First International Islamic Artisans-At-Work Festival, organised under the patronage of H.E. Ahmed Khan Leghari, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, by Lok Virsa, Ministry of Culture of Pakistan, and IRCICA, with the contributions of UNESCO and the International Islamic Relief Organisation, Islamabad, 7-15 October 1994

The First International Artisans-at-Work Festival held in Islamabad, Pakistan on 7-15 October 1994 displayed the handicrafts of the Islamic world and the neighbouring countries for a period of ten days. Around two thousand craftsmen, craft specialists, artists, musicians, representatives of institutions dealing with crafts from seventy-three countries participated in the activities. Four million people visited the festival area and country stands. Nearly one hundred craftsmen from sixty countries, in addition to one thousand and two hundred craftsmen from Pakistan, presented their skills and creativity by working in the country stands that were arranged around the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad. Perhaps for the first time in the world, the festival brought together such a great number of craftsmen and craft specialists in one venue. The event was followed by the major media organisations of the world.

Festival activities: The festival took place under the high patronage of the President of Pakistan H.E. Sardar Farooq Ahmad Leghari. It was inaugurated by the President on 7 October 1994, at a ceremony that was held on Jinnah Avenue and attended by thousands of people. In his inaugural address, the President of Pakistan emphasized the importance of focusing on crafts and in particular, on the craftsmen, who actually make crafts possible. The message of H.E. Dr. Hamid Algabid, Secretary General of the OIC was read; speakers at the ceremony included Mrs. Madeleine Gobeil, the representative of UNESCO Director General, Mrs. Siva Obeyesekere, President of the World Crafts Council, and Prof.Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Director General of IRCICA. Following the inauguration of the festival, the traditional Rasm-e-Dastarbandi took place, where the President of Pakistan performed the turban ceremony to honour master artisans from different regions for excellence in crafts. Then came the very impressive Grand Folkloric Parade and Citizens Walk titled "Save the Cultural Heritage". Artisans, writers, intellectuals, musicians, and folkloric groups from many countries joined the parade.

The festival included numerous cultural and artistic events, presentations of artisans-at-work, folkloric performances, as well as several scholarly events, including

International Seminar on Creativity in Traditional Islamic Crafts (10-12 October)

UNESCO Experts Meeting on the Decade for Crafts Development (8-9 October)

Meeting of the Asian Assembly of the World Crafts Council (13-14 October).

The festival and the international seminar were jointly organized by IRCICA and Lok Virsa institution attached to the Ministry of Culture of Pakistan, with the collaboration of UNESCO (Paris) and the International Islamic Relief Organization (Jeddah).

A number of museums including Lahore Museum, State Museum of Bukhara, State Samarkand Museum of History, Architecture and Art, Taxila Gandhara Museum, the Pakistan National Council of the Arts and the Lok Virsa Museum set up special exhibitions in Islamabad during the festival period. The Photographic Society of Pakistan in collaboration with other agencies exhibited photographs representing the Islamic heritage. IRCICA for its part exhibited historical photographs of the Islamic world from its archival collections.

The International Seminar on Creativity in Traditional Islamic Crafts: The seminar discussed major issues concerning the craft sector in Islamic countries, including the present state of creativity in traditional crafts, and possible measures to promote crafts and creativity in the contemporary socio-economic environment. Over sixty papers were presented by delegations from fourty-seven countries, international and regional organisations.

The Seminar adopted the following recommendations

I. General Principles

1. The use of young children as cheap labour for craft production and craft workshops should be stopped forthwith, so that their health and school education may not suffer; IRCICA should undertake studies in three OIC countries regarding this issue. A meeting should be called of organisations like ILO and UNESCO to discuss this issue and submit recommendations to Governments for action.

2. The Seminar called the international authorities and the concerned institutions to safeguard the rights of women in the face of discrimination and exploitation in the field of craft production.

3. Initiatives should be harnessed and fostered by giving recognition to the crafts makers and artisans in the form of cash prizes, travel grants and other incentives; for this, systems developed by national governments, regional and international bodies such as UNESCO should be studied.

4. International organizations such as UNESCO can contribute to the study and preservation of Islamic arts and crafts. It is therefore necessary for such organizations, receiving a request for cooperation, to make sure that there exists, on the national plan, a strong political will to promote arts and crafts.

II. Central Issues

Not only the actual or potential "creators" themselves, but all those exercising responsibility and power including national and local authorities should actively and positively contribute to the social and economic status of artisans through training, access to credit, raw materials and market outlets; towards this end, Ministries and authorities dealing with crafts should undertake urgent action.

6. National economic development plans should integrate promotion of traditional crafts.

7. The importance of the tourist market should be recognised as a prime mover creating "induced" markets; following the Indonesian experience, "Village Craft Markets" should be planned, funded and specially built.

8. The "International Centre for Creativity" envisaged should be set up in Pakistan; this would be a forum where Muslim artisans will be able to meet with their colleagues and other specialists, exchange ideas, compare techniques and patterns.

9. The national governments should take protective measures to help the most qualified artisans to practice and transmit their art to new generations, recognising them as National Living Treasures.

III. Future Directions in Creativity

Scientific plans for production using modern technology is fundamental for skills development and promotion, individual creation and quality production.

11. Art schools and colleges should integrate craft education not only to create master artisans, but to sensitize future decision-makers towards arts and artisanship.

12. New directions in patronage of the crafts should be explored in contemporary society, including new elite groups, the corporate sector and state patronage. In contemporary society, patronage is sought from the new elite groups including the corporate sector.

The seminar issued the Islamabad Declaration, as reproduced below:

on the occasion of
The First International Islamic Artisans-at-Work Festival (7-15 October 1994)
The International Seminar on Creativity in Islamic Crafts (10-12 October, 1994)

The Participants of the Festival

Aware of the great richness and diversity of the cultural heritage of the Muslim World in particular and of the world in general,

Noting the need for the preservation, protection and dissemination of Islamic arts and crafts,

Realising the urgency of periodic international meetings and competitions aimed at generating excellence in Islamic arts,

Being concerned with the inadequate existing patronage accorded to the arts,

Perceiving with satisfaction the expanding role of the private and non governmental sector in the protection and dissemination of the arts,

Being cognisant of the increasing importance of the participation of young people in cultural activity,

Recognising the significant role played by the visual and print media in the projection and dissemination of the arts,

Welcoming the contributions made by scholars and experts on all relevant issues.

Expressing appreciation to the Government of Pakistan and particularly Lok Virsa (The National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage), for the excellent arrangements made for the holding of the Festival,

Expressing appreciation to the OIC Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture for their leading role in the Seminar and major collaborative efforts for the Festival; and further expressing appreciation to the International Islamic Relief Organisation, UNESCO and all other organisations and agencies that have contributed significantly to the success of this Festival,

Taking note of the views and discussions shared during the Seminar,

do hereby unanimously agree to the following


The participants of the Festival call upon all member states of the OIC to:

1. ensure the improvement of the living standards of craft workers and to give them recognition in society;

2. allocate in their forthcoming annual budgets a generous sum as a percentage of the budget for artisans and musicians to facilitate their working conditions and enhance their creative output;

3. enable crafts people of the Islamic world and other relevant international and regional organisations and associations to undertake periodic interactive exchange of techniques and skills through fora and other opportunities;

4. assess the existing state of the Islamic arts by identifying socio-economic and cultural measures to be implemented;

5. request international organisations such as UNESCO through country participation and other allied programmes to actively support all creative endeavours in the fields of Islamic arts;

6. ensure the harmonious interaction of the latest technology with tradition to reflect the progressive and innovative spirit of Islamic heritage, which enjoins the ummah to keep pace with changes in contemporary life; and, to this end, to frame cogent programmes enduring creativity, research for the mobilisation of human resources through cooperative systems in crafts;

7. encourage the creative youth of the Islamic world through incentives in the form of awards, so that new and innovative works emanating from Islamic tradition are produced;

8. explore the opportunities provided by modern technology to add new dimensions to the time-honoured art of Islamic calligraphy and other art forms;

9. encourage the active participation of the private sector, the tourism sector, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to the expansion of commerce and marketing networks that produce innovative artifacts of Islamic art while retaining the essence;

10. OIC Member States and international organizations are invited to support the periodic holding of International Islamic Festivals, while at the same time expanding the scope of the festival to include the oral traditions pertaining to the expression of Islamic sentiment. Based on this first Festival hosted by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the participants call upon all member states of the OIC to select a venue for the Second Festival;

11. the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is invited to circulate this document amongst all member states of the OIC and at all relevant fora of the OIC.

An important result of the festival and the seminar was the invitation formulated by Egypt to organise the Second Artisans-at-Work Festival in Cairo in 1997. Meanwhile, Malaysia announced its readiness to host the third festival in the year 2000.

Lok Virsa-IRCICA Craft Awards: A major aspect of the festival was the Lok Virsa-IRCICA Craft Award. The competition organized in 11 categories of crafts, culminated in a colourful award ceremony on 15 October. Four awards were given in each category, according to the following criteria:

excellence, creative concept, design, invention in traditional technique. The competition jury was composed of international experts in this field chaired by Professor Jean-Louis Michon from Switzerland. The country-wise distribution of award-winners in each category is as follows: Pottery and Ceramics: Egypt, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran; Coloured Glasswork: Afghanistan; Miniature Painting: Turkey, Pakistan, Iran; Carpets and Kilims: Iran, Syria; Textiles: Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan; Embroidery: Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt; Woodwork: Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan; Leatherwork: Morocco, Malaysia, Pakistan; Metalwork and Jewellery: Tatarstan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran; Miscellaneous (including matting, basketry, bird cages, and folkloric dolls): China, Azerbaijan, Tunisia; Architectural Crafts (including fresco, stucco, stonework, enamel tilework, lattice woodwork, carved brickwork, ceiling panelling, tile mosaic, brick masonry and wall surfacing): craftsmen from Pakistan.

A book presenting the award-winning works in the Lok Virsa-IRCICA Craft Award distributed during the First International Islamic Artisans-At-Work Festival (Islamabad, 7-15 October 1994) was published in 1999 under the title Awards of the First International Islamic Artisans-At-Work Festival: LOK VIRSA-IRCICA Craft Awards