“Say not in grief that she is no more but say

in thankfulness that she was.”

 

Born in 1956 in Karachi, Madeeha Gohar was one of the founding members of the theatre group Ajoka in 1983. Ajoka resisted the oppressive, dictatorial rule of General Zia ul Haq, and pushed for democratic, humane, just values in the society through its plays. It dealt with such social issues and human rights as female literacy and honor killings. Gohar was the driving force behind this project and directed over three dozen stage plays during her career. One of her plays “Barri”, for example, depicted interaction between four women sharing a prison cell during General Zia’s regime. One of them was a dervish who was convicted for dancing in the shrine, the other murdered her abusive husband thrice her age, the third one was charged for her activism, and the fourth one was jailed on behalf of her wanted son. Another play “Burqaavaganza” dealt with burqa/veil worn by women in Pakistan. She also directed plays on figures like Manto and Bulley Shah. Gohar also staged some of her plays in India despite facing disruptions from such extremist outfits as Shiv Sena. She died in 2018.

Gohar taught the value, importance, necessity of arts. Her works make us think, self-reflect, question; the least favorite activities of our society. Instead of looking down upon arts as “useless”, “vulgar”, “irreligious” as we are prone to; perhaps there is a need to highlight, promote the works of figures like Gohar to grapple with the rising intolerance on the issues of religion, nationalism and gender in our country.