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KARACHI: The 90-year-old Purdah Bagh (Sobhraj Chetumal Terrace) came alive on Sunday evening with the DIY City, a Karachi-Manchester nano festival.

Men, women and children from all over the city started to gather at the terrace to look at the light installations, mini-planetarium,tag-a-tree and experience a bicycle ride around Burnes Garden.

Hidden behind the National Museum, the terrace was once a space dedicated to the women of the city in 1927, the nano festival transformed it into an interactive space with projects such as Baara Qataar (12 lines), Sitaron ki Sair and Sheesh Mahals.

DIY City is an ongoing collaboration between the award-winning interdisciplinary Numaish-Karachi and MadLab, the UK’s most active grassroots digital innovators.

Aamir Habib, an installation artist and core team member of Numaish-Karachi, explained one of the projects on display, Sheesh Mahals, by Talha Ahmed, Farwa Hussain, Sakina Ijaz, Zoha Jabbar, Fatin Nawaz and Sadia Pathan.

“To really experience this project we need it to be a little darker, I think that light attracts people and this was one of the ideas behind this piece, he said, adding that they had used sheet metal, LED lights and mirrors for the project.

According to their instructor, they wanted to put a spin on the historical palatial beauty by using the old animation technology of a zoetrope to build miniature Sheesh Mahals in the hope of transporting one to a similar place of ecstatic wonder. The blinking lights inside help create a hypnotic effect within each of our models—it’s a party at Sheesh Mahals!

“What we are trying to do right now is make connections with these figures [trucks printed on a white sheet] which are made of conductive material so when we touch them they produce a sound that represents Karachi, its traffic and the carbon emissions,” said Ifrah of Habib University of one of the projects.

Pilap’s Summaiya Zaidi was also there with the Numaish-Karachi tagging trees for their Saya Project. “The idea was born when billboards took over the city and they had cut trees on Shaheed-e-Millat and everywhere else…this was when we realised that we need to start marking trees.”

Discussing the trees at terrace, she said most of the trees such as Jungle Jalebi, rain and neem trees in the area were over 50 years old except for a sacred fig tree that was over 80 years old.

A father of four was taking his children to the tables and experiments set up by the Pakistan Science Society. He said he was glad that he decided to bring his children to the Purdah Bagh as they were getting to learn and experience new things. “I try to take my family out every Sunday to a new place and it was our good luck to drop by here today. There are so many exciting project for my children to see and learn from,” said Mohammad Siddiq while talking to Dawn.

Journalist Ghazi Salahuddin was taking a stroll around the garden and taking in the transformation of the terrace. “I am looking around right now and I like what I have seen so far,” he said, adding that he was quite intrigued with the idea of art and science coming together.

According the Numaish-Karachi’s Saima Zaidi, who also teaches at Habib University, when Numaish-Karachi was approached by MadLab for a collaboration, they decided to turn it into a course at the university.

“Four project made by our students are on display here,” she said, adding that the projects were low cost while the tools and materials had been bought from the area. “All the projects made in Karachi were made with this specific space in mind.”

DIY City is supported by the British Council Pakistan, Habib University and Karachi Metro­politan Corporation.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2017