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The neglected beauty that Karachi is

The neglected beauty that Karachi is

KARACHI: A three-day exhibition of Rana Muhammad Tahir’s photographs of Karachi’s historical sites and buildings opened at the Arts Council on Wednesday.

The show is aptly titled Neglected Beauty. The reason for it is that most images on display indicate the indifference of the authorities and people concerned to the rich architectural and cultural heritage that the city has.

All of this may sound clichéd. But the fact is that it is only after seeing the exhibition that you will realise the genuine concern with which Tahir has taken these pictures. His unease for Karachi’s architectural past in disarray stems from his cosmopolitan approach to life. For example, a good number of photographs on display are of the famous Mewa Shah Graveyard. It is not easy to visit the cemetery leave alone grab images of the graves there. Tahir does not try and capture the historicity of the place; what he strives to do is to highlight the dilapidated condition in which the graves are.

In that context the photo of an old grave is quite a sight. There is a stone-made replica of the Merewether Tower used as the tombstone. A cursory look from a distance may give the impression to the viewer as if it is the image of the famous tower. What Tahir points out, though, is the attention-needing state of the gravesite.

The photographer speaks passionately about his work on Nigar Cinema. Rightly so. This is something that not many photographers or conservationists might have even thought about. On top of one of the cinema’s gallery doors, there’s a lovely sculpture of a lion. Tahir has captured that image. But it has nothing to do with the aesthetics of the art. You can feel the pain in his voice when he tells the viewer that a political party’s workers have ruined the lion’s image by spraying it with paint.

That being said, the viewer also cannot miss the artistic streak in the photographer’s work. His use of natural light and some of the close-up shots are a visual treat.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2015

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