KARACHI: A curious crowd had gathered around artist Amir Jamil at Pakistan Chowk, a landmark heritage site of the city, on Sunday morning.

The artist, who primarily works with watercolours and acrylics on canvas, was halfway through painting a cityscape in watercolours as visitors to the first art fair at the intersection stared at his master strokes.

Mr Jamil was one of the many artists, including cartoonist Feica, taking part in the one-day art fair at Pakistan Chowk supported by the Endowment Fund for Preservation of Heritage of Sindh.

Speaking to Dawn, Mr Jamil explained that he took part in the art fair after someone posted about it on Facebook.

“A bunch of us come here every Sunday to paint outdoors. Then one day someone with the Pakistan Chowk Initiative put out an open call to artists to exhibit their work here and I thought I must be a part of it,” he explained.

Adeel Zubair and his friend who were on the Super Savari Express tour stopped by the fair and said this was their first time at Pakistan Chowk.

“I think it is really cool to see all the art work and artists here,” he said.

Calligrapher Tariq Toki, who was also showing his work at the fair, said that he had been in the business for more than 35 years and had held several solo and groups shows.

According to Mr Toki, another Sunday regular at the chowk, his interest in calligraphy started with his various trips abroad — especially the time he spent in Saudi Arabia.

A.Q. Arif, a renowned painter, said that he had very strong ties with Pakistan Chowk and felt lucky that he was back here painting — the place where it had all started.

“I used to paint here many years ago but as the situation in the city deteriorated I stopped coming here,” he said.

“The buildings here are magnificent. I usually paint heritage buildings so for me this is a good opportunity. This is a great achievement by the organisers,” he added.

Hussam, a university student, said that this was his second time visiting the Pakistan Chowk. “It is very vibrant and there are a lot of positive vibes going around,” he said, adding that great work was being done here.

Writer and editor Asif Farrukhi said he felt nostalgic to be back in his family’s old neighbourhood. He added that it was great to see how the space had been reclaimed and had become functional again.

“My father came to Karachi on September 5, 1947 and he came straight to Pakistan Chowk when he heard the word Pakistan…he said this is where I am going to live and one of the practical reasons to move here was that there were a lot of colleges in the vicinity.

“He thought this was going to be a great educational hub and he was going to live here. They moved into a two-room flat which is a couple of streets down.

“So when he lived here, he had come from a small town in Uttar Pradesh so living in an apartment was very difficult for him and his family…because they couldn’t afford to have electricity at the time he used to come and study in the street for the exam…he would entertain his friends at the Iranian café at the corner…so this was the kind of part of the house for him,” he added.

Bring our heritage back

Architect Marvi Mazhar, who heads the initiative, said that every week people from the area gathered here and many artists used to join them as well.

“The whole idea was about how to have an urban fair, the art fair today was an open call. We didn’t call people, we said whoever wants to participate is more than welcome to do so,” she said.

She added that they wanted to give people a platform to come. “We are hoping to do this once a month.”

The Pakistan Chowk Initiative’s basic mission is to rehabilitate the chowk back to its glory and revive the concept of public squares.

The intersection lies in district south — where Strachan Road meets Aram Bagh, covering an area of almost 6,633 square feet.

As part of the rehabilitation process, the initiative’s aim is to create a dialogue with stakeholders and help them deal with issues on the urban level.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2017