Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin describing HOW it happened let alone WHAT ultimately happened. But let me try.
So, my repeated efforts to draw art for a humanitarian cause into the public sphere had been attracting attention and I had this feeling that if I could somehow design a tour of Karachi, open, free of cost, to artists and bloggers of note (to be selected via an application process) where we could traverse the length of the city, see sights we haven’t truly seen before and capture them in our sketchbooks or canvases, I would finally be doing exactly what The Untold Edition is meant to do: drawing in artists to create art that inspires the community, opening their eyes to the reality of the city and its resilience in the face of damage, and ponder over the impact of our actions.
But it seemed like a long shot.
So the first thing I did was contact the Roshni Rides Team. Roshni Rides is a team of four kids from New Jersey who won the Bill Gates’ Foundation Hult Prize of $1MM and moved to Karachi to execute their idea for a transport provider that can revolutionize the game for working women. They are all for humanitarian causes and we had the perfect connection from the get go. And they said: Yes, our cars are your cars! Let’s do this tour!
That gave me heart to search further. Of course, Toyota Central Motors was in my mind for a sponsor and it took four months, repeated calls and many budgets and proposals before they finally met up with me and said ‘okay here’s the money you need, let’s do this’.
It was imperative to me to keep the event free. People immediately said, but if you keep it free the artists won’t take it seriously and wont show up since they won’t have invested in a ticket. But you see I don’t want people to show up because they think they’ve invested in a ticket. I want people to show up because they believe in the project, because they want to collaborate, because they are inspired and they care! Idealistic I know.
When I arrived in Karachi I searched for further collaborations to bring into my ever growing team of enthusiasts and supporters. I found The Narrative, a team that has been working to capture the stories of Karachi since they were in college. I had met their team leader Safee at the Open Mic Night and we could see synergies between what we were trying to do. We met up and Safee and his team plus a drone were ready to handle videography and photography during the event, as well as post production.
So we put out a trailer, I made lots of calls, I sorted through dozens of applications (it was surprising how many people found this project exciting) and I finally selected about 50 applicants to proceed.
Here’s our trailer:
Out of the people we had chosen, about 44 showed up. And the day itself was eye opening, revolutionary, epic. We walked, we drove, we laughed we collaborated, we forged friendships while navigating a crowded and glorious Karachi filled with old architecture and undeniable signs of urbanization draped over an inherent strength, resilience and deep rooted beauty. We performed, we wrote, we drew and painted using everything from brushes to our bodies to coins left in place as a reminder that we were there, to be kicked away as people walked past because that is the transitory nature of human impact. We drew crowds of people to where we painted and people videotaped and Instagrammed us!! We not only inspired ourselves, we inspired everyone around us and that day, we truly truly discovered Karachi.
We went to Frere Hall to see Sadequain’s gothic mural adorning its ceiling, gorgeous and forgotten, not celebrated like so many other murals in history. We went to Quaid House and Mohatta Palace to see the remnants of a history we haven’t done justice to. We roamed Empress Market, a thriving hub of buying and selling which has recently been reduced to rubble because most of those sellers were illegally occupying space. We painted amidst the throngs of people outside the old custom house building. We walked the fisheries, a prime representation of the colors and hardwork that make Karachi what it is, overlaid by a river littered with oil and trash because we have failed to preserve and appreciate it. And yet, like the resilient Karachiites Karachi expects us to be, we sailed that river, we whooped and laughed and had a whale of a time because we knew that today we realized we loved working for change, today we felt inspired to be the change.
Here’s our video! with 3oK views on Facebook!