Protest held against shutting down of artwork

November 01, 2019

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Activists lie on the floor in an act of protest at Frere Hall on Thursday.—White Star
Activists lie on the floor in an act of protest at Frere Hall on Thursday.—White Star

KARACHI: Artists, members of civil society and social activists gathered at Frere Hall on Thursday evening to register their protest against the shutting down by law enforcement agencies on Sunday of an art installation that was on display as part of the ongoing Karachi Biennale (KB19).

The protesters led by artist Sheema Kermani started gathering at the venue from the time given by the organisers, some symbolically wearing black clothes, others white. They made rows, as were depicted in the artwork by Adeela Suleman which was closed down, and sat down. Then they began chanting lines such as hum wo hain jo tareek raahon mein maarey gay (we were put to death on benighted roads). The chants slowly grew louder. After that the participants lay down on the floor.

Talking to Dawn artist Yasir Husain, whose artwork is displayed at Bagh Ibne Qasim as a KB19 exhibit, said, “The biennale organisers have the responsibility to look after their artists, but the way they tolerated what happened to Adeela’s work is a question that they haven’t been asking. They could’ve come here.”

When asked whether he had talked to the biennale officials, Husain replied, “I haven’t talked to them directly but have sent them quite a few messages. They haven’t responded.”

Mr Husain said protests such as the one that took place on Thursday carry a message that one can see and the symbolism of it is that there are both flowers and thorns here. “This is symbolism we’ve been using for a long time.”

Addressing her fellow protesters, Ms Kermani said art and politics could not be separated. “The water that we drink, clean or not, the cleanliness issue, etc … everything is to do with politics. The purpose of art is to create awareness in society and help people think [about issues].”

Those who took part in the protest included politician Ghinwa Bhutto, educationist Ameena Saiyid, architect Arif Hasan, writer Rumana Husain, social activists Mehnaz Rehman, Ambareen Thompson, Shabnam Abdullah, Jibran Nasir, among others.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2019