Karachi’s Kathak Dancers

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On any regular Thursday, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine in southern Pakistan reverberates with Sindhi folk music and hundreds of people dancing. But in February 2017, a suicide bomber attacked the shrine, claiming the lives of 88 people and injuring many more.

In an act of defiance and solidarity, Sheema Kermani travelled to the site a few days after the attack and performed the Dhamall, a form of dance rooted in the promise of spiritual trance. Videos of her performance spread across social media.

Sheema’s journey started long before the attack at the Sufi shrine. The 67-year-old has championed activism and addressed social issues all her life.

She founded the Tehrik-e-Niswaan (Movement for Women) in the late 70s. Together with a group of actors and artists, Sheema went to different neighbourhoods of Pakistan and put on a performance centred around the issues affecting that community.

Sheema continues to be a champion of women’s rights, both through performing arts and community outreach.

“Activism. That is what really is important in performing arts. That you provoke people to think. You move them to question their own lives.”

Filmed and directed by Karim Shah

Camera: Hasham Cheema, Andy Jackson

Producer: Andrew Smith

Editor: Andrew Phillips

Executive Producers: Deeyah Khan at Fuuse and Andrew Phillips

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