IBEX interviews Laajverd Visiting School’s director Zahra Hussain about her most recent project, Academy of Democracy held in Neelum Valley

Laajverd Visiting School is relatively a peculiar initiative in the predominant global narrative of development. The School focuses upon the regional patterns of growth and progress. In order to understand the structure of these societies, LVS conducts workshops and site research in an attempt to analyze the different strands of regional lifestyle composition.

Please tell us about Laajverd Visiting School and what does it stand to achieve?

I can start with explaining what Laajverd is, it a not-for –profit organization registered under the 1961 Act of Societies. I founded it back in 2007 when I was still a student at the National College of Arts and saw the need to relate my creative practice with the realities of the city. Through the years, Laajverd has evolved into a varied interdisciplinary collective with a focus on the intersections of culture, art and architecture.

Laajverd Visiting School is an initiative to engage bachelor students and mid-career professionals in rigorous field research. This encourages them to critically analyze the culture, environment and people of that area. This helps them reflect upon their own position in an increasingly urbanized and globalized world while understanding the challenges faced by local cultures and traditions. For the locals, we try to make them aware of their environment and also do on-site impromptu workshops in areas where we can assist them through the LVS outreach program. The LVS believes in a two-way learning model where the locals and visiting scholars can interrelate. 

What is Academy of Democracy, and how is it related to Laajverd Visiting School?

Academy for Democracy is a practice led research project that aims to analyze, understand and refine the role of the creative faculty in order to equip them with the precise body of knowledge that will aid them during humanitarian activities. By extensive research into the academic structures and the professional practice that follows, this project investigates new and creative methodologies that re-structure the current academic process. AFD is the idea that deals with giving multiple possibilities and knowledge platforms for a student/researcher to engage with; an idea that opposes strict disciplinary studies. Laajverd Visiting School is a practical manifestation or a physical model of this idea.

What is the model of the Visiting School?

The visiting school is a ten-day cross-curricular and interdisciplinary intensive in a regional landscape. It is a combination of four to five workshops, two sessions and field research followed by tutorials and presentations. A day at LVS usually starts with a workshop; the afternoon is dedicated to field research while the evenings are used for compiling research and discussions. It is pretty packed and intensive as I mentioned earlier so the participants should be well prepared for that.