Our Fashion Industry is big, it is dynamic and it is growing. Our fashion folks have been successfully able to take Pakistani designs to the rest of the world. From FashionTV to Style360, they’re getting coverage, fame and accolades. But hey, while we say that Pakistani culture has gone beyond borders through fashion, the question is, Do we actually have a culture? Many will be offended at this question and will come up with the obvious answers (which are obvious to them only). The (not so obvious) answers are way off from each other though, owning bits from Arab, Turkish, Indian and the (what they call) Islamic culture.
I met a TV channel owner who was, what I can call, Pakistanist. He proudly wanted me to do a show about Pakistani Culture, which we did. But deep down, we both knew that we’re not promoting a culture, instead we’re searching for one. It seemed that jumping from one tree to another, finding a few answers but, sadly we didn’t get all the answers. From politics to education, religion to culture, we’re either polarized, divided or extremists.
Culture is meant to evolve and I don’t mind seeing colors of many cultures infused into one’s own culture. The problem I see with the (so called) Pakistani culture is that there is not one integrated set of elements that can clearly be termed as “Pakistani”. The world easily recognizes Indian, Arabic, Chinese cultures, but when it’s Pakistan’s turn they confuse it with Indian, Afghani, Arabic cultures. While many genres and forms in Music, Dance, Dress, Food etc are shared with other countries, there is one element we can proudly call exclusively Pakistani… “Truck Art”. It will be good to build on Truck Art to establish a set of cultural elements that can be ‘owned’.
Every nation requires unique elements in Music, Food, Style etc to identify itself and set itself apart from others. Generally it’s evolved through centuries but we’re a newborn nation so we can’t let time decide it for us. Somewhere someone will have to take the responsibility to draft a culture, to debate on it and then to take it to the rest of the world. Some intent by the state authorities could be seen in the first few years of this new millennium, but it has stopped again. Failing to figure out what’s our own and what could be owned, we will continue to fight upon imported cultures and ideologies.
I will find another time to actually identify more elements of culture that we can own, but for now, let us try to understand the value of an owned culture. Something that is derived from an inclusive ideology, something that radiates the diversity of our Indus hospitality, something that is uniquely ‘ours’. That is the only way we will be able to bring people together. If we’re able to sow a culture of inclusion and tolerance, most of our divides and extremes will erode with time. But if we fail to do this, we shall continue to use arms against the ideology and culture of exclusion and hatred.
Once we’re able to do this, the media and fashion industry will soon feel easy and proud of promoting ‘our own’ culture. The confusion is not helping the industries, so maybe, just maybe, (while our state departments fail at it) the fashion and media gurus can join heads and draft a Pakistani culture with intent.
I’ll write more on it very soon. Till then,you can help point out those elements which are exclusively ‘Pakistani’ (like truck art).