Pakistani expats in Dubai back Karachi arts fest

Pakistanis in Dubai have established a group to support the Karachi Bienalle art festival, set to be held early next year in the port city.

The Friends of Karachi Biennale have been discussing ways to place the Pakistani city on the world map. Satish Kumar / The National
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DUBAI // Pakistanis in the emirate have set up a group to support the Karachi Biennale arts festival next year.

“Biennales have the ability to revamp a city by changing negative perceptions [of it],” said Maryam Ali Khan, a member of the 60-strong Friends of Karachi Biennale (FKB).

The group has been discussing ways to place the Pakistani city on the international culture map.

“The Karachi Biennale’s goal is to create a narrative that moves away from violence and lack of security and instead focuses on the energy and resilience of the city,” said Ms Khan.

Mahine Rizvi Ahmad, a fellow FKB member, said the group was seeking to show the colourful and creative side of Karachi, a city of 21 million people.

“It is a melting pot of ethnicities, languages, religions and points of view. Unfortunately, the city has been in the media for all the wrong reasons,” she said.

Ayesha Imtiaz, a founding member of FKB, said the event would help to bring about positive social change and she hoped that her compatriots in the UAE would support the cause.

“UAE has about 1.2 million Pakistanis and we have high hopes that they will support and promote Karachi Biennale as much as possible,” she said.

But it was not necessary to be a Pakistani to be a friend of the Karachi Biennale.

“People of several other nationalities, such as Indian and Iranians, have come forward to support the cause. Anyone who strengthens the arts scene in the country is most welcome to become part of our group,” said Ms Imtiaz.

Maria Paola, an Italian resident of Karachi who visited Dubai for the first FKB meeting, said she was impressed by the group’s support for the arts.

“I appreciate the city’s sensitivity towards arts in many forms and at all levels. I was pleased to see this initiative that aims to support the creativity of Pakistani artists and their commitment to take local talent to the global stage,” said Ms Paola, who runs Deaf Reach, a school for hearing-impaired children.

She said festivals such as the Karachi Biennale offered opportunities for her students to participate in international events.

“I am looking forward to ways that some of our very talented deaf artists can participate and be part of this forum that promotes this universal way of expression and communication,” she said.

“I think it is a very important initiative that helps to reclaim public space and bring arts out of hidden galleries to the open space. It’s great to see renowned artists come together to build a positive image of this vibrant city.”

The Karachi Biennale, which was launched in Dubai last year during the Art Dubai festival, will run from January 25 and February 25 next year.