A STALL-holder entertains customers at the Night Bazaar.—White Star
A STALL-holder entertains customers at the Night Bazaar.—White Star

KARACHI: From 5pm to 10pm, the Karachi Night Market, organised by Dawood Global Foundation’s Ladiesfund and Clifton Urban Forest in collaboration with the Karachi Municipal Corporation and District Municipal Corporation South, was the place to be over the weekend.

The brilliant gala of 100 stalls set up on one side of the Bagh Ibne Qasim attracted a huge number of people, especially women.

It was not just a handicraft market, it was also experiencing the various cultures of the rural women artisans setting up shop there. Zahra Bibi, Shakira Bibi and their brother Zahir Shah minding their stall of Kalash handicrafts, including pouches and their traditional headdress, were educating about their culture while also enjoying some local cuisine.

As the brother dug into his biryani lunchbox, the sisters presented the shuman to their customers for free. “It is part of our culture to present this souvenir to anyone we want to honour,” Zahra Bibi explained about the colourful woolen ribbons finger-woven without a loom.

‘There is representation from Kalash Mountain Range down to the Indus Delta and Tharparkar region’

Mariam Sultana from Haripur, besides selling her pretty jasti chadors and phulkari suits and shirts, also had on display a framed embroidered tapestry, which happened to be an antique piece from 1860, handed down from artisans in her family.

Shazia Shaheen, also from Haripur, who had set up a stall of cotton khaadi suits as well as phulkari work, said that she was enjoying herself making good sales. “In our area, we don’t see such a response and sales as every other person there is already an expert of these crafts. But here things are so much better,” she said.

Masood Lohar of the Clifton Urban Forest in a Sindhi turban was helping by going around and introducing the customers to the entrepreneurs besides helping out as a translator too wherever there was any communication issue in order to assist in their being able to sell their handicrafts.

According to Uroosa Anwar, coordinator for the Clifton Urban Forest, the stalls had been set up by women from Kalash, Haripur, Peshawar, Lahore, Matiari, Hala, Bhit Shah, Jacobabad, Larkana, Sukkur, Khairpur and Hyderabad, besides Karachi.

Sakina Mansoor from the Bohra community, who had named her little business of pure and natural skin products ‘Seen Meem’, said that she also sold her hair serum, face masks, essential oils, soaps, etc, through her Facebook page.

Gul Khatoon from Khairpur was selling embroidered and applique work handicrafts and also date leaf baskets.

Tasleem Palijo was a headmistress of a charity school founded in Tando Alam by Oil and Gas Development Company Limited. “We sell the handicrafts made in the school by our students and give them all the money earned from the sales,” she said.

And it wasn’t all handicrafts. There was Rabia Khurram selling wholesome and hygienic home-cooked delights at the Bake & Cake stall. The aroma of food beckoned many customers from the handicrafts stalls to the busy food stall. “Bake & Cake is the brainchild of my daughter Nabeeha,” said Rabia.

“My daughter is an O-Levels student, who was bored at home during the lockdown last year and decided to start selling home-cooked meals through her Facebook page that she created for the purpose. Now that schools have reopened, I have hijacked her business though she remains as my right-hand,” the mother shared proudly.

Tara Uzra Dawood of Ladiesfund said it was an honour and privilege to welcome the amazing women to Karachi. “I also hope that this city will open its heart to these hardworking women and spend big to purchase their crafts and remind them that Karachi is truly the city of dreams,” she said, adding that no commission was being taken from the women by the organisers and all proceeds will directly go to the courageous women of Pakistan. “Our culture has existed for thousands of years. Let’s all make sure our traditions continue,” she added.

Deputy Commissioner and Administrator (South) Irshad Ali Sodhar called the Night Market an amazing initiative with all the entrepreneur women taking part coming from across the country. “There is representation from the Kalash Mountain Range down to the Indus Delta and the Tharparkar region. And the purpose of it was not only to provide an opportunity to more skilled persons but to also showcase their beautiful crafts,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2021

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