Sunday, 17th December 2017

Chipping away at history: Ancient rock carvings falling prey to disfigurement


GILGIT: More than 30,000 ancient rock carvings dotting Chilas town of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) are expected to be lost forever, submerged in the reservoir water of the proposed 4,500 megawatt Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

This is slated to happen at least a decade from now when the dam is ready to begin production. However, negligence on the part of locals and government departments is hastening the elimination of precious historic art and depictions, especially along the Karakoram Highway. Graffiti and advertisements have been painted over several ancient inscriptions, some dating back to the ninth millennium BCE (roughly the late Stone Age).

 “There have been a growing number of incidents of slogans painted on rocks carved with ancient inscriptions,” said Mujeeb Ahmed, a resident of Chilas. “This is perhaps because locals are not aware of the historic significance of these inscriptions.”

Mostly, the writings and art are engraved on big boulders or cliffs and cannot be relocated, while many have been damaged by excavation and painted messages, a problem which seems to have escaped the relevant officials’ attention.

 “We do not have reports of new graffiti. But there are standing orders against drawing or painting over the rock inscriptions,” said Home Secretary Sibtain Ahmed, adding if they find any such violations they will take action.

The site expected to be submerged by the dam’s reservoir is reportedly home to thousands of pre-historic inscriptions in Brahmi, Sogdian, middle Persia, Chinese, Tibetan and even ancient Hebrew.

According to a report prepared by the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), areas with the most important rock carvings are close to Chilas, Thalpan, Ges Bala and Ges Pain and Shing.

The 2009 report titled Impact on rock carvings and proposed mitigation states more than 31,000 rock carvings — on more than 5,000 stones — have been inventoried in the project site and will be submerged by the reservoir. Access to these carvings and inscriptions is difficult, making the relocation of heavy stones and boulders for preservation a non-feasible idea.

The report suggests the basic approach should be to document the most important (from the scientific point of view) rock carving objects. “The selection of 125 carvings under this category has been made by German scientists as a result of an understanding reached with the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2015.

Burushaski is a strange language



The picturesque valleys of northern Pakistan are the cradles of many strange languages and cultures. The languages spoken here — virtually little explored just like these valleys —include Balti, Shina, Khuwar, Wakhi, Pahari, Burushaski and many others. Burushaski is perhaps the strangest of them all.

In addition to the valleys of Hunza, Nagar and Yasin, Burushaski is also spoken in some parts of Gilgit, with slightly different accents and dialectic features. The interest in this obscure language among Pakistani scholars is recent phenomenon but Burushaski had courted a considerable attention at international level quite long ago. Some European scholars have carried out extensive research on Burushaski.

According to 'Jareeda', a research journal published by the University of Karachi's Bureau of Compilation, Composition & Translation, George Morgenstierne wrote in his 'Report on a linguistic mission to North West India' (Oslo, 1932) that a scholar named David L. R. Lorimer had done earliest research on Burushaski and Morgenstierne himself compared Burushaski phonology with its neighbouring languages. But Hermann Berger, a German scholar who carried out a long and profound research on the language in the late 1950s and 1960s, wrote that Burushaski is quite different from the languages spoken in the neighbouring areas and has no resemblance with them, not even with the languages that might be considered akin to it, such as Balti. Caucasian languages are the ones with which Burushaski has any similarity, if at all, wrote Berger.

Based on his own research, Berger published a book on Burushaski grammar in 1974. He did extensive research on the Yasin accent and Gilgit-Hunza accent of the language. There are other scholars who have written much, all in all dozens of books, on Burushaski's grammar, vocabulary, phonetics and semantics. A list of such works was published in issue 30 of 'Jareeda'. The journal published some very informative and useful papers on Burushaski in its 21st issue as well. Despite all this research, the nature and origin of Burushaski language remains a mystery as it has defied all classifications and experts still consider it an unclassified language.

The people speaking Burushaski as mother tongue are known as Burusho and live in Karachi too in a large number. Historically speaking, the Burusho people and their language had long been shrouded in the mist of mystery when it comes to their lineage and origin. There have been different theories one of which says that old Burusho were the offspring of three soldiers who had come to the area along with the troops of Alexander the Great. These three soldiers fell ill and stayed on and settled there. Another legend has it that the ancestors of Burushos might have migrated from Iran. Yet another theory suggests that Burusho people are an offshoot of 'Hoon' tribe that lived in the northern and western parts of China. Some of them migrated to Hungary and some settled in the Himalayan valleys and parts of Karakoram range.

The similarity between some words and family names in the Hungarian language and Burushaski has been confirmed by some Hungarian scholars which lends credibility to the theory that some of these people migrated to Hungary and rest of them settled in the areas that now make a part of northern Pakistan. Many Burusho scholars believe that the origin of Hunza is in fact 'Hoon za' which in turn is a distorted pronunciation of Persian 'Hoon zad' or 'Hoon zada', which means 'born of Hoon, the tribe'. Burushaski has some similarity with French language as far as counting and digits are concerned.

Burushaski is a language that feels and records even the slightest differences in the meanings. It has, for example, three different words to say 'the sound of opening a door', each one describing the intensity of the process, telling whether it produced a very slight sound, a slight sound or a loud one. Not recording such a sensitive language in the form of a dictionary would have been callous, so Berger compiled Burushaski's first ever dictionary in collaboration with Naseeruddin Hunzai. Comprising some 50,000 words, it was a Burushaski-German dictionary. Incidentally, all the research material on Burushaski language and culture had been published abroad and in Pakistan there was little material available in Urdu on Burushaski aside from volume number 14 of the Punjab University's encyclopaedia of Urdu literature. It includes just one article on Burushaski and that too elaborated more on the history of the area rather than the language. German and Canadian universities had published extensive research works on the language and Karachi University has now taken the lead in Pakistan by publishing vital information on the language in Urdu. Another feat achieved by Karachi University's Bureau of Compilation, Composition & Translation is the publication of the first ever Burushaski-Urdu dictionary. Published under the guidance of Naseeruddin Hunzai and compiled by the scholars of Burushaski Research Academy, The 'Awwaleen Burushaski-Urdu Dictionary' comprises 60,000 words and spreads over three volumes. The first volume was published a few years ago and now the second volume has appeared.

During the launching ceremony of the second volume held in Karachi recently, the audience were informed by office-bearers of the academy that the third and the last volume was in the pipeline and would soon be published. They also intend to compile a dictionary of Yasin-accent of Burushaski. Bravo!

The article was first published in Dawn a couple of years back. It is reproduce for readers interest

World Making Progress Against Hunger, Report Finds, but Large Pockets of Undernourished Persist


That's because the world's farmers grow 700 more calories per person than the World Food Programme's daily recommended 2,100 calories—an abundance of plants and animals that surpasses the daily needs of the world's 7.2 billion people.

In most places, the challenge is access. Global access to food is improving overall, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizationreleased Tuesday, yet challenges in the developing world—from poor infrastructure and political instability to erratic weather and long-term changes in climate—are keeping 805 million people from having enough to eat.

"The problem is getting smaller," says Josef Schmidhuber, an economist with the FAO who compiled part of the report, an annual measure of undernourishment around the world. "It's good news, but we have always had a more ambitious target."

Since 1990, the proportion of people without access to enough quality food has dropped from one in five to nearly one in ten. Despite steep population growth worldwide during that period, that amounts to 210 million fewer undernourished people alive today.

Still, large concentrations of undernourished people remain. The continent with the highest rate of undernourishment is Africa, where one in five people have too little access to nutritious food. In the Central African Republic, where the new report says that 38 percent of the population is undernourished, an ongoing civil war has led to widespread displacement. This in turn has led to disruptions in the food supply and distribution.

In Zambia (which is 48 percent undernourished), a leading culprit is infrastructure, according to the WFP. Less than 20 percent of the population has access to a durable road.

Asia, meanwhile, has the highest total number of undernourished people, led by India with 191 million. That number, however, has declined by more than 20 million since 1990, even while the country's population has increased 383 million to 1.25 billion.

Researchers from the FAO and the WFP note that parts of Africa and Asia are plagued by low income, poor agricultural development, and few social safety nets. In some countries, such as North Korea, the political climate limits trade and food aid.

Tuesday's report focuses on food insecurity, and FAO officials distinguish between hunger and undernourishment.

Hunger is marked by stomach pangs and general fatigue. Undernourishment, which is a chronic physical condition, can lead someone to be underweight for his or her age, stunted in growth, and deficient in vitamins and minerals. Undernourishment often affects large communities and even entire countries where enough quality food isn't available.

The western hemisphere has almost uniformly decreased undernourishment, according to the new report. Yet the highest rate in the world—52 percent—belongs to Haiti. According to the WFP, an earthquake in 2010, followed by several hurricanes in 2012 and a drought in 2014, have limited Haiti's capacity to get enough food to its people

Balochi Embroidery- an Ancient Art


Balochistan is the largest province in terms of area. No other part of Pakistan can match the rich variety of stitches in traditional embroidery created by the women and also well-known from the oldest civilization of the world” Mehrgarh” and its rich Balochi culture.

Balochi embroidery is one of the oldest in the history. Balochi female dresses are very famous because of their unique embroidery patterns adopted from the very native land.

The art, which involves the use of threads with unfaded colors, beads and tiny mirrors, has been passed down for many generations. One can easily link the motifs used in the dress making back to 7000 millennium B.C Mehrgarh civilization. Same type of motifs can be seen on the pottery excavated from the site of Mehrgarh. This is an integral part of the Baloch culture.

The Baloch traditional dress is called “Pashk”. The areas where such kind of embroidery is made are Makran, Kalat, Mastung, Noshki,
kohlu, DeraBugti, Sibi, JhalMagsi and kuzdar. An average dress takes 3 to 9 months to get completed. The price of a dress varies from design to design, ranging from 3000 to 45000 rupees.

The most striking feature of the women’s costume is the handmade embroidery covering the front of the dress and the cuffs of the
sleeves and trousers. These embroidered pieces are prepared separately and later sewn onto the dresses. The piece for the front of the bodice is square and extends across the entire front from shoulders to waist. Another rectangular piece (Goptan) extends from the waist to the hem of the dress and comes to a point at the top. The sides of this piece are left unstitched for approximately 30 cm so that it can function as a large vertical pocket.

It is a very difficult and time consuming work said “jannatbibi” who makes and sells such dresses. “I make one dress a year and I get paid when the dress is completed. This is my routine for the last 20 years,” she said. Name of Some of the popular embroideries are worth mentioning such as “Kapuk, Panch, Thaitookh, Jallar, Mehrab, Kantolo, Chandanohar, Mirchok o chamok, Morg-o-paanch, Gad-o-band, Jadok, Chamkali, Arif-e-chadar and Dillobitab. “The girls and older women of the Baloch areas in the interiors do not use charts or diagrams but create extremely complex designs in a random manner using the creative window of their brain. They are guided by the family members and elders who are already into the business.

Meanwhile, selection of colours and designs of embroidered clothes differs from person to person rather than from area to area. One can easily judge the place of creation of the embroidery by its unmatchable patterns. The embroidered dress is weared by both young and older women. Whereas young girls prefer wearing embroideries in bright colours like pink, green, orange, yellow etc., the older women wear dark colours like blue, black or brown and according to the Baloch tradition it is compulsory for widows to wear black or dark colors.

Balochi dresses are brought to the provincial capital Quetta where these dresses are bought by the dealers involved in the selling of traditional costumes for a very tiny amount. Later, the same dresses are sold on exorbitant prices without paying a reasonable remuneration to their creators.

These dresses have a huge value inside country as well as abroad, especially in Gulf countries, said “Haji Gulamnabi” who exports these dresses to Gulf countries. However, for want of publicity and marketing, this unique and valuable art remains hidden from the eyes of glob yet which would otherwise serve as a lucrative industry for the very creators of the art. A proper marketing strategy, therefore, seems a sine qua non for a better promotion of this unique work.

Moreover, government, on its part, should also take initiative to promote this worldwide by arranging exhibitions within country and abroad. Proper schools should be established where this legacy should be taught to the newcomers so that the people associated with this art form can get the reward for their work unrivaled creativity easily and justifiably.


Nadav Kander: Radioactive ruins of secret Soviet towns


In the silent landscape, a low crackle accompanied the shutter clicks of Nadav Kander’s camera. It was an urgent sound, one he couldn’t ignore: it signalled the ghostly presence of radiation. For his latest project Dust, now on display at theFlowers Gallery in London, the photographer travelled to an area on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan. Until 2006, it was off the map. “Google Earth discovered these secret cities that the maps had never shown,” says Kander. “They had been closed for many years.” (All pictures: Nadav Kander, courtesy Flowers Gallery London and New York)


05/02/2015, 15:08 OUTPOST
chipping-away-at-history-ancient-rock-carvings-falling-prey-to-disfigurement GILGIT: More than 30,000 ancient rock carvings dotting Chilas town of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) are expected to be lost forever, submerged in the reservoir...
11/01/2015, 00:28 OUTPOST
burushaski-is-a-strange-language BY RAUF PAREKH The picturesque valleys of northern Pakistan are the cradles of many strange languages and cultures. The languages spoken here —...
16/09/2014, 21:51 OUTPOST
balochi-embroidery-an-ancient-art Balochistan is the largest province in terms of area. No other part of Pakistan can match the rich variety of stitches in traditional embroidery...
16/09/2014, 21:45 OUTPOST
world-making-progress-against-hunger-report-finds-but-large-pockets-of-undernourished-persist That's because the world's farmers grow 700 more calories per person than the World Food Programme's daily recommended 2,100 calories—an abundance of...
16/09/2014, 20:09 OUTPOST
nadav-kander-radioactive-ruins-of-secret-soviet-towns In the silent landscape, a low crackle accompanied the shutter clicks of Nadav Kander’s camera. It was an urgent sound, one he couldn’t ignore: it...
16/09/2014, 00:24 OUTPOST
pictorial-phindek-cultural-revival-festival-held-in-chitral Chitral, September 6: Traditional festival ‘Phindik’ was held in Parkusap, a picturesque village located in the Mastuj Valley, of Chitral district. The...