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The archaeology of a city

May 16, 2018


Three of the paintings on display at the exhibition.—White Star
Three of the paintings on display at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: The city of Karachi is fascinating because it doesn’t boast as old an historical existence as most of the other cities of the country. In terms of documented history, one doesn’t have to go more than 200 years back to dig deep about the city by the sea. But Karachi is one city that you fall unconditionally in love with, and therefore try and find out about it as much as you can.

This seems to be the drive behind artist Sohail Zuberi’s quest to discover more and more about the metropolis, and reflect on what it has lost or gained. The exhibition Archaeologies of Tomorrow at the Koel Gallery, in which he has put on view modern-day “archaeological relics” that he found through “chance and encounter” by surveying a beach, is pretty unique to look at.

It is a big spread of artworks made from found objects (on the beach) and photographs. The latter capture the city’s coastline and other areas nicely. But the real deal is the striking pieces that he has made out of, for want of a better phrase, bits and pieces. One such piece is called ‘Seascape’ (found painted wood, glue, and plywood with wooden frame). The name suggests a watery scenario. Actually the artist, rather smartly, has created that effect by giving it colours that instantly remind the viewer of something that’s to do with not just water, but with the ocean. That’s the kind of effect that Zuberi has managed to elicit out of his survey.

In order to further understand what he is trying to achieve through the show is to read the elaborate captions that he’s written to introduce segments of the exhibition. They range from ‘The Kitchen’ to ‘The Boat’ and from ‘The Sea’ to ‘Death’. It would be sufficient to talk about the last one, Death, here. The artist is hinting, nay lamenting, the consequences of ‘development’ which has adversely affected nature’s blessing — flora, fauna, birds etc. This goes to show that what Sohail Zuberi has striven to put forth comes straight from his heart, and not the mind.

The exhibition concludes on May 17.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018