What are Karachi's artists up to in lockdown?

Published 19 Apr, 2020 09:59am
An art connoisseur appreciates different pieces during more ‘normal’ times in this file photo.—White Star
An art connoisseur appreciates different pieces during more ‘normal’ times in this file photo.—White Star

Self-isolation can be painful, especially for the artist community which thrives on observation.

But these are challenging times. They require a great deal of patience and restraint. Artists, who are known to be a restless lot, are trying their best to keep themselves confined to the walls of their homes and allow this critical period in our collective lives to pass in as productive a way as it is possible for them. So, what are Karachi’s artists and gallery owners doing in their homes in self-quarantine?

Sculptor Amin Gulgee said, “I’m at the moment working on my essay for the show Lal Jadoo I curated with Sara Pagganwala. Writing is not my comfort zone so I try to tackle this each morning as soon as I get up. When I have completed my quota of 400 words I allow myself to indulge in the pleasure of cooking.”

Cooking appears to be something that many creative people are doing in this lockdown phase, probably because it demands a fair bit of creativity.

Painter Tanweer Farooqi said, “For the past more than two weeks, me and my son have got stuck in this lockdown because exactly during those days we started shifting to another place — no furniture, no cable TV, no Wi-Fi. So we are in real isolation.

Creative people are trying to spend the lockdown in as productive a way as possible

“I spend most of my time in placing different (household) stuff to their right spots. After that I mostly read literature, poetry and prose both, and do some sketching in my book. My studio is not yet ready for serious stuff. Cooking is a regular thing for me for the last few years. I’m good at it and I love it,” Farooqi added.

Poetry, Urdu poetry at that, has also become a favourite pastime of the community. Artist and director at Art Chowk the Gallery, Shakira Masood said, “I am negotiating a master’s sale and looking at a lot of artworks sent to me. I’m doodling, reading Omar Shahid’s latest book and watching mushairas on YouTube. Most artists are using the lockdown in a constructive manner. We will have a lot of new work for our viewers once we are set free. Praying for a safe and healthy world.”

Sameera Raja, who runs the Canvas Art Gallery, said, “This is the best time to revisit the past and come up with solutions for the new normal. Since we are generally in the act of ‘doing’, we have forgotten that most creativity takes place in the act of ‘being’. If one is privileged enough to be in isolation, gratitude is what we should practise the most — whether through meditation, exercise, breathing, cooking, reading or any other activity.”

Yes, that’s the best way to go about it. It is believed that difficulty induces growth, especially when it comes to the creative lot of society. Let’s see what kind of work in the realm of art sees the light of day once the coronavirus scare subsides.

Originally published in Dawn, April 18th, 2020