the run finally rests!!
Humayun, the second emperor of the Mughal dynasty, spent a major part of his life on the run....travelling and fighting for his territories for 20 years , which encompassed present day India, Pakistan and Afganistan.
But his finally resting place was Delhi and Humayun's Tomb is a wonderful ode by his son Akbar.
Today, Humayun's Tomb is one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It lies in the heart of New Delhi and is a wonderful place to hang out on weekends or on holidays. It has been lovingly restored by the Aga Khan foundation and is a visual delight.
Priyanka Sharma & Veenu Sandhu / New Delhi Apr 22, 2012, 00:47 IST
Centuries’-old Indian craft and modern technology come together to restore Humayun’s Tomb to its past glory
It is a scorching April afternoon and the Humayun’s Tomb complex in Nizamuddin is bursting with life. Armed with their swank cameras, tourists from various countries attempt to capture every nook and corner of this World Heritage Site. Teachers lead groups of students across the structure, dictating lessons in history along the way. No one notices a group of labourers hard at work in various pockets of the complex.
On April 19, 2012, Mr. Ajmal Maiwandi, CEO of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Ambassador Rüdiger König signed an agreement for financial support of the restoration of the historic Khwaja Parsa shrine in Balkh.
The shrine, located in a park in the city centre of Balkh, was constructed in the late 15th century and marks the burial site of the islamic scholar Khwaja Abu Nasr Parsa. The structure with its characteristic ribbed dome stands about 25 metres high and dates back to the late Timurid era. The shrine with its adjacent modern-era buildings is continuing to serve as a site for congregation. The project, funded by the Cultural Heritage Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office, aims in a first step at stabilizing the existing structure. In a second phase, the historic shrine will be restored and the modern-era concrete adjoing buildings replaced with ones constructed in a style in preserving the historic ensemble.
AKTC work cited as an example of "holistic" strategy that combines development and conservation.
Some, however, are pioneering a different approach. In Nizamuddin Basti, a poor Muslim neighbourhood in Delhi, specialists from the Agha Khan Development Network, an international private philanthropic NGO, have developed a "holistic" strategy that combines development and conservation.
To enhance skills amongst unemployed youth to meet with livelihood challenges and equip them with skills for sustainable livelihood options, an English Language Training Programme was undertaken for the young boys and girls of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. Under this programme, People from the Basti were trained to teach English.
Aga Khan Music Initiative and Smithsonian Folkways Release “Borderlands: Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route”
Final Release of "Music of Central Asia Series"
Washington, DC, 11 May 2012 -- On May 29, Smithsonian Folkways and the Aga Khan Music Initiative will celebrate the tenth and final release of their award-winning "Music of Central Asia" series, a groundbreaking CD/DVD set entitled "Borderlands: Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route".
In the heart of New Delhi, a wasteland springs to life
More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on twitterShare on facebookShare on stumbleuponShare on email Sweta Dutta : New Delhi, Tue May 22 2012, 02:50 hrs
It once provided all the flowering bushes and shrubs to adorn the open spaces and the boulevards of Lutyens’ Delhi. It then fell to neglect and grew barren, but now flowers are blooming again at Sunder Nursery.
Formerly known as Azim Bagh, Sunder Nursery has been in existence since the 1940s in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb. Concerted efforts to restore the nursery to its blooming ways has resulted in long beds of rare plants, and a dedicated bonsai section making an appearance.
Following the successful restoration of Humayun’s Tomb Garden and as part of the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal project, the Central Public Works Department and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) have been busy with the landscaping and development of the 70-acre Sunder Nursery since 2009.
Landscaping commenced following a meticulous survey that included documenting each tree within the nursery. Detailed discussions with experts allowed the project team to prepare a Landscape Master Plan for the nursery with the aim of combining heritage, ecology and nursery functions within one comprehensive interactive space.
The efforts bore fruit and the nursery now offers opportunities for recreation, education and discovery together with procurement of plants.
The landscape plan, designed by renowned landscape architect Muhammed Shaheer, derives inspiration from the traditional Indian concept of congruency between nature, garden and utility coupled with environmental conservation.
Once the work is complete, Sunder Nursery — designated a District Park in the Master Plan 2021 and also a notified Conservation area — will be a green space, rivalling Lodhi Gardens and even the Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Delhi to get its first sunken museum
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
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The Hindu An artist’s impression of the sunken interpretation centre linking three historic sites -- Humayun’s Tomb, Sundar Nursery and Nizamuddin Basti.
The Capital will have its first sunken interpretation centre linking three historic sites -- Humayun's Tomb, Sundar Nursery and Nizamuddin Basti -- if multiple agencies required to give clearances come together and give the go-ahead for the project.
Interpretation centres, popularly known as site museums that detail the history of a cultural or natural heritage, have been largely missing from the Indian arena. The project, a first of its kind in the country, has been conceptualised and designed by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The plan envisages a sunken museum that will be constructed below the current parking lot outside the Humanyun's Tomb and will have underground passages linking the three sites. The proposed building will offer visitors to the World Heritage Site a more informed experience through historic nuggets in writing to exhibits, archival pictures and even craft demonstrations.
Citing details of the project that is awaiting clearances and funding, Dr B. R. Mani, Additional Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, said: “As part of the Humayun's Tomb – Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Project, the ASI and the AKTC are planning the country's first specially designed interpretation centre for the World Heritage Site that is today visited by over a million visitors each year of which at least 300,000 are school children.”
Union Minister for Housing and Poverty Alleviation and Culture Kumari Selja is keen that work on the special project commences during this year as it coincides with 150 years of the ASI, said Dr. Mani.
“Interpretation centres are today the norm at all international historic sites of repute. They are built to enhance visitor experience by providing insight into the site's history, architecture etc…In addition interpretation centres house visitor facilities and special areas for visiting school groups,” said Ratish Nanda, project director of AKTC.
Detailed transport planning, ground penetrating radar survey, heritage impact assessment studies have already been carried out by AKTC. The existing subways in Nizamuddin, near the Subz Burj, will be used to access the museum from the Nizamuddin Basti side, while similar linkages will be constructed between the Humayun's Tomb and the CPWD's Sundar Nursery. The three-way walk way will allow visitors access to all three sites.
“The museum at Humayun's Tomb will sit among the densest ensemble of medieval Islamic buildings and in order to ensure that no visual linkages are disturbed the AKTC architects have used the inspiration of North Indian baolis to design a sunken building,” Aftab Jalia, project architect, AKTC. “By creating sunken linkages to Sundar Nursery the impact of the road presently segregating the two sites will be also be minimised,” he said.
The museum will have a permanent exhibition area, an auditorium to screen films now being commissioned by AKTC for school groups; craft demonstration areas to showcase the glazed tile, sandstone craft traditions used for the Humayun's Tomb conservation, facilities for visitors, a souvenir shop and a café.
“In addition to architectural models, interactive displays and signages we also hope to display artefacts connected to the Nizamuddin area which boasts a 700-year living culture and has been the home for great poets such as Hazrat Amir Khusrau and Mirza Ghalib,” said Mr. Nanda.
The building will be energy efficient, as it has been designed to utilise natural light and ventilation to minimise dependence on non-renewable energy sources. Designated spaces for parking will be provided and separate bus drop off points will be created at the entrance zone to cater to larger tourist groups.
The project that will take up to 18 months for construction needs approval from multiple authorities, including the Delhi Development Authority for approval of concept design and area brief in view of the Master Plan requirements.
The Union Ministry of Urban Development's Land and Development Office (L&DO) will need to provide additional land for parking; the South Delhi Municipal Corporation will have to approve building plans and marginal diversion of the MCD road as per proposed design and the CPWD will have to give its consent to allow visitor facilities that are proposed to be built within the Sundar Nursery – including spaces for temporary exhibits.
Cairo’s Al-Azhar Park
By Idris Tawfiq - The Egyptian Gazette
Tuesday, May 29, 2012 10:41:44 AM
It is really difficult to say whether it’s better to visit during the day or in the evening. Both have their attractions. In the day, the panoramic views of the surrounding area are truly splendid.
In fact, the view of the Citadel from the promenade is perhaps one of the finest views anywhere in Cairo. In the evening, it is just such a romantic place to be, with music gently wafting through the air via discreetly placed loudspeakers, and a kinder climate helping visitors to enjoy the experience.
Whether you visit in the day or when it is dark, there is no doubt that a trip to Al-Azhar Park is one of the best visits you can make in Cairo. It is without doubt one of the best kept places, the cleanest and the most beautiful in the whole of Egypt.
The whole project is living proof, if any proof be needed, of what can be done if you have money to spend and the vision to use it well. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture spent thirty million dollars on the project, with the aim of providing a uniquely beautiful place where the people of Cairo, and foreign visitors alike, can go for recreation and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding historic monuments, as well as generating new life into a community. The once neglected area has now been the focus of regeneration for a whole community, not only restoring and repairing local monuments, but also providing jobs and business opportunities through the micro-loans which have been made available to local residents wanting to start up new projects.
The Aga Khan, leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims, made the decision to gift the city with a park as a way of showing that beautiful things can enhance the value of people’s lives and can actually generate economic growth. We are all sharers in the world’s resources, he declared, and as Muslims we are stewards of those resources.
Any visitor to Cairo would do well to head to Al-Azhar Park to get a feel of what the city is like. Being so close to Islamic Cairo and the monuments of El-Hussein and Al-Azhar, the Park can really showcase what Cairo is made of. Residents of Cairo who haven’t yet made a visit are missing out on a marvelous way of appreciating their unique and historic city.
In what used to be a rubbish dump, the whole neglected area of el-Darassa has been transformed into something beautiful. Eighty thousand truckloads of rubbish had to be cleared away to prepare the site. In doing so, the contractors discovered a one and a half kilometre stretch of Ayyubid wall, dating from the twelfth century, which has now been restored. They even discovered enormous blocks of stone from Pharaonic times, complete with hieroglyphic inscriptions, which were used in part to build the wall.
Building on what was once a refuse tip meant that the ground was very saline and unsuitable for vegetation. Skillfully chosen plants, shrubs and trees, which thrive in such an environment, now cover the whole area.
Some of the features within the park still leave visitors amazed. The hilltop restaurant, for example, has been designed and built in a style reminiscent of Islamic Cairo. The promenade which runs down the centre of the park, flanked on either side by rows of royal palms, contains within it a water feature that is both innovative and beautiful. What could be more beautiful on a hot summer’s day or a balmy Cairo evening than to hear the gentle trickle of water and the play of fountains?
In fact, in an age when many in the world’s media present Islam as backward and lacking in many of the advantages of a civilised society, Al-Azhar Park has unashamedly used an Islamic theme throughout, allowing visitors to rejoice in their proud heritage. The buildings and fountains and beautifully tended gardens lead one to appreciate the rich and noble heritage of Islam. Not only is the Park beautifully designed and laid out, but the Park is surrounded by monuments which are the envy of the world. Looking in every direction you see incomparable treasures of Islamic architecture, from the massive Mosque of Sultan Hassan, to the Citadel of Salah El-Din, the City of the Dead, the district of Darb Al-Ahmar and the university mosque of Al-Azhar, the oldest university in the world. No Muslim could visit Al-Azhar Park and not feel pride at what Islam has achieved in the past, and marvel at what it is still able to achieve.
The mainly Lebanese cuisine on offer at the Lakeside Café is hosted within a modern building on a traditional theme, with lamps and ornaments from Cairo’s Islamic past. Small rooms and corners afford privacy, within the context of a gracious setting, and all beside a lake and fountains overlooked by the Citadel.
One of the most interesting features in the Park, and one which never fails to delight visitors, is the set of fountains just inside from the Main Entrance, which shoot directly from out of the ground and catch people out as they try to pass through them.
Muslims read in the holy Qur’an in Surat Sad:
Gardens of Eternity, whose doors will (ever) be open to them;
Therein will they recline (at ease); therein can they call (at pleasure)
For fruit in abundance, and (delicious) drink…..
Holy Qur’an 38:50-51
What more beautiful image could there be for people living in a hot, dry climate, whose lives depend so much on water for life, than gardens under which rivers flow. The Park plays upon this theme and allows visitors to appreciate the beauty of Nature and the life-giving power and cleansing quality of water. Enough for visitors, in the midst of their recreation, to spare a silent thought for the Creator of such beauty and to give Him thanks.
As for whether it’s best to visit in the day or in the evening, perhaps you should make two visits – and then decide for yourself!
British Muslim writer, Idris Tawfiq, is a lecturer at Al-Azhar University. The author of eight books about Islam, he divides his time between Egypt and the UK as a speaker, writer and broadcaster. You can visit his website at www.idristawfiq.com.
Jashn-e-Khusrau: A Collection
Roli Books & Agha Khan Trust For Culture
Pages 221. Rs 1,995
Home to the 13th-century Sufi master, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, also known as Mehboob-e-Ilahi or Beloved of God, the Nizamuddin basti (meaning settlement) is a repository of a real, lived, Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. The first qawwwalis were composed here and it was here that Amir Khusrau, the saint’s closest disciple, handpicked a group of singers – the qawwal bachchas – and trained them to sing in a new sort of way. As a celebration of pluralism, the festival of Basant was celebrated with joy and the whole area decorated with yellow flowers – a practice that continues to this day to mark the end of a bitter North Indian winter and the herald of a balmy though short-lived spring.
During the Jashn-e-Khusrau Festival, this legacy of syncretism is remembered in different ways: through performances of qawwalis from qawwals belonging to different khanqahi traditions; discussions with the singers to explore the nuances of their repertoire which consists largely of the songs, qawwalis, poetry in Persian, Braj and Hindavi composed by Amir Khusrau; heritage walks in the historically-rich area by volunteers from among the basti’s youth; as well as academic discussions and paper presentations.
In a rare example of a fruitful public-private partnership, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Central Public Works Department and the Aga Khan Foundation have taken the Basti Nizamuddin area under their wing and initiated a remarkable series of small changes, each of which are beginning to show remarkable promise. What is more, these efforts – as part of a larger project of urban renewal of historic cities — hold out enormous hope for cloistered communities such as the one in the Basti Nizamuddin area, a neighbourhood that for all its antiquity is cloaked in backwardness, neglect and apathy. One such effort is the Jashn-e-Khusrau, part of a five-year project called the Aalam-e-Khusrau funded by the Ford Foundation, and is meant to showcase the basti’s rich cultural traditions.
A lasting documentation of the event is a handsomely-produced and profusely illustrated coffee-table book, Jashn-e-Khusrau: A Collection (Roli Books), brings together performers, academics, activists, conservationists, musicologists, historians. The first section, comprising a selection of three essays, focuses on: the literary aspect of Khusrau’s work; the musicology of the qawwali tradition; and the patronage of this centuries-old tradition by Sunil Sharma, Regula Qureshi and Irfan Zuberi, respectively. This is followed by transliterations and translations of the kalaam itself, presented with the girehs as sung by the qawwals.
However, what makes this book truly a collector’s item, are the set of three Cds of qawwalis, each containing vintage sufiana kalam: Mun Kunto Maula, Tori Surat ke Balihari Nijam, Kahe ko Biyahi Bides, Teri re Main to Charnan Lagi, Eidgah-e Ma Ghariban, Chashm-e Mast-e Ajabi, Aaj Tona Main Aisa Banaungi`85 The CDs in themselves are enough reason to buy this book for where else do you get to hear such kalaam? What is more, where else can you get such a selection of qawwalis sung by the real qawwal bachchas now scattered in different cities, now belonging to different khanqahs.
When Nizamuddin Auliya died in 1325 at the venerable age of 87, mad with grief, Khusrau wrote:
Gori sowe sej par mukh pe dare kes
Chal Khusro ghar aapne, rain bhayi pardes
(The beloved sleeps upon her couch, her face covered with her tresses
Come, Khusro, let us go home, for night falls in these strange lands)
Seven centuries later, the area around the hospice continues to be venerated, people continue to flock to the bustling dargah that came up around the grave of the Sufi master and to the small shrine of Amir Khusrau who lies buried nearby. What is more, Khusrau’s words live in the music of the qawwals. A book such as this is a fitting tribute to an enduring legacy of love and longing that transcends the here and now.
June 13, 2012, 3:57 am
For Muslim Women in Delhi, a Breath of Fresh Air
By RAKSHA KUMAR
Raksha Kumar for The New York Times
Yasmeen Khan, right, at the “Pardah Bagh,” a park exclusively for women and children in Nizamuddin in south Delhi.Yasmeen Khan dons her burqa and steps out of her house in the Nizamuddin neighborhood of Delhi every evening to walk a short distance to a 10-foot-high stone wall. Behind the wall is paradise — a place where she can remove her burqa and hijab, enjoy cool fresh air in her hair, exercise and gossip with friends.
Hundreds of women regularly visit the “Pardah Bagh,” a park as large as a football field, exclusively for women and children. While there are other parks in the city marked only for women, particularly in Old Delhi, they are usually unkempt and frequented by men.
The women’s park in Nizamuddin is being maintained by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, a non-profit group which has been working with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to redevelop the Nizamuddin slum area for the past five years. “The concept of a ‘Pardah Park’ has existed in traditional Muslim societies across the world,” said Shveta Mathur, an architect and the program officer for the trust, “however, this is the first such park in Delhi that is well developed and extensively used by the community.”
Courtesy of Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Women and children come to relax at the ‘Pardah Bagh,’ in Nizamuddin in south Delhi.Mrs. Khan said she used to feel locked up inside her one-room, ground floor house, because she would not leave her home alone. “I only went out when my husband came back home early in the evening,” she said. “I craved for some open air, as did my children.”
The Nizamuddin slum is a densely populated settlement that has spread across 13 acres of land in South Delhi, with 15,000 residents and a transient population of at least 10,000 more, according to a survey conducted by the Aga Khan Trust earlier this year.
Courtesy Aga Khan Trust for Culture
The open dumping ground which existed at the site of the park before it was developed.“Sometimes the lanes are so narrow that I have to angle myself to pass through them,” Ms. Mathur said. Because of the dense population and faulty sanitation, tuberculosis and asthma are common. “During community meetings we realized that many women wanted open spaces in their neighborhood and the freedom to be able to go there,” said Ms. Mathur, who also is an urban planner. Before the women’s park was developed, it was an open dumping ground.
“The green stretch of the park is a bit of a solace in the ever-busy, overcrowded slum,” said Jahaanarah, a 32-year-old woman who said she only goes by her first name and who frequents the park with her four children.
The park is divided in half, and the area farthest from the road has been turned into a children’s play area. “The kids fight all the time to use swings and slides first,” said Mumtaz Begum, the 42-year-old caretaker of the park. The other has exercise equipment for the women to use, including a thigh-firming machine. “Women come here to be burqa-free in open air,” said Ms. Begum, “but also to exercise. They are all health conscious.”
Farida Khannum, a professor of Islamic history at the Dr. Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies said the women’s-only park is a welcome addition to Delhi.
“The cultural background and the social setup of these women is such that don’t mingle with men, even socially, the way women in other parts of the city do,” Ms. Khannum said. “Their idea of personal space is different.”
“If the park had not been exclusively for women, the smiles you see on these women’s faces would not be there,” she said. “If you want to service the community, it should be according to the needs of the community.”
On most evenings, Mrs. Khan takes care of her two children, but on a visit to the park this week, she had the responsibility of four more. “They are my sister-in-law’s children,” she said, lightly pushing the swing her daughter was sitting on. “Life used to be hell when relatives came to our tiny home in large numbers,” she said. “Today I have an escape from every frustration and sorrow. I come here and forget the world.”
The final resting place of saint Nizamuddiun Auliya and poet Amir Khusrau is a cultural hub, finds Sudarshana Srinivasan
Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia lived in a small village called Ghiyaspur on the outskirts of Delhi. He lived there for 60 years and was buried there. In his lifetime, he was frequently at loggerheads with the Delhi rulers but was also sought after for advice and blessing. Eight hundred odd years later, the dargah still retains the essence of what it must have been like all those years ago. Today, Ghiyaspur is better known as Nizamuddin.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture along with the Archaeological Survey of India, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Public Works Department is working on the cultural and economic revival of the Nizamuddin basti. It aims to integrate the community with its cultural heritage. To know more visit http://www.nizamuddinrenewal.org/
June 19, 2012 10:02 pm
Aga Khan Trust: Good for people and the planet
By Sarah Murray
Given the difficulties facing Africa’s rapidly expanding urban centres, policy makers might be forgiven for not putting the provision of city parks high on their list of priorities. Yet this is something the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) – the cultural agency of the Aga Khan Development Network – is focusing on in several African cities.
The trust believes parks are vital public spaces whose social and environmental role goes far beyond offering picnic areas or views.
“Obviously, there are many pressing problems in cities, but parks are not just physical spaces,” says Luis Monreal, general manager of the AKTC. “In reality, these cities need social spaces where different populations can meet at leisure.”
In Cairo, the AKTC has used the site of a 500-year-old dump to create a 30-hectare green space, the Al-Azhar Park, which opened in 2005. More recently, the park project was extended to include the restoration of ancient buildings and the 12th-century Ayyubid wall.
In Bamako, the capital of Mali – a city that is home to more than 1m people – the AKTC has rehabilitated a colonial-era botanical garden built by the French. The park encompasses areas of indigenous flora, open lawns, flower gardens, wooded areas and a medicinal garden, as well as jogging and cycling tracks and nature trails.
More recently, in April, the trust signed an agreement with the Kenyan government to take on the restoration of the Nairobi City Park. The idea is to protect from further encroachment a space that, according to Mr Monreal, has already lost 40 per cent of its territory and to restore the park’s physical and ecological infrastructure.
Such projects clearly have environmental benefits. Parks help conserve natural resources and create habitats for wildlife. “These places are tremendous reservoirs of biodiversity,” says Mr Monreal. “A park can
create a microclimate, regulate the rainfall in the city, contribute to aquifers and provide a home to chimpanzees, birds and small mammals.”
In cities, green areas can also mitigate what is known as “urban heat island” – a phenomenon whereby the surfaces of buildings absorb solar radiation and return it to the air as heat. Trees, shrubs and vegetation not only provide shade but also help reduce city temperatures by returning moisture to the atmosphere, preventing the sun’s heat from
being absorbed and retained by buildings.
However, says Mr Monreal, parks serve people, as well as the planet. In addition to providing recreational spaces, he says that they have the potential to become educational resources for schools programmes on ecosystems.
Moreover, in many African cities, open spaces are places that bring together some of the diverse ethnic groups that are increasingly migrating from rural to urban areas. “This multi-ethnicity can generate friction because people lack knowledge of each other,” he says. “Parks are social spaces where family groups can meet in a relaxed
atmosphere at a time of leisure. So in a way they contribute to policies of integration."
240 youth of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti complete vocational training courses
The Agha Khan Trust for culture in partnership with Housing and Urban Development Corporation conceptualised and conducted three to nine-month-long vocational training courses for 240 youngsters and women of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. The courses concluded with a certificate distribution ceremony at a Municipal Corporation of Delhi school here on Thursday.
Significance of restoring the tomb of Babur by AKTC
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Babur, the first Moghul emperor
Wine and tulips in Kabul
Foreign invaders have always had a difficult relationship with Afghanistan. The diary of Babur, the first Moghul emperor, offers some lessons in how to manage—and to enjoy—the place
ON A bright winter’s morning lines of plane trees and immaculately tended rose bushes fall away down terraces where men crash out on carpets and sheepish young couples sit as close together as they dare. The plants are fed by a central water channel, the signature feature of a Moghul garden. Below is the brown smog of Kabul; beyond, snowy mountains.
The tomb of Babur, the first Moghul emperor, blasted and pock marked during the civil war of the 1990s, has been lovingly restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Some visitors come because it is now Kabul’s most tranquil public space; some because Babur is emerging as an unlikely national hero in a country short of leaders worth admiring. People pray at the foot of his low, simple grave. One enthusiast sacrifices a buffalo to him every year, and distributes the meat to the gardeners who tend the place
A 'sufi' message of love, tolerance and pluralism echoed in the bylanes of Nizamuddin Basti when local children took the initiative to preserve their heritage through an improvised form of 'dastangoi'.
An open air setting in the heart of the Basti, with a view of families in the neighbourhood in their balconies and windows and children up in the roofs flying colourful kites, Chausath Khamba provided an ambience apt for a theatre performance of Qissa Baoli ka (The Story behind the Baoli).
It also served another objective – the reuse of a dilapidated space for cultural events centred on themes associated with the Basti.
Around 40 children from the Basti, who were shortlisted after auditions by the Urdu Academy, tried to make the story of the construction of Hazrat Nizamuddin Baoli, built in the 14th century despite objections from king Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, came alive last weekend in a culmination of a 45-day theatre workshop.
The 50-minute play was an Aga Khan Trust for Culture initiative in the form of Urban Renewal project that aims at improving the quality of life of residents and collaboration between AKTC and Urdu Academy for past two years has seen children and youth from the Basti getting trained in theatre
Nizamuddin Basti: Centuries-old Delhi urban sprawl lives in secular harmony
By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, June 28 - As the summer heat settles on Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti every morning, the 700-year-old urban sprawl in south Delhi comes to life blurring the boundary between the past and present. It is a strange cluster of old Mughal buildings, archaeological relics and new concrete homes that exist in secular harmony in the Indian capital.
The government schools open shutters, a gymnasium for Muslim women sees its first batch troop in to get into shape, the health care clinics, vocational training schools and computer centres begin their grind for the day.
Last weekend, 240 women and youths of Nizamuddin Basti were awarded certificates for successfully completing job-oriented skill training.
A universe of contemporary livelihoods flourishes around the 16th century mausoleum of the scholar-king Humayun in the Nizamuddin Basti, restored to its original glory by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture under a 20-year integrated project.
Community health programme ‘Sehat Aapaa’ identifies women and children in need of medical intervention
On some days she has the door slammed in her face, on some days she is treated with suspicion. There have been mishaps on the job, and several unpleasant instances, yet, each time she reaches out to a woman in need of help, all misgivings are forgotten.
Meet Shabnam -- also known as ‘Sehat Aapaa’-- a community health worker who goes door-to-door identifying expectant women and children in need of medical intervention in Delhi’s Nizamuddin basti. “Sometimes people don’t allow me in, sometimes women are suspicious and want to know why I offer to take them to a dispensary for check-up or help them procure medicines. It is hard to cajole pregnant women and their families to agree for health checks and proper medication,” said Shabnam, who is one of the nine others who work as ‘Sehat Aapaa’ as part of the community health programme being run by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture under its Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Initiative. The community health care project was started in January this year, after the Trust learnt of poor maternal and children facilities in the basti.
International philanthropic organisation Aga Khan Trust for Culture, in collaboration with the Urdu Academy, is hosting a play of historical significance in Delhi next month
The play seeks to highlight how masons succeeded in constructing the baoli for revered Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.
Boasting of a 700-year-long living culture Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti seems to have forgotten, the children of this area are trying to revive its historic importance through this play. Forty children from the basti will perform and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will be invited to the event.
According to director Nadeem Khan, the play will propagate the Sufi message of love, tolerance, pluralism. It will basically tell how masons, who were building the fort at Tughlaqabad for Tughlaq king Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq during the daytime, worked at night to construct the baoli for Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.
Plans to integrate the 16th-century Nila Gumbad with Humayun’s Tomb complex have finally got off the ground with the signing of a MoU between the ASI & railways which allows the service road bifurcating the two monuments to be shifted to the other side of Nila Gumbad. The work is being undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) & will also include repairing of cracks and tile work on the dome, reopening of doorways now blocked with masonry, removal of cement repairs made in the 20th century, restoration of the decorative plasterwork, & rebuilding of collapsed portions of the northern & western arcade walls.
The Council of Europe "Cultural Event" label recognises exceptional and innovative cultural and artistic projects which address key challenges of today’s European societies and convey strong messages related to the Council of Europe’s mission and values.
The following projects have been awarded with the Council of Europe “Cultural Event” label for 2012:
1. The Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) for its "Creation, Performance and Outreach Programme” which contributes to the revitalization of cultural heritage of traditional music forms in Central Asia, Caucasus, Europe, North Africa and North America by connecting musicians and educational institutions. AKMI organises concerts and produces DVDs and CDs of a high artistic level. AKMI’s contributes greatly to the Council of Europe’s work on intercultural dialogue and the “Artists in Dialogue” initiative.
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