The Untold Edition — Phases of planning part 1

I’ve always known that community work is important to me. I think growing up with a dad like mine cultivated that in me. He’s an eye surgeon and his hobby is to host eye camps in the rural areas of Pakistan where people suffer from curable diseases like cataract and spend their whole lives blind. I watched him perform 200 cataract operations a day for nothing and then spend the weekend sleeping on the roofs of clay houses. He enjoyed every moment of it. I saw the looks on those faces when their bandages were unwrapped and they blinked in wonder, “I can see!”

So I helped underprivileged students, I helped women, I helped the disabled. I tried to reach out and help them communicate through art. I’d been part of planning community welfare events in college, and I had planned small scale community welfare events on my own. But this year I decided to step it up a notch. The Untold Edition is a massive undertaking and the sheer amount of planning and work required to pull it off as absorbed my time over the last few months. So here I am going to pen down exactly what I have done so far and what remains to be done to pull of this little (ad)venture.

It began with a concept and a name. I knew I wanted to bring the people of Karachi together to ponder over its past and future narrative and their role in it, but the question was how?

First I developed a theme:

The Untold Edition is a public art project aiming to build a positive narrative of the city of Karachi through art. We welcome diversity of mediums to see what Karachi means to you, the artist. A past or future representation or simply emotions on a canvas; we want positive associations expressed. Let’s veer away from what is lacking and focus on what is worthwhile, what endears us to this city and why it has so much potential.

The Untold Edition seeks to bring the community together in the telling of these stories, and the exhibition will have interactive aspects. We would like to see art that engages the audience, drawing them in, triggering nostalgia or provoking thought. We want art that raises questions about our duty to this city; that causes the audience to introspect and reflect. We want art that reminds us why we call ourselves Karachiites.

Then I put out a call for artists online using a poster for social media pages as well drafting up a brief to send to artists personally.

Submission guidelines for artists

I think art should always be interdisciplinary, interconnected, interchangeable. So it only made sense that the event allow people to share their stories the best way they know how. I decided to make it a three day event:

July 11th 2018 Day 1: Open Mic. Welcoming all poets, musicians, storytellers, in fact, anyone with a desire to speak.

July 12th 2018 Day 2: Art Circle. A gathering of art lovers to talk, connect and spontaneously paint their thoughts.

July 14th 2018 Day 3: Interactive art exhibition: Displaying art by a lot of emerging artists and including some interactive aspects.

The next step was finding a venue or venues which could cater to this event. I reached out to artists from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi to find connections to galleries. I emailed this short proposal to each gallery along with my CV.

The Untold Edition

I chose to work with V.M Art Gallery, a prestigious and professional gallery that has been operating in Karachi for decades. The gallery is part of the Rangoonwala community center so their goals aligned with mine as well. The layout of the gallery was also perfect for the event. I have to finalize the booking by making the payment when I go there next week.

V.M Art Gallery seemed ideal for the art exhibition based on their expertise in this area. But I got the feeling that the space wasn’t ideal for an open mic or art circle. However there is a space called T2F (the Second Floor) in Karachi, founded by Sabeen Mahmud as a space for open dialogue and artistic expression. Sabeen Mahmud, who graduated from my alma mater Karachi Grammar School, was an activist for freedom of speech and behavior in Pakistan. She tried to eradicate religious intolerance and oppression and promote literacy and was shot dead for her efforts by Saad Aziz alumnus of my other alma mater The Institute of Business Administration. He apparently joined some radical ideology years after graduating. Anyway, news aside, T2F, the space for artistic expression seemed the perfect place for an open mic. 

I tried reaching out to them on Instagram, Facebook and their organization’s email but proposals rarely get a response through those channels. So I reached out to an artist Samreen Sultan who I had previously worked with on a community project. She happened to know the current curator of T2F’s Faraar Gallery, Shaheen Jaffrani. An email later we are all set to meet when I arrive in Khi and finalize T2F as the space for the open mic and art circle.

(…To be Continued…)

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