Ian Stephen in Pakistan

  • Published on: 19th February 2016
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Part 1

Carrots are red but
Coco-pops look
Much the same brown

The east coast illustrator and west coast yarner met on the flight . We came through the red petal welcomes of families re -uniting. Here was our driver, carrying his blue card as arranged. We were on the move into a strangely calm procession of motor bikes, three-wheelers, donkey carts and cars. The bikes were shuttles in ravelling cloth. There was an issue with the route. Armed men in uniforms took our passports till we completed our u turn. Somehow we turned against the run of the warp. Our maroon documents with newly stamped visas were returned. – These guys are military. It s not like the police. If they say we turn back. That is what we do.

This is a country which is open for business beyond its borders . Tonight a delegation from Turkey will arrive. A deal with metro-bus provision is in place. Now another for radio-cabs will be clinched. Everywhere there are banners promoting this trade – our hearts beat together. But security is even tighter than usual. We are here to meet our collaborators who will trade images and tales for our event at Lahore Literary Festival. We might not be able to offer anything as tangible as motor transport. But I think that Daniel and Ryan of Highlight Arts have picked us and the team of Scottish poets who will come for another event because we all believe that the trade in imagery or narrative or ringing syllables or breath through whistle is also necessary for any state s survival.

Part 2 – Second impressions.

The dates of Lahore Literary Festival have been altered. This gives our illustrious illustrators Kate and Mehreen one more day to add details to their scroll of images which will be projected at our performances. Already a landscape has been created. This is a journey from the tangible cottages set between rolling mountains and waves and startling motifs from the world of the unconscious. The unmistakable figure of a great whale could belong to either. Except that this one is decorated with the rich patterns and saturated colours we have seen on the endless chain of traffic in this city. Rickshaws can putter by in four stroke now but they are often decorated as an echo of the rich patterns we have seen on the great personalised trucks.

Mujahid Eshai has helped me move between the literary and the spoken worlds. In the same way our dialogue of several days has taken us through histories and contrasting terrain. We now have a correspondence which has fed into the land and sea scape which will be projected to our audience tomorrow. We will not read the literatures we have made nor that we have discussed.

Instead we will attempt to relive the shock of our own first encounters with compelling narratives. Once there were three brothers. They met to discuss the division of property after the passing of their father. So begins a trickster tale narrated by Mujahideen but it could have been one of the yarns of my grandfather Murchadh Fionnlagh Iain Mac a Ghobhann, Siabost, Eilean Leodhas.

Ian Stephen3