Sikh pilgrims visit Pakistan to celebrate Baisakhi festival

1 / 7
Sikh pilgrims take part in Baisakhi festival along with their families at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, a city located near Islamabad. (AN photo by Aamir Shah)
2 / 7
Sikh pilgrims take part in Baisakhi festival along with their families at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, a city located near Islamabad. (AN photo by Aamir Shah)
3 / 7
Sikh pilgrims take part in Baisakhi festival along with their families at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, a city located near Islamabad. (AN photo by Aamir Shah)
4 / 7
Sikh pilgrims take part in Baisakhi festival along with their families at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, a city located near Islamabad. (AN photo by Aamir Shah)
5 / 7
Sikh pilgrims take part in Baisakhi festival along with their families at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, a city located near Islamabad. (AN photo by Aamir Shah)
6 / 7
Sikh pilgrims take part in Baisakhi festival along with their families at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, a city located near Islamabad. (AN photo by Aamir Shah)
7 / 7
Sikh pilgrims take part in Baisakhi festival along with their families at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, a city located near Islamabad. (AN photo by Aamir Shah)
Updated 16 April 2018
0

Sikh pilgrims visit Pakistan to celebrate Baisakhi festival

  • Thousands of Sikh pilgrims from India and other parts of the world visit Pakistan to celebrate the festival
  • Pilgrims say they pray for peace and hope to see Pakistan and India as good neighbors

ISLAMABAD: Sikh pilgrims from India and other parts of the world have been visiting Pakistan to participate in the annual Baisakhi festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, a city located some 45 kilometers northwest of Islamabad.

Some 3,000 Sikhs have come from India through Wagah border on special trains, while 1,000 pilgrims arrived from other parts of the world — including Canada — to visit the famous shrine where their founder, Guru Nanak, is believed to have imprinted his handprint on a boulder there.

“We are very happy to come here and see a peaceful Pakistan,” Ajit Singh, one of the pilgrims, told Arab News.

Ajit Singh is in Hasan Abdal for the first time, to celebrate the Baisakhi festival here. He is planning to visit other sacred places as well as other parts of Pakistan during his visit.

“We pray for peace in our region,” he said. “We hope both Pakistan and India will forget their enmity and work together for betterment and prosperity of their people.”

But the arrival of Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan has triggered a controversy between the two South Asian countries. 

India’s External Affairs Ministry claimed that the administration in Islamabad had “prevented” its High Commissioner from meeting the visiting Sikh pilgrims.

In response, Pakistan’s Foreign Office released a statement saying that India’s High Commissioner was invited to the main function of Baisakhi and Khalsa Janamdin at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib, but there was “strong resentment among segments of Sikh Yatrees, gathered there from different parts of the world, protesting the release in India of some film on Baba Guru Nanak Devji” which they objected to.

Given the “emotionally charged environment and the possibility of any untoward situation”, said the statement by the foreign office, the relevant Pakistani authorities contacted the Indian High Commission officials and suggested the cancelation of the diplomat’s visit.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony, along with other relevant government departments, has made facilities available to pilgrims at the site including accommodation, food, medical doctors and currency exchange.

Tanuj Singh, another pilgrim, has visited Pakistan several times with his family members to celebrate the Baisakhi festival.

“We come here every year and are thankful to the government and people of Pakistan for well maintaining all our religious sites and gurdwaras (Sikhs places of worship),” he told Arab News.

Tanuj Singh urged the governments of Pakistan and India to normalize their relations through dialogue and join hands together for peace in the region. “Every religion of the world teaches peace and harmony, so we should all act upon those teachings to make this world a peaceful place to live in,” he said.

During their ten-day stay in Pakistan, the Sikh pilgrims will also visit a number of other sacred places as well in other parts of the country, including Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur cities.

The arrival of Sikh pilgrims from India and other parts of the world marked a significant development in religious tourism in Pakistan, said Sajjad Qamar, spokesperson for the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony.

“The participation of Sikh pilgrims in the festival in large numbers shows their confidence and faith in renewed peace in Pakistan,” he said, adding that the government had been trying its best to provide maximum facilities to the pilgrims during their stay.

Qamar told Arab News that his ministry, along with provincial governments, had been reaching out to countries like China, Vietnam and South Korea among others to increase religious tourism in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is home to holy places of almost all religions, including Sikhism and Buddhism,” he said. “We hope to see a manifold increase in religious tourism in the coming months and years.”

Tight security measures were implemented in and around Gurdwara Panja Sahib where the Sikh pilgrims gathered to celebrate the festival.

“We are thankful to the people for the great hospitality and we will go back with the message of peace and love from Pakistan,” Param, a pilgrim from India, told Arab News.


29-year-old Saudi designer breaks down barriers between fashion and art

Updated 21 July 2018
0

29-year-old Saudi designer breaks down barriers between fashion and art

  • Art meets fashion in these thought-provoking sneaker designs, thanks to a Saudi designer with a foot in both worlds
  • The Nou Project is anything but a traditional Saudi sneaker brand — the shoes are unisex.

DUBAI: A university project turned lifelong career is not what Riyadh-born Nour Al-Tamimi had in mind when she first stepped into the world of art.
But the 29-year-old designer has managed to do just that, breaking down the barriers between fashion and art with striking clothing designs. Now Al-Tamimi has created the Kingdom’s first sneaker brand, which “speaks the truth” by featuring striking and often thought-provoking  artwork.

The Nou Project is anything but a traditional Saudi sneaker brand — the shoes are unisex. “That was the biggest thing for me, being Saudi,” Al-Tamimi said. “I was excited to come up with something that was unisex, something that Saudi men and women could wear as equals. People asked about creating flats or cute clutch bags — but I wanted to appeal to both sexes and have them find a common ground.”

Al-Tamimi’s artistic journey began at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts in Boston, where she gained a bachelor of fine arts. Soon after, she was on her way to Milan, where she was awarded a master’s in fashion at the renowned Istituto Marangoni. Later, in Los Angeles, she pursued a master’s in art business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. “I was always into art and fashion,” Al-Tamimi said.  “I ended up doing my last semester in New York City, where I got blisters from walking around in flat shoes or stilettos. That’s whenI realized I wanted to invest in a cool pair of sneakers for daily use.”

Riyadh-born Nour Al-Tamimi

As part of the course, Al-Tamimi had to develop a business plan for a project to benefit the art world. That was when her idea came to life. “I thought it would be cool to cater to sneaker-heads and art collectors,” she said. “I wanted to have really cool sneakers with limited art and to have art on a different platform. New York, as a city, was inspirational, and it became about combining my passion for art and fashion.”

Following her graduation, Al-Tamimi spent time at an art market website that collaborated with artists to produce furniture and other household items. “It was a valuable experience,” she said. “I decided to make my business plan a reality and I met my co-creative director Basma Chidiac in New York.”

Featuring pop and street art, Al-Tamimi’s leather shoes became an instant hit. One design features water pistols by artist James Rawson, whose work addresses issues of the past 50 years, including over-consumption and global inequality.

Another favorite and a bestseller for the Nou Project includes work by Eric Yahnker with his “AirObama Cares” — a portrait of former US president Barack Obama “giving the finger”. Yahnker used gouache, a paintbrush, colored pencils and a roll of watercolor paper to create what he calls “a crude gesture that many of us may wish he would use, but are grateful he doesn’t.” Although Al-Tamimi loved the idea, the gesture caused some doubts.
“I showed it to my mother, who asked how I could put that on a shoe and wondered what people would think or say,” she said. “But it became our bestseller, so it’s important to remember that art is all about things that are shocking. It’s about commenting on current affairs and pointing out issues.”

The designer received requests from customers in Miami suggesting an artwork of Trump blow-drying his hair. “Those shoes point to the value of art and art history,” she said.

One of Al-Tamimi’s favorite pieces is by fellow Saudi artist Rexchouk, who works out of a SoHo studio in New York and has been featured in the artist program of the Walton Fine Arts Gallery in London.

“I admired his courage and the way he never studied art but knew this was his passion and what he wanted to do,” she said. “It’s really nice to support each other as Saudis.

He is one of the artists who means a lot to me. But I love them all — I was really excited about our collaboration with the Untitled Art Fair in Miami last December because we did 55 pairs with three artists showcasing there.”

Although the journey has been challenging for Al-Tamimi since she started in 2015, it has been worthwhile. “I had no idea this would become my life today,” she said. “It’s exciting to be the first Saudi sneaker brand — that’s a milestone in itself.” The designer believes the opening of art galleries in both Riyadh and Jeddah will make it easier for aspiring Saudi artists to enter the market. “I’m so proud of all of them,” Al-Tamimi said.

“I would tell young Saudi women looking to start their own business to work with other startups as they encourage each other to grow. We are all in a creative industry, so helping each other out will help you to stay ahead of the game.”

Decoder

What is the Nou Project?

It is an artist-designed sneaker brand featuring illustrated pieces that turn footwear into wearable art. Conceived by Riyadh-born Nour Al-Tamimi and creative director Lebanese Basma Chidiac, the brand supports emerging artists by providing them with a platform to gain recognition. With minimal lines and stitching, the high-top grain leather sneakers are presented as a blank canvas for each artist to creatively showcase their artwork. The limited-edition sneakers are numbered from one to 300, making each pair a collectible. Inspired by asphalt and street art, the soles feature a unique grainy recycled rubber. In future, a portion of the revenue will be donated to a charity selected in collaboration with each artist. Nou Project sneakers can be found on www.thenouproject.co