KARACHI, Feb 9: Last year on Sept 11 Pakistan witnessed the most horrific industrial accident in its history when a textile factory in Karachi’s Baldia town area caught fire. It took 259 innocent lives and many of the survivors received injuries. To pay tribute to the fire victims, an exhibition titled Awaz opened at the Arts Council Karachi on Friday.

More than 60 artists are taking part in the display and all of them have shown the kind of sensitivity that’s required to paint, draw or portray such a calamitous event. Some have opted for more direct ways of expressing themselves while others have chosen the roundabout, rather abstract style of putting their ideas across. And all of them have managed to convey their feelings in a pretty convincing manner.

Sara Khan uses the ‘emergency’ warning that one finds in every office building with a difference. Using both the Urdu and English languages she makes it clear that when such a tragedy happens, those who belong to the underprivileged segment of society are often left to their own devices. The words on her digital print artwork read, “In case of emergency, help yourself.”

Habib Phulpoto explores the idea of matchsticks (gouache on wasli) and shows the kind of (potentially) dangerous situation a tiny spark can cause.

Noorus Saba Saeed draws the fateful factory and looking at the artist’s work gives the impression as if the building had phases in its history. It either phased out gradually or went through different periods that its inhabitants might not have realised.

Fariha Mohammad’s piece is titled ‘Melting’ (wax and oil on canvas). Using bold colours, she has created columns of dark strokes (read: fire) to indicate a blazing scenario. Yasmin’s untitled work (acrylic on canvas) appears to be an interpretation of an incident that can be called a surrealistic nightmare. The strength of both Fariha and Yasmin’s works lies in the use of colours.

As far as sculptures go, artists have shown the ‘burnt’ side to the whole tragedy either in terms of faces or objects of daily use. Videos on display, too, depict the same plight. The highlight of the exhibition is Muzzumil Ruheel’s imaginative piece called ‘It Could Be Me’. There are 259 portraits, faces of the people that the artist knows. By putting them together creating an insightful large image, he keeps the message simple that on that hurtful day, it could have been anyone instead of those 259 who lost their lives. It’s the simplicity of the idea that has made it all the more poignant.

The inaugural ceremony of the exhibition had speeches by eminent personalities and artists along with a music video launch of Jawad Ahmed’s song dedicated to the victims of the Baldia Town fire.

The exhibition, curated by Adeela Sulaiman, will continue till Feb 15.

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