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Arrival City

The Goethe institute hosted an exhibition on 9th June 2019 titled, ‘Arrival City’ (a book written by Canadian journalist and author, Doug Saunder), focusing on its chapter about KARACHI (Seeking home-The Afghan Narrative) and was curated by Marvi Mazhar. The show is a compilation of photographic, textual and video based work of journalists, Zehra Nawab, Danial shah and Salman Alam. The original German exhibition, which was presented in the Venice biennale 2016 was also a part of this exhibition in Goethe institute.


The exhibition undoubtedly gained a lot of attention for highlighting the theme of migration, as it is sensitive, provocative and highly debatable. ‘Arrival city’ strikingly focuses on the concept of HEIMAT– a German word for home. The German exhibition focuses on the importance of architecture for the migrants; how the construction of a city helps the migrants settle in easily. However, the chapter on Karachi emphasises on the experiences of the immigrants. Together this entire exhibition allows the viewers to understand the process of migration and its consequences easily.


During 1970s hundreds of Afghans came to Pakistan in search of home and shelter. By the end of 2001 there were around 4 million Afghan migrants in Pakistan. Undeniably, the new generations of those Afghans migrants are still facing crisis and complex issues in calling Pakistan their home. Although Karachi and Pakistan has been a gracious host for Afghans refugees their identity is still frowned upon in the country. After the Peshawar attack of 16th December 2014, many afghan refuges were forced to go back to their country. This continuous dislocation has provoked them to question their identity and concept of home continuously.


The chapter on Karachi provides the insight to the life of these migrants. It allows us to understand the process of migration with the help of their real life stories. Marvi Mazhar, the curator, explains that this exhibition is focused on Afghans living in Karachi in particular and helps the viewer understand the life of those immigrants who were brutally forced out of their homes and told to settle in a place completely unfamiliar to them. Their stories enlighten the hardships these migrants went through in building their home in a different place and how they raised their future generations there. Thus, the concept of Heimat is more assessed and evaluated in the chapter of ‘Karachi-the Afghan narrative.’


The exhibition highlights the idea that the concept of home is not an architectural space but a feeling; it is a place where one can be at ease and comfort, where there is no fear but a sense of ownership, freedom of expression and behaviour. For the migrants this idea of home becomes complex as they are forced to spend their entire life at a new place, trying to merge in but still always being an outsider.


A symposium by, Sophie Wolfrum, Joachim Baur, Mudassar Javed, Zia-Ur-Rehman, Sameer Rehman, Hafsa Ghani, and Fariha Kidwai also followed the exhibition at commune Artist colony.


‘Arrival city- seeking home’, brings our attention towards the problems of the Afghan migrants that our country has been avoiding. It helps us understand the complexities of the theme of home, with the help of history, mapping and the real life stories of the migrants themselves.


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