It is a very sad day for Pakistan and for theater lovers in particular. Madeeha Gauhar, one of the country’s foremost directors and the wife of playwright Shahid Nadeem, has passed away after a three year battle with cancer. Gauhar and Nadeem were the forces behind Ajoka Theatre, whose plays I have blogged about here:
Theater and Social Change in Pakistan: The Plays of Shahid Nadeem
Here is DAWN’s announcement of Gauhar’s passing:
Ajoka Theatre’s founder and Artistic Director Madeeha Gauhar has passed away in Lahore after a three-year battle with cancer, according to reports. She was 61.
The actor, director and activist was well known for her commitment to theatre for social change and promoting peace between Pakistan and India. She set up Ajoka theatre in 1984 and regularly collaborated with Indian artists.
Ajoka’s plays have addressed issues related to human rights, especially women’s issues such as female literacy, honour killings, rights of the girl child, health and family planning. Toba Tek Singh, Aik Thi Nani, Bulha, Letters to Uncle Sam, Mera Rang de Basanti Chola, Dara, Kon Hai Yay Ghustakh and Lo Phir Basant Ayee are among Ajoka’s most memorable plays. Ajoka has performed all over the world, including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Oman, Iran, Egypt, Hong Kong, the US, UK and Norway.
She was the first Pakistani to get the prestigious Prince Claus Award for her leadership of Ajoka, which was praised by the organisers of the Dutch prize for “[withstanding] pressures from the political and religious establishment, and [remaining] committed to the cause of theatre for social change.” She was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize from Pakistan in 2005.
She is survived by her husband, veteran writer and director Shahid Nadeem and two sons, Sarang and Nirvaan.