Lisbon, Portugal, 5 June 2002 — The Minister of Culture, Dr. Pedro Roseta and the First Lady, Maria Jose Ritta were amongst the distinguished guests who last night joined Her Highness Begum Inaara Aga Khan at a concert and exhibition from Tajikistan at the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon.
Expressions of the Pamir includes a performance by twenty-five professional artistes of music, song and dance reflecting traditions of mountain peoples of Central Asia presented for the first time ever in Portugal. It also includes an exhibition of artefacts highlighting various aspects of the region’s material culture ranging from art, textiles, costumes, photographs and even a traditional “yurt” (tent).
“Events of recent months have provoked a genuine interest in Islam,” said Prof. Azim Nanji, Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London which has sponsored the European tour, “yet there is still considerable misunderstanding of its diverse cultures and traditions.” “Expressions of the Pamir provides a glimpse into the rich heritage of music, dance, song and art of Central Asia, but also into the multi-dimensionality of Muslim societies and cultures.”
The exhibition and performances draw on the traditions of Badakhshan which are shared across North-eastern Afghanistan, Eastern Tajikistan, Western China and Northern Pakistan. The Pamir Mountains have seen momentous events in the history of Central Asia. Even before Alexander the Great invaded the area, the region was the crossroads of diverse civilisations. Mountain societies living in the region, through which the Silk Route runs, have sustained a rich legacy of art and culture that draws on those civilisations.
Commenting on “the beauty and strength of the Pamiri music and dances,” Culture Minister Pedro Roseta said “we are building the new Portugal in plurality and diversity.” “The Portuguese,” he said, “are open to the world,” recalling that “fortunately, history enabled us to be the people who promoted the encounter among men and civilisations.” “ The earliest ‘globalisation’ was effected by us and, therefore, we have an additional responsibility to promote this spirit of mutual interchange and sharing of knowledge.”
Describing one of the sources of inspiration for the long intellectual tradition that characterises the cultural expressions of people of this region, Nazir Din, President of the Ismaili Council for Portugal said “enlightened societies are tolerant, have their vitality based on diversity and protect the weak and the poor. A thousand years ago, the Ismaili philosopher-poet Nasir-i-Khusraw found in the Pamir mountains a society that was open to new ideas and that has, over the years, despite repression, developed a mutual understanding and respect for different traditions of their own faith and for the faith of others.”
Expressions of the Pamir, which has been presented across the United States and Canada, has already been to Birmingham, London and Paris and heads to Dusseldorf after its tour in Lisbon.
The Institute of Ismaili Studies, founded in 1977 by His Highness the Aga Khan, promotes scholarship and learning on Islam, with an emphasis on Shi’ism in general and its Ismaili tariqah (path) in particular, and a better understanding of their relationship with other faiths and societies. Its programmes, informed by the full range of diversity within Islam, explore the relationship of religious ideas to broader dimensions of society and culture, paying particular attention to issues of modernity. It also encourages an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Islamic history and thought. In pursuit of its objectives, the Institute collaborates with other institutions of learning.
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