(From left to right) Artists Abuzar Madhu, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mahera Omar and Marvi Mazhar. (Right) One of the artworks displayed at the exhibition.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
(From left to right) Artists Abuzar Madhu, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mahera Omar and Marvi Mazhar. (Right) One of the artworks displayed at the exhibition.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: A group show titled Saahil Ki Kahanian (Stories from the coast) opened at the Koel Art Gallery on Friday evening. Curated by eminent artist Noorjehan Bilgrami, the exhibition is a result of collaboration between the gallery and the British Council.

In all, eights artists — individuals and in pairs or groups — are taking part in the display: Mahera Omar, Marvi Mazhar, Abuzar Madhu and Swalay Muhammad; Taqi Shaheen and Sara Khan Pathan; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Janan Sindhu.

The objective of the whole exercise is to raise awareness of the effects of climate change in the coastal areas of the country. In doing so, the project has awarded grants to the Pakistani artists who have explored the subject through a variety of mediums such as film, music, illustrations, photography, textiles and crafts.

Show aims at raising awareness of climate change effects in country’s coastal areas

There was a buzz on Friday around the art space where the artists, their admirers and the media started to gather from 5pm. The lovely images of the coastline and visuals representing the subject in relation to maritime life with catchy captions such as ‘field notes from where the salt meets the sweet water’ and ‘kabhi aisey bhi hota hai kinare doob jate hain’ instantly attracted their attention.

Talking to Dawn, Ms Bilgrami said, “I was approached by the British Council to curate an exhibition in connection with the 75th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence. Since I live in this city, I’ve always been drawn to the coast of Karachi, and having previously done a project on mangroves, I thought it’s a great opportunity to do a larger interactive event and get more people involved. So the idea for Saahil Ki Kahanian came about.

“We thought to make it open-ended. They wanted to give out grants [as well] so it was put out to individuals and organisations to come up with some ideas and concepts of how they would interpret something that could benefit the fishermen community and the coast at large.

The screengrab of a video showing rescue of an Indus dolphin. (Right) An artwork displayed at the exhibition.—White Star
The screengrab of a video showing rescue of an Indus dolphin. (Right) An artwork displayed at the exhibition.—White Star

“Forty-two organisations and individuals applied. It was difficult to shortlist because of the really good projects. The selection committee selected the artists whose work is on view. My role was to work with them and guide them in order to find a common ground. But they were totally independent and carried out [work] on their own,” she said.

Mahera Omar, a film-maker, has worked individually by recording the mangroves; Marvi Mazhar, Abuzar Madhu and Swalay Muhammad’s effort called ‘Milaap’ is a conversation between the river and the sea; Taqi Shaheen and Sara Khan have developed a board game-like concept, ‘The shape of island’, to use the game as a storytelling tool for reflection and ecological understanding about scarcity of natural resources around Bhit Island; and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who has paired up with another film-maker Janan Sindhu, focuses on the plight of blind dolphins.

Mr Bhutto said, “The show has incredible artists focused on coastal ecologies of Pakistan. My collaboration is with Janan Sindhu. Both of us are working on Indus river dolphins which are a species that can only be found in Pakistan. We are working in particular with a man called Nazir Mirani. He has been a dolphin conservator for the past 55 years. A lot of the exhibits you will see here is about him and his family.”

He added that the dolphins are an endangered species mainly because of the water shortage issues that surfaced in the last decade. “The survival of the species indicates the health and survival of our own river. If the species population is healthy, it means our river is also healthy.”

The exhibition concludes on Aug 19.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2022

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