There are literally way too many hats that Khaula Jamil dons. At just 32 years of age, Jamil has achieved what many cannot in an entire lifetime and yet, she seems oddly nonchalant about it. “I am very passionate about things and when you really want to do something, you go out and do it,” she states casually, when asked about her many talents.
But for Jamil, nothing trumps her passion for Karachi — her hometown and first love. She photographs the bustling metropolis ardently, to the extent of bringing Karachi’s old buildings alive in statement jewellery pieces. Her collection, Orenda, depicts the different communities living within her city; from the Zoroastrians to the Hindus and the Bohras. “I have very deep-rooted feelings for Karachi. It’s sometimes very frustrating but you can’t hate what is yours,” she explains. “Karachi is home and you have to own it, fix its flaws and not run away from it.”
Three Pakistanis shortlisted for world’s biggest photography contest
Perhaps this is what prompted Jamil to take up teaching a course called ‘City Orientation’ at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS), wherein she speaks about Karachi and everything within it. And as though this was not enough, Jamil is also the brains behind the Humans of Karachi (HOK) campaign, highlighting the daily plights of those living in the city. Back in 2012, when Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York project first began making headway, Jamil quickly took cue and began HOK via Facebook. The project was launched under the umbrella of Citizens Archive of Pakistan, helmed by two-time Oscar-winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. “When I first informed Sharmeen that I wanted to start this project, she was very encouraging and told me to do so immediately. And so, we launched the venture,” says Jamil. “Initially, it was a daily thing we did together: choose a location, stop and get off with the story. But now, it’s weekly and getting all the more tougher to do considering my schedule. I love to pursue the stories myself because it’s your responsibility to do it. You owe it to the people!”
For better or for worse, Jamil’s experience with HOK is replete with bittersweet moments which often compelled her to close off her heart — at least while working. “A guy came under a bus and was rendered disabled but he is proud. He wanted to do things on his own and earn for his wife and four kids,” she recalls fondly. “What I saw was numbing but proved that love validates all, and that one should retain faith in humanity.”
Capturing life: Unveiling the invisible — a discussion on photography
Ever the humanitarian, she of course did not stop just there. Jamil goes on to relay how the man’s story played out through HOK. “We ran three Facebook posts about him with details of his life. People read them and wanted to help financially but we did not give him cash,” she clarifies. “Instead, we will provide a laptop for his online business and a bike to help him commute as a bus journey is very difficult for him now. Two days after the blog was uploaded, we had five donors down and were able to make life easier for him,” she adds.
For Jamil, this man’s example denotes everything she visualises with regards to HOK. “The Facebook page is about storytelling and sharing an experience that people all over the world can read and see what Karachiites are all about, and perhaps relate to some of the stories which are at times very thought provoking. Also, it’s great to have a project about a community wishing to help against all odds,” she shares. “These stories are coming from every country. People all over are having the same problems, which is thought-provoking and can be resolved. Social media is good for this.”
In this way, Jamil hopes to give back to the city through her that made her who she is. She will soon be doing the same justice to Multan and Peshawar. “Karachi needs more people to show a narrative other than the corruption and danger that does exist in the city. But these aren't the only things that exist here. I was lucky to be there at the right place and time to start HOK.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2016.
Like Life & Style on Facebook, follow @ETLifeandStyle on Twitter for the latest in fashion, gossip and entertainment.