This piece from The Print highlights an iconoclast from across the border. The unlikely star of the piece is Sheema Kermani, a Bharatnatyam dancer from Pakistan. 26 million people across the world have watched her performance in ‘Pasoori” (see, a Pakistani video which marries a Punjabi song with Sheema’s Bharatnatyam. Now, you would imagine that Sheema is a young dancer shooting to stardom in this breakout video. However, this is what Sheema’s wiki page tells us: “Sheema Kermani or Kirmani (born 1951) is a Pakistani social activist (Culture, Women’s rights, Peace), the founder of Tehrik-e-Niswan Cultural Action Group (Women’s Movement) and an exponent of Bharatanatyam dance.[1][2] She is also a famous Pakistani Classical Dancer, Choreographer, Dance Guru, Theatre Practitioner, Performer, Director, Producer, TV Actor based in Karachi, Pakistan.” (Source:
So, why should you and I want to know about Sheema? This is what The Print has to say: “Sheema Kermani…is a leading figure at the annual Aurat March, a socio-political demonstration in Pakistan to observe International Women’s Day on 8 March. Kermani was a dance student in Delhi when General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq banned dance in Pakistan. When she returned to her country of birth, she started performing. “I realised that, inadvertently, my dancing became a symbol of resistance and defiance.” When the General came to power in the 1980s, among the many things he considered ‘un-Islamic’, saris were one. It was his declaration that eventually led to the attire fading out of Pakistan’s public life. Until then, saris were an integral part of Pakistani women’s wardrobe…
Kermani started the feminist group Tehrik-e-Niswan in the 1970s, which has used cultural interventions to create a narrative on issues of women’s rights. It also performed dhamaal, a Sufi dance, at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh on 16 February to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2017 suicide blast.
Tehrik-e-Niswan started the Aurat March four years ago. “We have faced great opposition from the religious Right and increasingly more so as Aurat March becomes a political movement shaking the grounds of patriarchy,” says Kermani.”

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