UNPO and WBO Celebrate Balochi Culture in London Baloch Homecoming Festival
On 2 September 2017, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in collaboration with the World Baloch Organisation (WBO) convened a large-scale cultural event, entitled the “Baloch Homecoming Festival: Cultures and Colours of Balochistan”. The event took place in the McNamara Suite of the London Irish Centre, and successfully brought together over 250 people of the UK Baloch diaspora to celebrate the rich and oft-forgotten Balochi culture on Eid Al-Adha.
The festival was opened by Shah Jahan Baloch, representing the World Baloch Organisation, who welcomed the participants to the first of what will now be a series of Baloch Festivals in London. Mr Baloch went on to moderate the entire event in English, Balochi and Brahui. He handed over to Nicoletta Enria, UNPO Project Officer, whose opening remarks focussed on UNPO’s commitment in persuading the international community to take swift action in making sure the voice of the Baloch people is heard and their culture and heritage is recognised and protected. Ms Enria emphasised the significance of such a festival taking place in London, as the indigenous Baloch people are not able to celebrate their culture at home.
This was then followed by a musical performance by Mehroz Baloch, who sang popular Balochi national songs accompanied by Baloch children. Moreover, this was complemented by a poetry panel led by poet and literary expert Hassan Kosa. Mr Kosa was joined by renowned poets and authors of the Balochi language. Dr Naguman, Ismail Ameri, Dr Naseer Dashti and Sikandar Baloch formed the distinguished panel and emphatically recited their poetry and short stories, which focussed on Balochi culture, folk stories and the importance of safeguarding mother languages with increasing globalisation.
After an interval, the audience was greeted by Noordin Mengal of the WBO and UNPO Member representing Balochistan. Mr Mengal acknowledged the role of Baloch artists in the promotion of Balochi culture and language, faced with increasing challenges with the deteriorating human rights situation in Balochistan. Mr Mengal also underlined how despite suppressive regimes the Balochi culture has been growing, and it is solely due to the Baloch people’s commitment and love for their culture and identity – even when so far away from home.
This was then followed by the key musical performances of the evening, namely benjo musician Abdulrahman Surizehi, Rostam Mirlashari and his band Golbang followed by Akhtar Chanal Zahri. The music was accompanied by some traditional Baloch dances by some of the audience members. Akhtar Chanal Zahri and Rostam Mirlashari went on to also improvise and collaborate on a few songs towards the end of the evening. This was then followed by a dinner where the participants were given the chance to network and meet with other members of the Baloch diaspora community. The following day the artists convened at Map Recording Studios to celebrate the unique opportunity of them all being in London by recording a song, celebrating Balochi culture.
The successful event helped connect several members of the Baloch diaspora community and give them the rare opportunity to celebrate their culture away from home. The event was also significant in uniting younger generations of Baloch, born in the UK, with their language, culture and heritage and showing the international community a different aspect of Balochistan, namely a culture that dates back several centuries, and symbolises peace and justice.