karachidiary Exhibition at Canvas Gallery

The show, karachidiary is the culmination of an international artists’ residency program supported by and hosted at the Vasl Artists’ Association, Karachi. The show displays reflections of the city, Karachi, where the artists-in-residence have met various individuals, visited different sites and responded to them.

Bernhard Frue, Ignorance, 2019, UV print, acrylic on paper, 60 x 56 cm

Bernhard Frue, Not Coming, 2019, UV print, acrylic on paper, 60 x 56 cm

Exhibition view

Bernhard Frue, RXI, 2019, screenprint and acrylic on plywood, 50 x 66,7 cm

BERNHARD FRUE applies fragments of the surveillances of his environment into his work. He observes the unseen, the overlooked and the unnoticed. What looks like an unusual serendipity turns out to be a thorough investigation on purpose. He uses different digital media to transform the photographic material – or rather found footage – into an artistic body of work. Language is used as a material as well and with a similar approach, carried to the extreme when it comes to titles as part of the work and the method to be revealed.
Various awards have invited him to work and display in Tokyo, Hamburg, Mexico City, Nice, Paris and New York. He has won several awards and exhibited his work extensively in Austria as well as internationally in solo and group shows.

Exhibition view

Christina Zurfluh, Scratched Rhythm Pale, 2019, acrylic and lacquer on canvas, 80 x 90 cm

Christina Zurfluh, Stream 2 + 4, 2019, acrylic and lacquer on canvas, each 90 x 100 cm

Christina Zurfluh, White + Black Dust, 2019, acrylic on canvas, each 46 x 40 cm

Christina Zurfluh, Black Dust 4, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 46 x 40 cm

Christina Zurfluh’s way to handle colour is a very intensive and excessive approach in making her paintings appear more like objects of colour. Due to multiple layers of colour the images “carry” weight which can be seen and sensed, and literally be described as a volume (body) of work. Zurfluh’s haptic between the images she produces and the huge amount of colour she uses questions the genres between painting and sculpture. Zurfluh invented her own technique: paints often without brush and rather uses a stick or when it comes to the extreme, “paints” with a hammer. Christina Zurfluh was on the board of the Secession, Vienna, and has won several awards and exhibited her work extensively in Austria as well as abroad in solo and in group shows. Scholarships have assisted her in working and exhibiting in Switzerland, Mexico, United States, Romania and Italy.

Bernhard Frue, Two Current Head + Analphabet, 2019, UV print and acrylic on plywood, each 71 x 94,7 cm

Bernhard Frue, Dust Face Mouth, 2019, screenprint and acrylic on plywood, 53,8 x 55 cm

Bernhard Frue, Dust Face No Mouth, 2019, screenprint and acrylic on canvas, 55,7 x 50,6 cm

Christina Zurfluh, Stream 1, 2019, acrylic and lacquer on canvas, 90 x 100 cm

The show karachidiary has been made possible with the support and generosity of the Canvas Gallery & the Embassy of Switzerland


During our residency with Vasl we travelled around the city, met people and created the blog that documents all our encounters. Anosha, Halima, Hassan, Hira, Javed, Khurram, and Razin have supported us  with research and schedule, took care and responsibility for our safety and sense of being. That allowed us to create this blog and an exhibition at the Canvas Gallery where finally art works produced in the spirit of the last five weeks during our stay will be show. We want to thank gallery owner Sameera Raja for offerering her most wonderful space and Adeela Suleman just simply for making everything possible and happen – we are most grateful.

from left to right: Halima, Razin, Hassan and Anosha at Vasl’s conference table

Halima Sadia / Creative Manager at Vasl / Graphic Designer

Halima works as the Creative Manager at Vasl Artists’ Association with an independent freelance practice since 2014. Her prominent projects include branding of the IAMKARACHI campaign & events in 2015, art direction & graphic design of the Karachi Biennale 2017 and design & execution of the Children’s Section of National History Museum by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan.  

Graphic Design and Art Direction of KB17, 2017

Branding of the IAMKARACHI campaign & event, 2015

Design & Execution of the Children’s Section of the National History Museum by the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, 2018

Hira Khan / Visual Artist / Project Coordinator

Hira Khan works as a Project Coordinator at Vasl Artists’ Association. Her artistic work focusses on sculpture where she experiments in materiality and form with concerns related to feminism and self-empowerment. Hira has displayed her work in multiple shows at various galleries and has been a resident artist at the Hollows Artspace, New York.

7 Targets, 2015

We Need to Talk, 2016

8 Targets, 2015

Anosha Zia / Graphic Designer / Illustrator

Anosha Zia She was part of the poster exhibition and workshop series, Jaanch Partaal | Pehlay Parkhiye, Phir Dijiye, curated by Vasl Artists’ Association. She has also worked at Habitt, overlooking campaign planning and management. Her illustrative work focuses on line and colour. Anosha currently works as a Graphic Designer at Vasl Artists’ Association.

Jaanch Partaal | Pehlay Parkhiye, Phir Dijiye

Razin Rubin / Visual Artist / Assistant Coordinator

Razin Rubin explored various mediums, her studio practice though focuses on miniature painting, drawing and photography. Rubin has exhibited her work in Pakistan as well as internationally. She is currently working as an Assistant Coordinator at Vasl Artists’ Association.

Elizabeth and the sisters, 2018, Graphite, carbon paper and fabric paint on mount board. 

Smile Please, 2018, Graphite, carbon paper and fabric paint on mount board

Smile Please, 2018, Graphite, carbon paper, charcoal and fabric paint on mount board

Hassan Mustafa | Finance Manager and Coordinator

Khurrum Shahzad and Patras Willayat Javed | Support Staff

Day 24 – On a Daily Reset

We met Vasl Artists’ Association coordinator, head of Fine Art’s department at the Indus Valley School and artist Adeela Suleman at her home full of art. Her collection shows different insights of national and international art positions. Art in Pakistan, art out of a city like Karachi and the neccessary effort for it’s perception is what she is committed to.


There is a lack of organization in regards to the advancement of art, art is taught in institutions without any support from the establishment. There are no museums or art educational programmes where art is taught as art is not considered a constituent of the curriculum. Therefore, the artists took it upon themselves to fill the gap.

The art community is very small in Karachi and in Pakistan, here nearly everbody knows everone. There are just a few colleges where approximately 300 students graduate per year. I AM KARACHI is one platform that was found in order to promote the cultural fabric of the city. Adeela Suleman supported through the participation of Vasl Association.

I AM KARACHI created a movement where artistic painting was used as the essential point in order to get rid of the hate speech one could find on nearly every wall on Karachi’s streets. Art finally won the fight, walls now tell all the stories a city like Karachi has gathered.  The project really did make a difference in terms of how the city is beeing used and how people were reacting. Nonetheless the beginning was hard stuff and the worries big.

Karachitees have to negotiate with their city on a daily new basis, with the natural recousses, with the basic needs from electricity, to water, to gas up to security and the mafia.


Adeelas work used to have humor, which as she quotes herself, „is slowly evaborating“. The violence that surrounds Karachi and the country has changed her questions regarding art. The enjoyment of cruelty and unhumanity, the way violence is percieved, the efforts that are made to appear human. Having already witnest too many death’s that occured to human-rights activists like Perween Rahman and Sabeen Mahmud, who have not just evaporated but have been taken away by force.

Karachi and the country need a president so Adeela’s approach who has a clear commitment towards art, which she cannot find with the current  government.

Apart from beeing a teacher at the Indus Valley School for Art and Architecture Adeela Suleman also heads Vasl Association which was originally found by artists and curators who launced the organisation with an art workshop as part of an international triangle network. Adeela has joined 19 years ago.

And then it all happened series

Blood will have blood

Enter in Heaven Alive


Below: Work in progress, a visit in Adeela’s studio


Below: The Suleman’s private collection


Day 23 – Open Mind and Open Soul 

Ustad Naseeruddin Saami is one of the foremost representatives of Surti: a microtonal, pre-Islamic, multilingual form of music. With the invitation to his home in Saddar town, the oldest part of the city, we also made aquaintance with Karachi’s Qawwal Gali.

Nightdrive through Saddar passing the Empress Market

Qawwal Gali is the name of the street where many qawwal clans live. Their style may be described as a devotional music that originates from a Sufi Islamic tradition. Cosmopolit Naseeruddin Saami, though, has worked with musicians all over the world and has just recently released the album „God is not a terrorist“, produced by Grammy award winner Ian Brennan.

The very intimate workshop-like concert, performed with three of his sons, took place at his home. This went along together with a lovely traditional meal served by his sons – prepared by the women of the house – in every sense a family business.


Drizzle is the name of the instrument from 1580 which has been in Ustad Saami’s familiy ever since then. Its sound is bhadon (light).

Saami’s son plays the Tempest – the twin brother of Drizzle –sawan (strong).


Whilst playing Ustad Saami offered a narrative envisioning his goal to spread this music beyond Pakistan to contribute to its growth in the world and his duty to pass this musical knowledge onto his sons and students. One of his most prominent scholars, Ayla Reza, was the one to accompany us to Ustad Saami’s house. The architect, daughter of the former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharaf, organizes and promotes classical music concerts.

The seventy-six year old musician took us all on a journey to an entirely new musical cosmos created out of belief and devotion. „To sing is to listen“, is his message. A challange we faced, one that must be understood by all, is to open the mind and soul to an attitude – the end and beginning to a most inspiring inside-night-out in Karachi.


Day 22 – Under construction

Shahid Abdulla belongs to a group of experts working on a master plan for Karachi’s government to turn the city into a metropolis with a working infrastructure, an efficient public transport system, proper civic facilities with public parks and restored heritage buildings. He is one of the founders of Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi and he is also its constructor with a very unsusual approch: „An art school can’t be designed“, he said. In saying this he shifted a more than 100 year old Nussarwanjee building from the Kharadar area of Karachi to Clifton.

"Moving Structure" 'The remarkable story behind building Pakis…

"Moving Structure"'The remarkable story behind building Pakistan's first art & architecture institute, IVS.'When the founders met to discuss building the architecture of IVS, an unusual idea was came up. Why not move an old building in Kharadar, which was ideal for an art school.The 100-year-old building belonged to a famous philanthropist & also the first mayor of Karachi. However, the idea of relocating a building from Kharadar to Clifton was considered 'mad'. This is a story about a few 'mad men', who undertook a seemingly impossible taskIncluding Interviews:AR SHAHID ABDULLAAR. SYED AKEEL BILGRAMIDR. JAWAID HAIDER – DEAN OF ACADEMICS IVSCreditsPRODUCER – AMMAR REHMANIDIRECTOR – AHSAN ALIPOST – BILAL SAGARCOLOR GRADE – SUFION LOCATION SOUND – KAMRAN SHAHNAWAZDRONE OPERATOR – ABBYASSISTANT DIRECTOR – EHTASHAM SHAHIDASSISTANT DIRECTOR – TALHA JAVEDGAFFER – ZIA UR REHMANCOORDINATOR – UMAIR KIRMANI© 2017 | Department of Fine Art – Film and Video Studio IVS.

Gepostet von Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture am Mittwoch, 10. Mai 2017

He has succeded in a most sensitive and innovative way and turned good old heritage into an art school campus that serves his own beliefs: Architects see every project as a problem and then they try to find ways on how to solve them. Shahid though looks out for potentials, selections, distinctions and origins. And that is what he reasons about when it comes to the country and to Karachi in particular.

Shahid supported The Hunar Foundation a non-profit organization working on solutions to the problems of livelihood for the youth offering quality vocational training. It needs reflection on the countries history and on one’s own ideas and belief to impose change. The country itself is the architect’s inspiration.

For Shahid the opportunities and options a country like Pakistan has is to meet its future requirement. Pakistan and Karachi do not need to compete with other metropolitan cities, it has enough potential to offer – rather see what they are and how to install them.

Just resently Pakistans Prime Minister Imran Khan has invited specialists coming  from achitecture up to city planning together with prominent businessmen to advice the government to resolving its trade-related issues. Shahid Abdullah again is one of them with a great belief in the man who currently leads the country.

Tubing a tree: out of ready made pipes Shahid Abdullah constructed the tree in his garden

Just for enjoyment, the most relaxing Pursukoon Chowk in Karachi’s old town Saddar

Nehr-e-Khayam is a drain – which now serves as a dump for the city’s sewage. Abdulla is determined to convert the place into a riverfront walkway for the public.

Bahria Icon Tower

Bakht Tower, Karachi


Nature and animals – the architects inspiration which led to a bookshelf

Day 21 – Transformation is a Transdisicplinary Way

Not being brought up in a religious household Atiya Khan found her own spirituality which was all about energy, the collective human consciousness and the Sufi’s philosophy. In a neighborhood where one hardly finds a house without security we entered a cordial, opened-mined household. 

Atiya Khan as a young model and Atiya Khan still as a young designer, producer at her home.


Atiya started her career at the age of 15 under the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. Like many in that era, Atiya, through her career in fashion as a model leaned on her trade to remove taboos and post political statements and fashion was used as a radical way to post political statements. After reading the Quran, she concentrated on the philosophy of Sufism and right on top of her career quit the job with 21.

Guided by a living Sufi saint, she finally arrived at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, where a new journey began: TV production, film directing, producing. She presented religion-orientated talk-show where topics like terrorism and extremism were reviewed through the lens of Sufism. Post 9/11 she faced many challenges as a fashion designer when her hijab collection was due for a presentation. There was much contradiction in the media as her intention was to bring out conceptions and ideas that people had around the issue at that time.

Her knowledge about Sufism though lead her through the challenge: „The hijab helped me to put up a certain barrier and made me realise that I can’t be push anymore.“

The new clothes collection is soon to be released and concentrates on pure fabrics with traditional, hand-stiched patterns using sacred symbols from all the different faiths as embellishment. The embroidery is done by artisan women who work with an NGO, that works towards women welfare and empowerment.

Currently Atiya works on a documentary on Sufism, after having finished the Qalandar Code which she has written and directed. The Qalandar Code is a narration of her 16 year lasting way of transformation into a Sufi and the discovering the Divine Feminine within the role of Bibi Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.

With 3rd Option finally Atiya Khan engages for her own civil society organisation. The platform’s aims to change Pakistan’s political setup, petitioning institutional and constitutional reforms on citizen based mandates.

David Heath, British musician, composer, flute player and guest at Atiya’s house.


David Heath with Malik Aamir Shahid


The Hijab Collection

Day 20 – On How to Demand Implementation

On our way to PILER passing truckstops and tent camps

From 25 percent during the time of its foundation under Jinnah, Pakistan now holds a mere 1 percent of labour force with the lowest amount of unionisation in the world. We met PILER’s director, Karamat Ali, who is a key player, since the last four decades, working towards implementing unionisation in a country with a severe lack of social security and proper distribution of minimum wages.

Karamat began by gining us a brief history of the movement from the time when all government officials, including the police and the non-uniformed employees of army had a union.

Pakistan’s Institute for Labour, Education and Research (PILER) is a building in Gulshan-e-Maymar, a township project built in 1980 equipped with a hostel, conference hall, library and spacious offices  – all made possible with contributions from Karamat Ali’s international partners, well-wishing friends and sponsors. And all in support to gain back and implement rules and regulations which date back to the time of Jinnah.

After nationalisation Karamat Ali played an integral role in the labour movement of the 1970’s and a key role in linking up these movements with regional and global counterparts of labour and peace movements in Pakistan. Up until now militarisation is one of the biggest burdens the union leader has to deal with.

Through PILER the labour and development activist has installed a research and training programme with workshops, courses and advocacy activities. The programme instructs workers on how to demand improvements on the labour standard. The issue again is not the law itself but its implementation on health and safety regulations at work places, labour inspections in factories, and women welfare issues.

Karamat Ali was engaged to negociate in the trial against the German garment buyer KIK in order to get compensation payment to the victims families of the Baldia Factory where on 11 September 2012 more than 250 workers died and more than 50 got injured in a fire at a garment factory in Karachi. Although KIK has initially paid one million US-Dollar for immediate relief up until now KIK refuses to fulfill commitments of long-term compensation, which had been agreed earlier.

The Pakistani government does not allow workers to organise themselves. Whereas nearly 80 percent of the workers are hired through third-party contracts which do not contain any labours’ rights. So it looks like a boycott of the state and the employers against the worker’s organisation. Our final question before we left PILER to accompany Karamat Ali to attend the demonstrations in front of the press club: Where does he gain his resilient attitude in a fight that reminds on the battle between David and Goliath?

Memorials for the 250 victims who died in the fire in the Baldia Factory due to the working conditions of German’s down-below garment producer KIK. The memorial is a donation of VASL artists and was part of the Karachi Biennale 2017.

Back on the road to the Pressclub

Pupils on demonstration in front of the Pressclub

Day 19 – One of Us


Our car was parked on the side of the road where the end of Gizri area shows its rather ghetto-esque side and right on the opposite side of the road was the end of Defence, a rather posh area. We were awaited by human-rights lawyer and activist-turned-politician Mohammad Jibran Nasir.


‘Hum Mein Se Aik (One of Us) was anthem and slogan, sung by prominent actors, cultural activists, athletes and students, to support Nasir’s movement and campain. He emphasizes to be the presenter who is the exact opposite to Imran Khan and other established politicians in Pakistan. With a social movement geared towards the protection of every citizens life, rights, and property, Aik Awam (one nation), he structures a campaign concentrated not on a single person, but on an inclusive ideology instead.

The independent candidate for the national and the provincial assembly did lose in the elections twice but never lost his determination to keep doing the job, he has just started. It takes time to satisfy one’s requests, execute concerns and fulfill a political programme. There is just one right way to win ambitious objectives like uniting people impartial of religion, caste, and gender.

Strenghtening the entertainment industry is part of the approch and ranks as a last but not the least point in his political programme. Jibran Nasir describes himself as an advocate for social media. He knows perfectly well how to use the instruments that create fans and followers and in the end form collectives: film, art and the internet as the right tools for intermediation.

Nasir quotes the youth as the main reason for having entered politics. The generation of like-minded individuals that longs for an alternative is strong and ready to stand up against those who failed, dare to ask questions and demand answers.

Discussions about his religious orientation were and still are an ongoing matter with religion being a fragile matter, Nasir offers his attitude which is as simple as not using religion to make things possible and he quotes the country’s founder, „Jinnah’s vision was to create a state where minorities were protected and safe. Am I wrong to follow in this footsteps?” Still, not spearheading the country but rather being the catalyst of change is what keeps the 32-year old going.

Jibran in his kitchen preparing Pakistani chai


Home-made pudding, simular to the Spanish flancake, served by the landlord himself.


In Jibran’s yard: Playing a hand-soccer game seems to be a long time ago


Day 18 – The hurdle stands right in the living room


We met at a dhaba, four members of Girls at Dhabas, a feminist activist movement and us, four women. The dhaba which is an open-air roadside tea-shop, is largely, if not only, occupied by men. The roadside setting with the loud buzz of the city made it impossible to voice record the interview.


The men who surrounded us paid attention right from the beginning in a friendly curious way. There was sporadic staring, no aggression, no prejudice towards us or the girls, who demand their slice of participation in the public space in order to normalize the circulation of the female gender.


 Founding member, writer and activist Sadia Khatri


Soha Tanwir Khan one of the organisers of the Aurat March – a deployment on Women’s day against violence in all forms


Baresham Khan: “I think twice before I leave home with lipstick on.”


Artist and writer Fiza Khatri works on notions of how we live and the dynamics of the spaces we occupy.


Sadia Khatri and her companions share similar records, all of them have experienced discrimination and abuse of varying degrees and reject to remain silent about it.

Their community is very small and their issues complex: sexual abuse, harassment, mugging up to the point of rape are some of the very basic plights of their movement. For this very reason, the collective believes that staying away from public spaces, locked up at home won’t prevent women from abusive offences.

Sadia and her friends tell us that home is where most of the sexual assaults happen, “The hurdle stands right in the middle of the living room! You need a thick skin before you start your way out on the streets“. Degradation very often comes from female family members. If the thick skin remains: resilience mounts and the way to loitering at a dhaba is the easy part. If the thick skin starts to crack, it becomes difficult to leapfrog the hurdle and you come back to square one. The places perceived to be protective and safe are, as a matter of fact, the places where abuse hurts and weakens most.


Pushing the claim on public spaces is empowering and becomes an encounter of a shared point for meeting and socializing for both genders. Girls at Dhaba know perfectly well how to share their experiences via social media. To share them by simply sitting outside seems very radical but it is in fact just another important step forward towards an increase of female confidence.


Day 17 – We don’t want to be clones of each other

After writer and illustrator Rumana Husain brought together 64 different ethnic communities for Karachiwala, she found 64 street professionals for a follow up book titled Street Smart.


Writer and illustrator Rumana Husain

We met Rumana in her house in Defence. It is said that Karachi ends outside Defence for the people who live there. Well Rumana definitely is the antipode. Both her books found narratives necessary to show a vibrant and cosmopolitan Karachi – a city that aquires a very certain approach. “The difference… she says… shows the beauty, not the similarities”.

However THE Karachiwala is a person who carries the characteristics of Karachi in his appearance, behavior and language, for instance: It is Urdu combined with words from different ethnicities living in Karachi. Rumana’s book in this manner is a description of all the complex communities Karachi has to offer.

One of the experiences Rumana has had is that the city she has experienced is in many ways different to the what is taught of the city in schools – karachiwalas are not only Balochis, Pathans, Punjabis and Sindhis. Knowing that Karachi is the mirror of Pakistan and according to the book’s caption “Subcontinent within a City” her book the “Karachiwala” is a person formed by all the characters and approaches of the city. Rumana Husain presents in both her books all the different languages, ethnic costumes, recipes, rituals of the various communities of Karachi.

Street Smart is a reflection and a documentation of street professionals who have to survive on their daily wages, many of whom reside on the street their entire lives. The professions practiced in Karachi are traditional professions, that have formed communities like those of the qasai – the butchers, or those of the kumhar – the potters

These are people that can be found all over Pakistan and in other South Asian cities: such as the bird trapper, who belongs to a community called the Vaghdis coming from India. Associated as gypsies they are part of the so called “Untouchables” or the Dalit Hindu caste.

In the recent ‘anti-encroachment’ drive in Karachi’s Empress Market shops were bulldozed, which caused the loss of over 140,000 jobs. Rumana’s books in this sense can be considered history – the presage of a documentation of what remains. Taking it into bargain that she has not covered them all.


Aslam Yaqoob Baloch, The Parrot Fortune Teller, has unfortunately vanished

Babu the Bird Trapper with his little son and about a dozen sparrows

Sammo Puran, street sweeper since more than thirty year

Mohammad Bashir, the earcleaner has picked up this trade from his father