Some of the exhibits on display at the exhibition.—White Star
Some of the exhibits on display at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: The International Public Art Festival organised by I Am Karachi is under way at NED University (city campus).

Curated by Sohail Zuberi and assisted by Ali Dossai and Humayun Memon, it is titled Karachi Ki Khoj –– Redefining the Metropolis.

The redefining part is what the participating artists have concentrated on, as they should, because it entails both the urge to rectify what’s gone wrong and to relive the glory that has become a distant memory. The latter is evident from Sheema Khan and Noman Siddiqui’s artwork where they talk about their ancestors telling them that Bandar Road (now M.A. Jinnah Road) used to be washed and cleaned every day. Taking from there, they lament that now things have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Their exhibit, drawings engraved on ceramic pieces, highlights these two phases.

The former is best described in Sarmad Hashmi’s participatory work called ‘Karachi on a Canvas’. The young artist has put up images of icons such as Abdul Sattar Edhi on display, and if you look closely at what the lines and doodles on it have done to the figure, you’ll know what conclusion he’s drawing (pun not intended) from the viewer’s perspective of the image.

Wajiha Athar Naqvi touches on an important subject with a sound installation called ‘Sacred Overtones’. The artist says it “documents sounds across different spaces in Karachi inviting the audience to pay attention to the vibrancy of this pulsating city through the act of focused listening”. The argument developed is that these diverse places, despite being beautiful and efficacious, are affected by politics. This is true. Actually, in doing so, Naqvi intelligently underlines a significant aspect of our society which in the past was the cornerstone of our cultural strengths: plurality.

Then there are some nice photographs put up on the first floor of the venue. They narrate the ‘untold stories’ through pictures taken by 19 photographers. They contain a variety of elements, all of which are essential to the socio-cultural makeup of the city by the sea.

The event, which concludes on Feb 16, showcases works of a good number of artists, and apart from their installations and paintings, features other interesting things, including concerts.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2020