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Madeeha Gauhar (born 1956 in Karachi) is a Pakistani actress, playwright and director of social theatre, and women's rights activist. In 1983 she founded Ajoka Theater where social themes are staged in theatres, on the street and in public spaces. With Ajoka she has performed in Asia and Europe.
Gauhar was born in 1956 in Karachi. After she obtained a Master of Arts degree in English literature, she moved to England where she obtained another master's degree, in theater sciences at the University of London.
In 1983, after returning to Lahore, Gauhar and her husband Shahid Nadeem founded Ajoka Theater, the first theater group of significance there. Ajoka (English:Today) elaborates on the oral tradition of Bhand and Nautanki and found a flourishing base in the area that overlaps the province of Punjab. In spite of her Western education, Gauhar does not limit her practice to classical Western theater techniques. Instead, she mixes authentic Pakistani elements with contemporary sentiments. With Ajoka, Gauhar has performed in Pakistan and other countries in the region such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as in several countries in Europe.
The most important ulterior motive of the shows is the promotion of a just, humane, secular and equal society. In directing theater, the esthetical, moral, social and political reality of today's Pakistan are therefore repeating elements. Ever returning is the subject of women's rights in a society that is greatly dominated by men.
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.
Awards and nominations
- Nominated for Best Actress Drama Serial in a Supporting Role in The 1st Indus Drama Awards 2005
- Prince Claus Fund, profile
- Rashed, Fariha (16 October 2005) The Ajoka awakening
- Singh Bajeli, Diwan (2 February 2007) A voice for peace and amity, The Hindu
- Prince Claus Awards, award winners of 2006
- Theatre Pasta (16 July 2008) interview
- Rehman, Sonya (20 June 2008) Viva Ajoka!, Sonya Rehman's Archive ~ Of Most Things Pakistani
- Borah, Prabalika M. (4 May 2011) Voice beyond LOC, The Hindu