TCF and Pakistan Arts Council present ‘A Tribute to Faiz’ in Los Angeles
TCF and Pakistan Arts Council present ‘A Tribute to Faiz’ in Los Angeles. Pictures by Anwar Khawaja
Urdu and Faiz enthusiasts in Southern California were recently treated to a rare afternoon performance by the legendary Zia Mohyeddin as he paid a centennial tribute to Pakistan’s eminent poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
The venue was the serene surroundings of Pomona College in Claremont and the event was jointly organized by The Citizens Foundation, USA (www.tcfusa.org) and the Pakistan Arts Council of the Pacific Asia Museum.
Faiz, whose nationalistic poetry resounds with a plea for justice for the downtrodden and exploited masses, was internationally recognized as a recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962. His life and works are being celebrated widely, especially in the South Asian communities in North America, with programs commemorating the centennial.
Inviting Zia Mohyeddin to Canada and the US to honor the memory of Faiz was initiated by TCF and Zia Sahib took a couple of weeks away from his busy professional schedule to deliver the tribute at TCF events in Toronto, San Francisco and Los Angeles on this brief tour.
In keeping with Faiz’s iconic image as the champion of the poor, TCF’s mission is to support education for underprivileged Pakistani children. Appropriately, this Faiz celebration was billed as a TCF community outreach program, to draw attention to the plight of the impoverished majority in the brutal cycle of illiteracy, poverty and a bleak future.
The program started off with a brief yet eloquent TCF presentation by Vice President Dr. Ahson Rabbani who characterized the problem of poor national education as one of Pakistan’s major problems and one which needs to be solved primarily by Pakistanis at home and the Diaspora, with help from friends and well-wishers of Pakistan. Dr. Rabbani highlighted the generosity of Pakistani-American donors and reiterated that more than 75 of the 738 TCF schools had been funded by US donors.
The ‘Tribute to Faiz’ was center stage next with Zia Mohyeddin’s inimitable recitation of some of Faiz’s letters to his wife Alice during his incarceration in the Rawalpindi jail on trumped up charges of treason. Interspersed tastefully in the letters were Faiz’s verses delivered by the versatile Zia Sahib who skillfully brought the program full circle by reading a letter from a TCF donor, illustrating the enormous positive changes in the donor’s village since the arrival of a TCF school in the rural community.
The evening ended with social milling of guests at a sumptuous reception hosted by PAC and sale of Faiz books and CDs by TCF.
With a long list of movies and television shows to his credit, Zia Mohyeddin is a master exponent of his art form. Yet, having seen him live a number of times and having heard several recordings of his narrative performances, one is still in awe of his craft to make characters come to life with his voice -- from writers as diverse as Saadat Hassan Mantu to William Shakespeare, holding the audience spellbound as he narrates the very essence of poets and thinkers like Ghalib and Faiz. Witnessing a Zia Mohyeddin ‘Tribute to Faiz’, one also becomes aware that Zia Sahib’s personal relationship with Faiz plus his affection for Faiz Sahib’s ideology and work do, perhaps, add another level of poignancy to his recitation of Faiz.