Text | Maria Aslam & Khadija Raza Baig

Visuals | Courtesy ArtChowk

Issue 40

Art today is used to make socio-political statements; notions of disparity and environmental degradation have also surfaced in the realm of artists work. Very rare is a call to inform the citizens of issues that plague our society by using the very substance that we collectively accrue, yet abhor and take no responsibility. It is the waste, on any and every kind. Today correct disposal of waste and recycling issues are industries in contemporary cities that are acutely conscious of environmental sustainability. Yet in our part of the world sadly we live among the waste with no responsible inclination of its management or recycling structures. In this apathetic time frame that involves not only Karachi but is a plague of the entire nation a constructive call towards art using waste as recycled material was posited by the gallery ArtChowk. The ArtChowk team put out an open call on 14th August 2017 to create awareness about this issue. “We felt artists will have tremendous visual impact on the citizen of the city through artworks made from recycled everyday materials and this should get the message across; to keep Karachi clean.” The exhibition garnered instant interest and had images of artworks pouring in hundreds. The team then selected artworks that expressed their message best. 40 artworks were finalised for the exhibition; each conceived and constructed from recycled waste material. The main aim was to create awareness about waste, its management and recyclable potentials in just not the city of Karachi but also nationally. Thus came about this delightful and evocative exhibition from the 7th – 14th December 2017. Organised by Shakira Masood and her team at ArtChowk, the show was appreciated and garnered positive feedback from people from all walks of life. It was also taken to the PCCC (Pakistan Chowk Community Center) supported by I Am Karachi, on 6th January 2018 where the idea informed the masses in general. 

Each of the carefully selected works had a meaningful narrative. What was “kurra” to the rest of the world was cleverly and skillfully used to create paintings, collages, sculptures, installations and furniture. It was a motivation for people with artistic tendencies to create with waste and trash that abounds our cities. In a world where consumerism is devouring the sensibility of people at alarming rates, learning to use what has already been produced is the need of the hour. Shakira and her team should be applauded for combining creativity with functionality, aesthetics, utilization of resources and reduction of waste in a very elite domain – art. The artworks received consisted of the ubiquitous plastic bottles and bags that have become part of the landscape. Many artworks consisted of newspaper, board and cardboard boxes. The versatility of the artists was reflected in the diverse use of waste materials from denim, automobile tires, metal, electrical material, mechanical parts and others. Some pieces stood out for their poignant thought provoking ideas that went beyond the call of using waste as art material. Warda Batool challenged the sexist approach of society in her ‘First come first served’ seat that signifies the equality of the genders in the society. The ‘Forever ours’ depiction of waste by Gabrielle Brinsmead; a collage of waste material had philosophical nuances to the final piece and its working. Zabad Anwar’s ‘ganday bachay’ admonishes the society towards the apathy of waste and waste collectors. Abid Hussain informed of his interest in heritage by using waste material that keeps accumulating by tons in the city and becomes synonymous with the city (heritage) itself. Many pieces were a direct satire towards our socio-cultural duality that is part of contemporary lives. 

“We live in a polluted world and my worst fear is seeing Pakistan, my homeland, turning into a huge landfill site. I feel that polythene bags are the worst of all the waste materials as they don’t decompose and neither recycle. Up cycling is the process I use for making yarn out of waste polythene and creating surfaces that can have multiple usages.” –Amen Malik Malik showcases intricate needlework crafted with polythene bags questioning the notion of recycling with the statement: ‘it’s not waste until its waste.’ Similarly Batool Zehra’s work is a process of deconstruction and reconstruction wherein she reiterates the constancy of change in her piece Ash, modulated by burning down waste and using ash of different materials for the artwork. Every piece of the exhibition is a quest, a lament, an answer, a satire or an admonish towards the society. Though individual statements and artworks it should be a collective reflection resonating within the masses and the city stakeholders. The exhibition has a potential to sweep the nation towards a cause and an awakening in our waste management. It strives for a comprehension and utilization of the reuse, recycle and reduce concept in the global standing through the manifestation of art.

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