We met architect and activist Marvi Mazhar in her studio in Karachi’s Clifton area. Heritage is one of the main concerns Marvie shared with us, followed by an invitation to participate in a Heritage Walk around the Old Town of Karachi. We then undertook, under professional guidance, a tour through old Karachi‘s alleys, streets, building, structures and spaces.
Marvi Mazhar in her studio build around a pisonia tree
Marvi and her team are specialised in restoring historic buildings, managing conservation assessment studies, and conducting social research and documentation. Working with such parameters seem to go hand in hand with a great big amount of activsm as an important asset that comes along with the task. Marvi Mazhar definitely fits the description.
Marvi Mazhar was one of the people who assisted in hauling the damage being made to a building which was built in the 1880’s during British colonial government: Empress Market, up until November 2018, was one of the most popular shopping places in Karachi. Then Karachi’s government launched a so called „anti-encroachment” campaign where bulldozers took down what had been an income for thousands of vendors. Just a few weeks ago she managed to stopp “a clean up” that would have ruined the whole building.
The Pakistan Chowk Community Centre was a community dumpster before Marvi Mazhar and her team intervened and turned it into a center for cultural exchange. It is an open-air-platform that provides art, literature, classes and talks to the residents of the Old Town. PCCC aims to bring art, culture and communication to those who do not have the privilege to benefit from its regular consumption.
Apart from the different events the Chowk Initiative hosts, Heritage walks are performances that study and narrate the religious and cultural inheritance the old part of the city still accommodates. Heritage walks tell the forgotten history of Karachi via its architecture.
Ms. Shameen Nauman walks us through the old architectural heritage of Karachi