An erudite presentation of seven millennia of Balochistan

KARACHI: It was a highly informative and revealing sojourn in the non-linear dimension as the guests were catapulted back in time seven millennia.

Dr Ute Franke from the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin took the guests on a journey of Balochistan as it was 7,500 BC.At the residence of German Consul-General Tilo Klinner on Monday evening, Dr Franke’s lecture enlightened the gathering on the highly advanced civilisation that Balochistan was.

The event, titled ‘Balochistan Evening’ and showcasing Balochi culture and cuisine, featured the erudite lecture by Dr Franke, followed by a performance of Balochi folk music featuring noted Baloch instrumentalist Sachu Khan, who captivated the audience with his mastery over the suroz, a bowed string instrument similar to a sarangi.

The lecture was accompanied by slide presentation featuring artefacts from the millennia gone by discovered in Balochistan from tombs and digging at other points. These included items of jewellery and pottery.

Dr Franke said interest of archaeologists in Balochistan began to be aroused in the 1920s after the discovery of the Indus civilisation.She said the first discovery was the Mehrgarh civilisation, dating back around 7,500 BC, and later Khuzdar. She termed Balochistan the cradle of civilisation.

She said many of the artefacts found were traced to have been brought in from Afghanistan, which was indicative of the large trade network that existed in the region even in that “primitive” era.

Dr Franke said that it was in the third millennium that pottery and jewellery with geometric and figurative art flourished in Balochistan.She said that it was a mystery as to how such sites, connotative of an advanced civilisation, flourished in a province like Balochistan, arid as it is, with hardly any river worth its name.

She said an interesting discovery was the find of bones and skeleton of a brown bear, something that could not even be thought of in the present era.

Dr Franke also mentioned the fruits that were found in the province in prehistoric times, like figs and jojoba, and farm produce like sesame and millets. She exhibited slides of wells and dams, the latter being around 70 to 80 metres wide.

Her lecture was followed by a performance by Sachu Khan on the suroz. The tunes and the tone of the instrument were evocative of the rural and pristine component of Baloch civilisation, in quick time, oozing verve and vivacity.

Sachu Khan demonstrated complete mastery over his suroz. The instrumental performance was followed by four vocal renditions by Khadim Hussain.This was then followed by two dances, one of them being the Balochi lewa, by a quartet of four male dancers.

The dances comprised highly rhythmic and artistic movements but also incorporated a significant element of vigorous physical exercise and semi-acrobatics.Welcoming the guests earlier, CG Klinner said what had led the German government to work for the conservation of this priceless heritage was the confiscation by the Pakistan Customs of 804 genuine artefacts from the ancient civilisation that were being smuggled into a neighbouring Middle Eastern country.

Besides, he said, they were enthusiastic about Balochistan and Pakistan because they had changed the narrative.He said Pakistan had many positive aspects to it and it was his government’s endeavour to project only the positive aspects of Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage and Pakistan as such.

Anil Datta

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