Diplomat’s evening delight
Some days after my arrival in Karachi I met the gallery owner Sameera Raja. Not only was she open-minded and well informed about international developments in modern art, more important for me was a first but detailed insight she gave me about the art scene of Pakistan, leading art schools and well-established artists of Karachi as well as those in Lahore and elsewhere in Pakistan. She invited me to come and see one of the exhibition openings in her Canvas Gallery, which take place regularly every two weeks. Already the first opening made me a constant visitor of Canvas. Later I discovered other galleries in Clifton, such as Koel, Studio 7, Sanat and Full Circle. Attending these galleries’ events, meeting artists, curators, gallery owners, professors of art schools, film-makers, journalists and many others interested in Pakistani contemporary art soon became my favourite “evening delight” and one of the most interesting ways to relax and to get valuable insights in cultural developments of my host country respectively.
Contacts to professors of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, the Fine Arts Department of Karachi University, and the Karachi School of Arts later led to what became the first German-Pakistani comic-art project. A German friend of mine, a leading comic artist and editor of top-class graphic novels in Germany, came to Karachi to create a graphic novel together with 20 art students. Young artists, comic makers from Pakistan and Germany, and the consular staff jointly transformed the German Consulate General into a large artists’ studio for one week. Seeing the artists creating a graphic novel, drawing, painting, discussing and giggling all day belonged to the nicest experiences I had during my three years in Karachi. By the way, the graphic novel made in Karachi addresses the topic of vocational training – one of the most important fields of co-operation between Germany and Pakistan. It was printed in one edition in English and one in Urdu, presented to the public during KLF 2017 and KLF 2018.
Coming back to galleries I should mention the FOMMA (Foundation of Modern Museum of Art) Gallery in Zamzama Park. FOMMA was my favourite place to present two exhibitions related to German-Pakistani projects: first, an exhibition presenting the original pages of our graphic novel to the public, and later, an exhibition on a Consulate’s project in Makli, the conservation and rehabilitation of the sepulchre of Mirza Jan Baba. I would like to use this opportunity to thank Fawzia Naqvi, the most helpful and exceptionally patient Director of FOMMA, for her contributions in implementing both exhibition projects.
To conclude, I would like to give a “written applause” to Karachi’s artists: I could mention many, e.g. some of those young artists whose works I saw in IVS graduation shows in 2015 and 2017. But I would like to pay special tribute to Ms. S. Haya Zaidi, graduate of NCA, and Ms. Madiha Hyder, graduate of IVS. Haya’s graduation works, which are titled “The Commoners” and “An Opulent Wasteland”, both in an impressive figurative style, caught my eyes during an exhibition at Canvas Gallery in early 2017. Some months later I saw a diptych named “Mother is at Work”, again a piece of art with a clear message relevant for all of us. The same applies to Madiha and the way she develops her ideas as an artist and how her emotions are reflected in her paintings. I am convinced that Haya Zaidi and Madiha Hyder will make their ways in the international world of art. May art-events in Karachi such as the 1st Karachi Biennial Art Festival and promote Karachi’s artists and contribute to a positive narrative of this amazing city.
Rainer Schmiedchen, Consul-General of Germany in Karachi from 2015 to 2018