Sculpture & Decorative Arts

Indus Valley civilization provides us with some of the first sculptures in the world today. In its ruins bronze and stone statues of all sizes have been found. The most famous of these are the statues of the dancing girl. See picture below.

A 4500 year old statuette of a Dancing Girl
Photo Source URL Link:

In the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE Buddhism became the dominate way of life in the area and with it came new style of sculptures. As the region of present day Afghanistan/ Pakistan lay at the cross-roads of various civilizations, new techniques and style brought by invading armies, and artist began to get synthesized with local know-how. Over centuries this resulted in the rise of the of Gandhara school, which lasted from the 6th century BCE to the 11th century CE in and around the Peshawar Valley. The most famous of the Gandhara statues is the statue of the Fasting Buddha, currently located at the Lahore museum. See Picture below.

Fasting Buddha
Photo Source: National Funds for Cultural Heritage Pakistan


Terra cotta clay and stone figures, as well as utilitarian and decorative works, have been found throughout the region and are part of Pakistan’s rich collection of antiquities.

Today, sculptural and installations include geometric sculptures in metal and wood. Sculptures are also influenced by forms taken from the Arabic script and the Quran.  Pakistani sculptors use a variety of material including concrete, fiberglass, bronze and steel to create works ranging from small items to giant monuments.

Quest For Peace Series- Fiberglass by Rabia Zubedi
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To read more about Sculptors in Pakistan please click here.

To visit the website of Sculptor Rabia Zubedi please click here.

To watch a video of Pakistan’s eminent sculptor Anjum Ayaz please click here.

Decorative Arts in Pakistan: Ceramics and glazed pottery are among the oldest art forms in Pakistan. Engraving intricate designs into the undercoating of the pottery and then glazing it with colored transparent glazes is one of the most popular techniques used. Decorative arts in Pakistan also includes metalwork, jewelry leatherwork and basketry.

For more details on the decorative arts tradition of Pakistan please click here.


Pakistan boasts a rich and diverse history of handicrafts. Each region showcases its own unique style and skill through color and design of handicrafts ranging from fabric, material, embroidery, jewelry, carving, mirror work, and much more. While Pakistani Handicraft and art forms are influenced by intermingling of cultures the Mughal aesthetic and the Islamic art form, which emphasizes perfect synchronization, balance and order depicted through floral and geometric designs is the most visible.

For a detailed look into the handicraft of Pakistan please visit this highly informative site of The Encyclopedia of Intangible Cultural Heritage here.

In Sindh the range of handicraft products include ajrak, ceramics, articles made of date leaves, farassi rugs, jandi, khes, musical instruments, caps, straw products, bangles, crucia work, embroideries, kashi, rilli, Thari carpets and woodcarving.  Previously, many of the province’s women were engaged in handicraft making and houses were turned into small workshops. Cotton industry became a major source of income for the people. Yet during the last 15-20 years, handicrafts production declined because of weakening demand, and lack of strategic planning for revival of the indigenous crafts. (Shaikh, 2010)

In the Kachchh region the use of natural dye with wool has a long tradition. To read about the ancient dying practices of Kachchh and its revival please read the detailed presentation here.

In Multan you find an assortment of handicraft tradition. Multan is famous for its Khussa (shoes), embroidery work, thread and ‘Aar’ work, camel skin products. Carpets and lacquered wooden products.  The region of Bahawalpur is famous for its Flassi, Rilli, and Changaries.

For more details on the Handicraft industry in Pakistan please visit the website of the Handicraft Assosication of Pakistan.

Please also visit the website of Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab.


Shaikh, S. (2010, March 22). Sindh`s sagging handicraft business. Retrieved July 17, 2013, from

Khan, Farah Deeba, Preserving the Heritage: a case study of Handicraft in Sindh, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, 26 March, 2011,, URL accessed July 17,



Pakistani music is as diverse as its multiethnic population. Music lover have a wide range of genres to choose from. While qawwali, ghazals, classical and folk music have always been a part of Pakistani culture, it is Pakistani pop and, especially, rock music that has won much admirers in past few decades, intermingling indigenous music with contemporary Western genres to create a new style of its own. The music includes diverse elements ranging from music from various parts of South Asia as well as Central Asian, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, and modern day Western popular music influences.

Ghazal, a form of poetry that consists of rhyme and refrain, is set to music and sung as an expression of love and beauty. This form of music finds its roots in Persia, but it was not until it came to South Asia that it took on its present form.

To read more about Ghazals please click here.
To read more about Ghazal singing please click here.


Ghulam Ali
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To read about and listen to the work of Ghazal legend Mendhi Hassan please click here.

To listen to a Ghazal by Begum Aktar please click here:

The Sufi devotional music form of Qawwali is around 700 years old. The Sufi saints of the Chisti order are legendary for their use of music in preaching the teaching of Islam. It was perhaps Hazrat Amir Khusau (1254-1324) who developed and influenced Qawwali music the most (He is often, mistakenly, thought of as the founder of Qawwali –the tradition and style pre-dates him).This tradition of Qawwali music, after centuries of ups and downs, has always found willing admirers in Pakistan. Voices of Aziz Mian, Nushrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen have grasped the heart of millions of Qawwali listeners in Pakistan, India, and the rest of the world.

To listen to the Music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan please click here:

To read more about folk music in Pakistan please click here:

In the recent decades, pop and rock music has become an integral part of the Pakistani culture. Bands like Vital Signs, Junoon, Jal, Noori, Fuzon, and String to name a few have become cultural as well as political symbols. Pop music stars like Nazia Hassan, Atif Aslam, Adnan Sami, to name just a few are very popular and well known in Pakistan.

To watch Nazia Hassan perform her ever classic Disco Deewane please click here.

To read more about the musical history of Pakistan please click here.


Coutney, D. (n.d.). Islamic Devotional Music. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from

Rolling Stone. (1997, August 18). Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Dead at 48. Retrieved July 17, 2013, from


When Pakistan was created in 1947 young artist looked towards the West for inspiration. They wanted to cast off the cloak of tradition put on the new garb of the new era.

Cubism, abstract work, and ‘action paintings’ created by pouring and dripping paint, has influenced some of the great artist of Pakistan. These influences can be seen in the works of a number of artists. For details please click here.

These styles professed the use of energetic colors in place of representation and figures, which meshed well with the Islamic tradition of avoiding the painting of living creatures. Murals and billboards, particularly with strong graphic arts elements like exaggerated lettering, are part of the current painting scene in Pakistani cities, as is an increasing interest in the digital arts.

Miniatures in Pakistan derive much of its tradition from miniatures during the Mughal period called “musawwari.


While the history of theatre in Pakistani goes back centuries, it is since its inception in 1947 that drama and theatre reached new highs. Over the years the political instability has restricted as well as shaped theatre in the country. In 1979, when General Zia-ul-Haq took power in a military coup student theatrical activity were banned; yet, the Pakistan National Council of Arts was allowed to produce plays. These constraints on theatre made other artist take the “parallel


Although Pakistan’s link to the world of dance has always been strong, it is this art form that has suffered the most during the decades of political uncertainty. Under Genreal Zia-ul-Haq’s drive of Islamisation of society he disbanded the Arts Councils, the National Performing Arts Group, and banned dancing by women on stage. (Kermani, 2010) Yet the dance in Pakistan has survived and is making a come back. A number of dance academy exists, these teach both classical as well as western dances. TO read more please click here.

Pakistan has had a rich tradition of dance, both pre and post-independence. Dancers like Zohra and Kameshwar Sahgal, Ustad Ghulam Hussain, Amy Minwalla, Parween Qasim, Nighat Chaudry, Fasih ur Rahman and Tehreema Mitha are custodians of the rich tradition of Pakistan.  To read more dance in Pakistan please click here.

Some of the classical dance form in Pakistan are:

Bharatanatyam has a highly stylised and sophisticated technique has a geometric quality both in its form and in its spatial choreography.

Kathak is a whirling dance. ‘Kathak‘ was a storyteller who incorporated poetry and dances – syllables ‘bols’ into her/his stories. Though Kathak was a pre-Muslim dance, it was patronized by the Mughals, when it became a court dance. In this style, the emphasis is on Layakari, footwork and lightning pirouettes.

Odissi traces its origins to the posture of the dancing figurine found from the ruins of Mohenjo-daro, however it derives its name from the Indian state of Orissa where it was practiced and perfected. It is a rhythmical, swaying, lyrical and powerful dance, recreated on sculptural evidence.

The classical dance forms in Pakistan are similar to that of the larger South Asia. Besides the classical forms there are also a number of folk dance in Pakistan. Folk dancing is an expression of joy done by the masses on special events and days. Some of the more popular folk dances are:

• Bhangra -Punjab
• Luddi – Punjab
• Dhammal – Performed at Sufi shrines/ dargahs in Punjab and Sindh
• Attan – Folk dance of Pashtuns tribes of Pakistan including the unique styles of Quetta and Waziristan
• Khattak Dance – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
• Jhumar – Siraiki and Balochi folk dance
• Ho Jamalo Sindhi dance
• Lewa – Baluchi folk dance

To learn about the evolution and significance of dance in Pakistan please click here.
For details on the evolution of dance in Pakistan and the about folk dances in Pakistan please read this highly informative article by Sheema Kermanihere:

To read more about Folk Dances of Pakistan please click here.

Sheema Kermani, Dance in Pakistan, 23 October, 2010,, URL Link, Last Accessed 29 July, 2013.


Pakistan is the fifth largest producer of movies in the world. In pre-partition, Lahore emerged as one of the centers of a budding film industry. Existing traditions of Persian travel theatre, ancient storytelling, music, drama, and the growth of still photography contributed in opening of the society to the world of cinema.

The first theatre in Lahore was the Aziz Theatre, situated at Texali Gate, which was later converted in to a cinema called the Pakistan Talkies, while Shaukat Rizvi and Noorjehan started Pakistan’s first film studios, Shahnoor, in the early fifties. The first Pakistani film, Memories (Teri Yaada, 1948) came out in September 1948. Movies like Hichkolay (1949), Shahida (1949), Sachai (1949), Ghaltfehmi (1949), Pherey (1949) and Mundri (1949) followed Memories soon after. But Pakistan’s had to wait until 1950 to see its first blockbuster; Do Ansoo, inspired by Hakim Shuja’s story about the self-indulgence of society’s upper classes, had a 25-week run in cinemas.

In the early decades love, tragedy and melodrama ruled the silver screen. The 60’s is considered to be the ‘Golden Age’ of cinema in Pakistan. As color was introduced to films, movies like Union (Sangam, 1964), Woman (Naila, 1965) were hits. The 60’s also saw a new generation of film makers enter the industry, which brought with it new style, content and hits. This trend continued in the seventies where the work of Sangeeta, a stage name of a popular actor and director, needs a special mention. Her dictatorial debut, Society Girl was a huge success and she won The Nigar Award for both Best Director and Best Actress. The eighties and nineties saw the decline in filmgoers due to uncensored and smuggled video and satellite TV. The quality of cinema and storytelling also declined in the decade of the 80’s and 90’s. Violence, low comedy, and melo-drama entered cinema and pushed film goers even further.

The annual film production declined from 142 films in 1970 to barely 50 in 2005. The number of studios has come down from 11 in 1977 to 3 in 2006. Yet Lollywood survives. A generation of young filmmakers trained in TV and video production is turning to films. Works like Silence (Khamoshi) and The Death of Shahrukh Khan (Shahrukh Khan Ki Maut), Bol, Kudha Ke Liya were very successful ventures of recent years. Films are also seeing a revival as various film festivals have been introduced, like the Kara Film Festival, and Lahore International Children’s Film Festival.

Pakistan at the SAARC Film Festival:

At the recently concluded SAARC Film Festival 2013, Pakistan picked up a number of awards including:

Best Feature Film (Silver), Ram Chand Pakistani, Directed by Mehreen Jabbar
Best Documentary Film, Saving Face, Directed by Daniel Junge/Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Certificate of Recognition, Best Actor, Manzar Sehbai for Bol, and Rashid Farooqi for Ram Chand Pakistani.

To visit the website of Kara Film Festival please click here.

To visit the website for Lahore International Children’s Film Festival please click here.

Besides features films the new generation has also taken up the art of short film making, and documentary making. Please visit the site of Cineaste One, a Pakistani organization which encourages and promotes short filmmaking.

For more information on the Pakistani Film’s please click here.


Aijaz Gul, A short History of Pakistani Film, Cinemas of the South, Accessed at

Anya Kordecki, Lollywood: Turbulent History of Pakistani Cinema, Accessed at

Zia Ahmed, A Short History of Cinema in Pakistan, Dear Cinema, 18th November, 2011, Accessed at


The first novel in Pakistan was Qurratulain Heider’s Aag ka Darya (The River of Fire, 1957). According to Gilani Kamran in his article Pakistani Literature –Evolution and Trends, “Prose fiction had, indeed, become the leading mode of writing in Urdu literature after Independence. It portrayed what could not be told in poetry, though it had been poetry that was the effective form of expression in Urdu literature before 1947.


It is difficult to pin down what compromises as Pakistani food. The rise of Indo-Muslim cuisine during the Mughal period -called “Mughalai


Traditionally men in Pakistan wear the Salwar Kameez; the style of which dependents on the fabric, colours, patterns, and design. The most popular dress among Pakistani women is also Shalwar Khameez. However, the Salwar Kameez worn by women is far more colourful and stylish. Many women in the Sindh province wear the Saari.

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The Sherwani or Achkan with Karakuli hat is the national dress of Pakistan for men, as it is not specifically associated with any of the provinces. All ethnic groups have their traditional dress. For a more detailed look into dress of ethnic groups in Pakistan please clickhere.

In Multan, men in rural areas wear a Pag or turban, white or blue waist cloth or ‘Majhla’, a long shirt called ‘Kulla’ and a ‘chadar’ over the shoulder. Women wear the shalwar, Lehnga or ‘Ghagra’ of bright colours. The head is covered with ‘Bochan’ or embroidered and Phulkari chadars

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