June Issue 2015

By | Arts & Culture | Published 9 years ago

Unver-ShafiPursukoon Karachi,’ an organisation set up to work for peace in the city of Karachi, believes that art is a medium that can create, at the very least, an oasis of harmony in a sea of discord.

Spearheaded by Noorjehan Bilgrami, the core group consists of creative individuals practicing in various spheres of the arts. One of the projects Pursukoon Karachi has taken on is the revitalisation of the historic Cantonment Railway Station in Karachi. The project is well under way, but funds are required to see it through to completion.

The exhibition, Aaghaz-e-Safar,  was a fundraiser for the project. The show, held at Frere Hall, curated by Mehr Afroze under the aegis of Koel Gallery, brought together 121 practicing artists, each one interpreting the given theme in the medium of their choice. Senior artists joined hands with upcoming ones to make a contribution, with the artworks being sold through silent auction.1There was a festive atmosphere at Frere Hall on the day of the inauguration, the traditional band baja playing downstairs, a thaal full of motia flowers at the entrance and a spick and span rickshaw waiting to take guests for a spin to the Cantt Station, so they could review the work in progress for themselves.

Some of the highest bids and most spirited bidding were witnessed for the works of Unver Shafi, Anwar Maqsood and Muhammad Zeeshan. Zeeshan’s ‘Sandwich Station’ is a subtly layered work, with an overlay on a richly worked base.


The artists interpreted the ambience of the railway station and its surroundings in ways both realistic and playful. Farrukh Shahab’s coolie painted a vivid picture, while Kiran Saeed’s eye-catching piece had a toy train on a platform draped in red fabric.

As is often the case with group shows of this nature, many artists had taken the trouble to produce fresh work in line with the stated title, while others chose to contribute existing artworks in their signature style, in the hope that they would fit into the broader theme. Taskeen Shah’s mosaic left one in no doubt, as the words ‘Pursukoon Karachi’ appeared as graffiti on the wall.

The railway track motif found its way into the work in interesting ways. In Noorjehan Bilgrami’s piece, the tracks wound through a sepia landscape. A closer look revealed the presence of splashes of red, suggestive of blood on the tracks. Amean J’s track image was an intriguing mirrored view.

The works on display ran through a gamut of emotion from the hope expressed in works such as Manizhe Ali’s germinating seed and Raheela Abro’s newly hatched chick to the alienation portrayed in Sonya Batla’s truncated Pakistani flag.

Nabahat Lotia’s clay bird perched on a string of barbed wire brought the two strands together, as the bitter-sweet nature of life in the city does afford occasional respite from its grim realities. The show was one such occasion.

This review was originally published in Newsline’s June 2015 issue.