Dear Danka friends,
there are several reasons that make you write down the history of an organisation. My reasons are to thank everybody who helped build up Danka and to reflect upon the start, ups and downs of Danka. In our more than 6 years of life an incredible amount of time has been invested, almost all in volunteer form, to announce, archive, work and think culture in Pakistan. There have been many glorious moments, but also misunderstandings and fights, new friends and lost friends, a motivational rollercoaster. There have been hundreds of team members (at least it feels like hundreds) and there is no way to reflect on everything that happened in one newsletter or by one person alone.
The first Danka online cultural calendar for Lahore was launched on the 18th of November 2005. Work on the idea began before summer that year with the main team members Pierre Jolit, Yasir Hussain Sheikh and Andreas Daniel Matt. The idea to use the Urdu word Danka came during a legendary terrace sit-in at the former Lahore Chitrkar in Gulberg, with Waseem Malik and Shahid Mirza. Yasir built the first Danka site from scratch (an incredibly one-man-work!) and it was constantly extended with new features. The Danka logo was made by Manan Ejaz and Sajjad Ahmed, later extended by Aun Raza.
At the beginning Danka was closely connected to the Rafi Peer World Performing Arts Festival, where it took over the announcement of its cultural agenda. Over several years Danka had a stall at the festival.
The Golden Age
2006 was the first Golden Year of Danka, where many superactive members joined like Sajjad Haider, Foaad Nizam, Jakob Steinkogler, Jakob Steiner, Martin Beddeleem or Muhammad Atif – many of them active for several years. The web programmers constantly extended the website, for example with options to comment or to add videos or the first maps of cultural centres. Several working clusters were formed: the IT cluster, the infamous Media Cluster and the beloved Event Hunting Cluster. The first Danka posters, flyers and stickers were printed and distributed all over the country and the first newsletters were written (see for example this one) and sent to our many subscribers. The overall motivation was extremely high to contribute to a big change in how culture in Pakistan is perceived and brought to the public. Danka event listings were even printed on paper by Dawn and Daily Times for a short period of time.
The Fall and Lost Vision
In 2007 Danka started to drown. The team members lost vision and motivation and many questions arose, like should Danka be a full time job or be driven by the cultural community alone? There was no income in sight and our efforts towards marketing were washed away by the love for the culture not considering the commercially or sustainable side. Involvement went down and the regular meetings stopped.
In March we lost our friend Pierre.
Only slowly while adding a Karachi chapter with its official launch on the 28th of April 2007 by new team members including Mansoor Adenwala. Ejaz Asi, Batool Habib, Umar Siddiqi and Unaiza Nasim, Danka recovered and entered a new phase of surviving and slow expansion. The main work was event hunting, to keep the database growing and the public informed. The few active team members worked hard in networking and media and trying to get things organized and on its way again.
Growth through constant work and some new ideas
In September 2007 the first fruits of constant work became visible – jointly with new ideas and new people. Lukas Berger started a one year volunteer service for Danka. New features included an update of the event categories with sports and also the featured artist project, where known and upcoming artists were presented through interviews. Short term volunteers Benedikt Stanzel and Milan Frembgen joined Danka and new members like Abid Mehmood, Sara Azeem and Umair Jameel, long time event hunter. In 2009 a Danka NGO was founded by seven people. The Islamabad chapter could be launched in June 2009 through the hard work of new team members Safeer Ullah Khan, Muhammad Asif Razzaque, Kamran Khan and Andre Rapp.
Naya Danka and Naya Masla
In 2011 the volunteer Matthias Gattermeier arrived and with him new energy and team members. A new portal, that was planned for over a year already, was programmed by Hans Woppmann, another incredible one-man-effort. New team members as Aimon Fatima, Fatima Hasanain and Rizwan Ahmed joined, others left in conflicts that reach from search for power, misunderstandings in media to suspicious theories.
The new portal was launched on the 22nd of April 2011 and two new projects started with the new team: Women in culture and the Danka Trips. Also the newsletter was re-launched under the name of Danka Nama. In summer and fall motivation declined again, team members left and joined (and the other way round) and a new volunteer, Albert Grasnek, arrived and worked on rebuilding the team.
Over the last 6 years the cultural information flow changed. With Facebook, blogs and a series of new cultural information portals, new information sources came up. It is not clear how Danka will continue and what services we will start or stop. Danka strongly and more than ever relies on our public, our users and community to decide the future.
At the end, I invite you to add your own anecdotes of Danka as comments to this history. Let us jointly write it (now and in the future).
Alphabetic listing of all former and current members. Without these individuals and their commitment Danka would not have lived and would not be living. There are no words to thank these people.
Mustafa Nazir Ahmad
Abdul Manan Ejaz
Safeer Ullah Khan
Andreas Daniel Matt
Muhammad Asif Razzaque
I did my level best to list all names of Danka contributors here, but I am sure that I forgot somebody. Please forgive me and let me know, we will add you here immediately (and I will also invite you to a cay and Mutton Karahi).