Poke your eyes out: In the most dangerous city of the world, art is the latest victim

While the festival had its saving graces, take two steps forward and you'll be knee-deep in muck.

Photo Ayesha Mir/Taha Anis April 14, 2014
The photos from the photo exhibition were one of the few positives in an otherwise below-par event. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: The first thing to welcome all entrants was a university student insisting on singing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in an extremely off-key manner as the microphone shrieked in protest. There was little more to the Institute of Business Administration's Youth Arts and Literary Exhibition than what met the eye, or in this case, the ear.

The art exhibition at the festival, which took place at the Regent Plaza, displayed the works of students, all of whom were under the age of 25, according to organiser Saadia Saleem. "We wanted a platform for the youth to exhibit their talents in what are often ignored fields," she said, insisting that art and photo exhibitions don't take place in the city.

In an attempt to make up for the perceived lack of exhibitions in Karachi, this particular one decided to incorporate everything: photographs, poetry, films, paintings and even debate. By trying to do so, they ended up being master of none, and even calling them jacks would be unfair to the trades themselves.

The 'art'

The use of cheap materials for the art gave away the fact that it was not done by professionals but most of the talent on display belied it. From pop culture references like a depiction of the Spartans in the 300 movie, Ariel - The Little Mermaid and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to political caricatures, the students dabbled in a wide variety of subjects.

However, just like every good thing at the exhibition, it was surrounded by mediocrity. One of the artists got a little carried away and decided to copy Picasso's cubist phase. However, the end result was a gruesome reminder to the artist that she is not Picasso, not even close.

On the opposite wall hung poetry, few in English, few in Urdu, fewer still worth reading.

The photo exhibition was perhaps the only place that didn't disappoint. The words 'Jagen Gay Zaroor' [We will surely wake up] were written on one of the walls. It showed pictures of a desolate Karachi, of water puddles and of homelessness.

'Mar Gaya Insan' [Man is dead] was written on the other side. Despite the dramatic words, the pictures in that collection were a let-down. The only picture that caught the eye was of a man in a room filled with rubble. The man, broken and bent, wore a bright blue kurta that almost lit up the room. The picture was just as dramatic as the title, even though it portrayed the defiance of man, of his will to live, rather than of the death of humanity.

The silver lining

On the furthest corner of the large room resided nostalgia and there lay one of the exhibition's only saving graces. The display had a write-up of the Beatles' visit to Pakistan in the 1960s, of the filming of the Hollywood movie Bhowani Junction in Lahore, of the hippie trail that once travelled through the country and of the Karachi tram.

The section also had an area dedicated to Lollywood in its heyday. It showed a once budding industry and served to remind the onlookers of its dramatic downfall.

One of the main themes of the exhibition was 'anti-piracy' and two panel discussions were held to discuss the controversial issue. While the exhibition had entries from many different schools and universities, including the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, it served as a harsh lesson as to why IBA students should stick to business than to try and cross the great divide and dabble in art or literature.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2014. 


Anon | 8 years ago | Reply Are you actually allowed to use someone elses' photographs without their permission or without giving them credits? I think that is highly unprofessional. And maybe that's what the whole exhibition was about. Oh the irony.
MIK | 8 years ago | Reply

Is this article about the Youth Arts and Literary Exhibition or is it about how bad IBA is at managing Arts/Literature events?

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