Photo — Biennale FB page
Photo — Biennale FB page

It was a lovely setting. The weather had relented and it wasn’t as hot in the evening as it was in the afternoon.

Guests started to drive through the entrance to the Bagh Ibne Qasim from the side where a huge incomplete building stands aloft next to the shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi from 5pm. It took an hour or less for the chief guest, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, to arrive, after which proceedings for the second Karachi Biennale (KB19) on Saturday began.

Speaking on the occasion, CEO of KB19 Niilofur Farrukh said Karachi is one of the courageous cities of the world that holds the biennale because it is not a mean task –– it brings people together, it energises the city.

This year the theme of the event is ecology. The title ‘flight interrupted: eco-leaks from the invasion desk’ alludes to the low-flying birds of the city which we have lost due to high-rise buildings. The organisers want that their dreams and the dreams of the participating artists should come together to arrange the biennale.

Ms Farrukh lauded her team, especially the curator of KB19, Muhammad Zeeshan, and the sponsors, for putting up the show. She added the mandate of KB19 is to connect art, the city and its people.

Mr Zeeshan said people always complain about the government not supporting them but in his case he saw the opposite. He thanked the mayor for lending his support to the programme. He wished to take art to the common man, and without the mayor’s help it wouldn’t have been possible.

He also talked about changes in his perceptions of things while curating the project, especially when he worked alongside the likes of carpenters and electricians.

Mayor Akhtar started off his address by acknowledging the efforts of the Karachi Biennale Trust and 98 artists who have put on display their artworks at seven venues. He welcomed the visitors from abroad to the city. He said his team was honoured to work on three venues –– Bagh Ibne Qasim, Frere Hall and the Zoo –– and be part of KB19.

The mayor mentioned that it’s wonderful to see the city come alive with art, artists and visitors. The collaboration, he said, with the KB Trust was a cultural partnership, and hoped they would continue to work together for future biennales.

Since Bagh Ibne Qasim was his “special project”, it gave him pleasure to bring people from all walks of life to come to the park. He pointed out that the theme of KB19 was geared to focus on the impact of pollution and climate change. “All efforts must begin somewhere, and as a nation we must combine our energies to address the issue,” he stressed.

Bushra Husain informed the attendees of the three awards that were to be announced and given away by members of the jury on Saturday.

The award for the emerging artist was given to Arsalan Nasir; Akram Dost Baloch got the Lifetime Achievement Prize; and Rashid Rana bagged the Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Juried Art Prize.

After the speeches, all were requested to view the artworks installed around the park.

Originally published in Dawn, October 27th, 2019

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