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. Her sister, Faryal Gohat is also a notable celebrity of Pakistan.