Madeeha Gauhar

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Madeeha Gauhar
Born21 September 1956[1]
Died25 April 2018(2018-04-25) (aged 61)
Years active1983–2018
AwardsSee list

Madeeha Gauhar (Urdu: مدیحہ گوہر‎; 21 September 1956 – 25 April 2018) was a Pakistani actress, playwright and director of social theater, and women's rights activist. In 1983 she founded Ajoka Theatre where social themes are staged in theaters, on the street and in public spaces. With Ajoka she performed in Asia and Europe.[2]


Gauhar was born in 1956 in Karachi, Pakistan. After obtaining a Master of Arts degree in English literature, she moved to England where she obtained another master's degree, studying theater sciences at the University of London.[2][3][4]

In 1983, with her studies completed, she returned to her native country, settling in Lahore.[2] There, Gauhar and her husband Shahid Nadeem founded Ajoka Theatre, a notable theater group of significance in the city. Ajoka (English:Current) elaborates on the oral tradition of Bhand and Nautanki and found a flourishing base in the area that overlaps the province of Punjab. Despite her educational background, Gauhar did not restrict herself to conventional classical Western theater techniques. Rather, she aimed to incorporate authentic Pakistani elements with contemporary sentiments. With Ajoka, Gauhar performed in Pakistan, and subsequently internationally. The troupe performed in other countries in the region such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as in several countries in Europe.[3][4]

The most important motive of the shows, according to Gauhar, is the promotion of a just, humane, secular and equal society.[3] In directing performances in the theater, Gauhar utilised aesthetics and theatrical techniques to reflect the moral, social and political reality of contemporary Pakistan. A recurrent theme for her, as a feminist, was the subject of women's rights in a society that is greatly dominated by men.[2][4]

In 2006 she was honored with a Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands.[5] In 2007 she won the International Theatre Pasta Award.[6]

In 2007 Ajoka performed a play that was written and directed by Gauhar, the Burqavaganza (Burqa-vaganza), which led to great controversy. Actors dressed in burkas acted out themes of sexual discrimination, intolerance and fanaticism. From a Western perspective, the piece was a rather innocent performance on hypocrisy of a society that bathes in corruption. In her own country, though, Members of Parliament called for a ban of the performance, and the Minister of Culture threatened with sanctions should it would be staged any longer. In spite of the ban, non-governmental organizations and women's rights activists had the play translated into English and staged performances internationally as an sign of support to Ajoka.[7][8]


Gauhar died in Lahore, Pakistan, on 25 April 2018 at the age of 61 after a three-year illness with cancer.[9][10][11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Gauhar received numerous awards for her theatrical efforts, including:[12][13][14]

  • At the first iteration of the 1st Indus Drama Awards in 2005, she was nominated for Best Actress Drama Serial in a Supporting Role.
  • Gauhar was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
  • In 2006, Gauhar was awarded Prince Claus Award in the Netherlands.
  • She received the Pride of Performance, awarded to her by the President of Pakistan for her efforts in improving Pakistani theatre.


  1. ^ "Madeeha Gauhar – WANMEC".
  2. ^ a b c d Prince Claus Fund, profile Archived 15 April 2013 at
  3. ^ a b c Rashed, Fariha (16 October 2005) The Ajoka awakening
  4. ^ a b c Singh Bajeli, Diwan (2 February 2007) A voice for peace and amity, The Hindu
  5. ^ Prince Claus Awards, award winners of 2006
  6. ^ Theatre Pasta (16 July 2008) interview Archived 19 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Rehman, Sonya (20 June 2008) Viva Ajoka!, Sonya Rehman's Archive ~ Of Most Things Pakistani
  8. ^ Borah, Prabalika M. (4 May 2011) Voice beyond LOC, The Hindu
  9. ^ "Ajoka Theatre's Madeeha Gauhar passes away". Dawn. 25 April 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Ajoka Theatre founder Madeeha Gauhar passes away". Geo News. 25 April 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Renowned actress and founder of Ajoka Theatre Madeeha Gauhar passes away". Daily Times. 25 April 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  12. ^ "Madeeha Gauhar passes away in Lahore". The Nation. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Madeeha Gauhar gets Dutch award". Dawn Magazine. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Pakistani theatre activist and peace campaigner Madeeha Gauhar dies aged 61". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 25 April 2018.

External links[edit]