Recreating Karachi: Artist encloses miniatures of city’s surmounting monuments into snow globes

Artist Madiha Sikander portrays her hometown through her craft making, painting.

Hifza Jillani September 28, 2013
snow globe of Cheel Chowk for Rs8,000 are part of Madiha Sikander’s exhibition. PHOTO COURTESY KOEL GALLERY


Artist Madiha Sikander recreated her home - Karachi - by crafting and drawing perspectives from feelings about insecurity, freedom and family at her show in Koel Gallery.

The artist breathed life into Karachi’s historical monuments by crafting them into miniature form and enclosing them in glass snow globes. Her snow globes range from miniature Teen Talwar, Mukka Chowk, Cheel Chowk to small dinosaurs.

In her paintings the matters are different. She draws her own version of a Karachiite man - a brawn and muscular man- in her painting ‘Mr Karachi’. She has also painted her sister wearing a swimsuit passed down in her family through generations in ‘Time we spent’.

Another painting, ‘No ordinary love’, shows a child from Lyari holding an imaginary gun and aiming to shoot.

Sikander, talking to The Express Tribune, said that the snow globes were her way of displaying gigantic and surmounting monuments of Karachi into something innocent and beautiful. “Now, they look perfectly fine to me. At least they don’t look that scary anymore,” she chuckles.

Preserving history through monuments

For her, monuments all over the world enshrine the conscience of people or civilisation. In Turkey, water is given specific importance as you can see fountains everywhere on the streets. Egypt has encapsulated all of its history in its monuments. In Karachi, however, the monuments hold the streak of violence, power struggle and elements of mightiness and haughtiness, she added.

“Passing through the streets of Lyari, you will see huge iron gates with faces of Bhutto family. Did they make the gates so that we could look at their faces?” she asked.

The Mukka Chowk is not a Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s monument, but a relic of Liaquat Ali Khan, she said, adding that the monument has been hijacked and clearly exhibits an aura of ‘overt power’.

She said these monuments leave a psychological impact on passers-by. “Outside schools we see monuments of cannons, aircraft and missiles. Are we all about that?” she questioned, adding that monuments should demonstrate positivity.

When asked by The Express Tribune if she had an option of replacing the monuments, she said, “I would have preferred statues of human beings rather than these ugly symbols used by politicians who have been ransacking my city.”

Responded to the question of why she chose to enclose small monuments into snow globes, she said, “I have always had an obsession with snow globes, and in these snow globes I have tried to trivialise the things that surmount us [monuments] by making them into toys.”

Aliyah Ashraf, a photographer by passion and a lawyer by profession, said that the painting of ‘Mr Karachi’ quite aptly describes the dwellers of the city. “It portrays exactly the reality of our society. The men like to pretend that they are not into bodybuilding, but in truth they all want to impress women with their physiques,” she told The Express Tribune.

The owner of Koel Gallery, Noor Jehan Bilgarami, while praising Sikander’s work, said, “She has such skilled hands. There is something exquisitely delicate about her work, which gives you a serene feeling with minimalistic character.”  The owner of Ram Studios and restaurant Sattar Baksh, Rizwan Ahmad Malik, told The Express Tribune, “It’s the artist’s perspective, who looked at something ordinary and turned it into an expression. We have grown up seeing these monuments, it’s amazing to see them on a miniature scale.”  The exhibition, which opened on Friday, will run till October 6.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2013.


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