Day 1 – Turn that country

Art Council Pakistan, Karachi, is the largest council made for the purpose of promoting art and culture in Pakistan. It is located in Sadar town, a central part that also accomodates most of the cities historic colonial core and is the largest concentration of Bristish colonial architecture in Karachi.

Art Council Pakistan, Karachi started eleven years ago in an “ugly“ pre-historian building at a time when nobody cared for the down driven citizens and for the younger generation. A time when the only “engagments“ offered to the youth were made by religious extremists whilst misusing the naive to benefit their own malicious activities. Ahmed Shah told us the story of a blasphemic matter accompanied by an immense abuse of power.

Mohammed Ahmed Shah in his office at Arts Council

The Art Council had to start without money, without infrastructure and without an auditorium. The strategy to engage in rebuilding Karachi with the means of art and culture was simple: Arts Council slowly started to change the scenery in order to recreate the city into a liberal, secular and decent place. Shah and his team at the Arts Council work on the socio-political turn that the country is  now taking. Their responsibility is to foster art with the approval of the people and the support of the young generation.

The Urdu conference was the starting point – Urdu as a common means, as a collective property, as an opportunity to welcome prominent writers from international origin. The next festival Arts Council installed was the Karachi Literature festival. Now Karachi has 10 different festivals, all of them focus on all the disciplines within arts and culture. Every single year an Arts Council charity project gives 20 underpriviledged youngsters the opportunity of gaining art training at the Council‘s academy.

Shah named the problems Karachi’s majority is facing: extremist religious fundamentalism, ethic extremism and politically motivated vested interests due to ethnic groups that play a prominent role in influencing the country’s policies. While doing so, he pointed out his disagreements with the Americans and the impact they have had on Pakistan.

However, Shah still accepts their help to support his projects., believing that it is only right for the Americans to have invested in education and culture on a society like Pakistan‘s. And he claimed for it, knowing that the youth here had all the necessary tools for change. And they have the think tanks, the cooperations and all the instruments of management to support a country like Pakistan.

Shah’s strategy is a successful one: The ugly pre-historian building has turned into a thrilling place for art, literature, theater, performance, music, art training, culture and communication with the ambition to grow and play a role as part of the cultural international civil society. A dream every country’s society in the world is dreaming of!

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