Pakistan’s largest contemporary art event, Karachi Biennale, returns to infuse art with technology

Karachi Community Radio (KCR) Studio's installation 'Saaz' featuring a mechanized Chitrali sitar instrument at KB22 at NJV High School, Karachi. (KCR Studio)
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Updated 12 November 2022

Pakistan’s largest contemporary art event, Karachi Biennale, returns to infuse art with technology

  • Karachi Biennale 2022 kicked off on October 31 and is currently taking place at nine venues across 'City of Lights'
  • The two-week event features works of artists from Pakistan and 12 other countries as well as talks and performances

KARACHI: Themed around the intersection of art and technology, the Karachi Biennale 2022 (KB22), Pakistan’s biggest contemporary art forum, this year showcases ​26 audiovisual artworks by artists from Pakistan and 12 other countries. 

The event kicked off on October 31 and will run until November 13, with exhibitions, talks and performances taking place at nine venues across Karachi, the southern Pakistani megapolis that many refer to as 'The City of Lights.’ 

Each art installation on display by the diverse lineup of artists conveys a unique message that reflects the place of its origin, according to the organizers.  

The Australia-based art duo Dr Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer, PlugIn Human's installation ‘Disco Apocalypse' features First Nations war shields re-imagined at KB22 at Sambara Art Gallery, Karachi. (KB22)

PlugIn Human, a multi-award-winning art duo comprising Dr. Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer from Australia, have displayed their installation called, 'Disco Apocalypse.' The artwork uses audiovisual elements collected and created during the duo's time in Amazonia (Brazil), Gamboa (Panama), Batticoloa (Sri Lanka), Karachi (Pakistan), Gili Trawangan (Indonesia) and on Koori lands (Australia).  

“We acknowledge the First Peoples and communities of these lands,” they shared with Arab News on the sidelines of KB22.  

“We came to these landscapes with presence and intention and pay respect to the culture, lives and struggles of these peoples and lands.”  

The Disco’s visuals are an amalgam of traditional art, science, computational mathematics and graphic design. They feature war shields of First Nations—a term used to describe indigenous people—reimagined by Yorta Yorta Australian artist Lorraine Brigdale, as a tool for the protection of natural ecosystems, accompanied by enlarged microscopic and generative-computational imagery.  

Imran Qureshi's site-specific installation, 'Deen o Duniya - The Sacred and the Earthly', inspired by two houses in Riwaz Garden in Lahore, at KB22 at Hamid Market, Karachi. (Imran Qureshi)

Pakistani visual artist Imran Qureshi presented a site-specific installation, ‘Deen O Duniya’ - The Sacred and the Earthly, interpreting boundaries of religious rituals, culture and modern technology merged in a carnivalesque form. Qureshi's work is based on sound and video projection. 

“‘Deen o Duniya’ – The Sacred and the Earthly ​is inspired by the two houses situated in Riwaz Garden, Lahore, that are decorated every year during Rabiul Awwal," he told Arab News.

Usually, science and religion are considered two different concepts in our part of the world, Qureshi said, adding that he found it interesting how they used science, technology and [elements] of the neo-digital age.

"It is one where residents of a local neighborhood go through profound physical and emotional experiences when their homes, streets, and entire neighborhoods undergo an intense transformation," he said. 

"It is an unreal, surreal experience," he added. 

Qureshi has incorporated the sound of a qawwali by Ustad Moazam Ali Khan and composed it in collaboration with young composer, Ubaid ur Rehman, as per the artist's vision.

Karachi Community Radio (KCR) Studio's installation 'Saaz' featuring a mechanized Chitrali sitar instrument at KB22 at NJV High School, Karachi. (KCR Studio)

Karachi Community Radio (KCR) Studio, which comprises multiple artists, has showcased its installation, ‘Saaz,’ for which they used an instrument called 'Chitrali sitar.' The instrument is widely used in northern Pakistani music.

​"Physically, Saaz is a Chitrali sitar that requires no human presence to play," Jahanzeb Safder, the man behind audio-visual programming, sound design and curation of Saaz, told Arab News.

"The music is performed by a KCR-built mechanical arm that simulates the two human hands required to play the instrument, the strumming hand and the hand pressing on the frets," he added. 

"These mechanisms are fed information from a pre-programmed MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) composition on Ableton, written by the members of the team, and sent out through a speaker system in the room," Safder explained.  

He said the projection behind the mechanized sitar is the live feed from a CCTV camera placed on a pedestal holding up Saaz, giving a real-time insight into how the mechanism is firing, while exemplifying the raw emotionality of the music.

Karachi Community Radio is an independent online radio archiving and promoting the contemporary music culture of Pakistan. The core team behind its concept design comprises Safder, Murtaza Tunio (Hardware Tech, A/V) and Chitrali musician, Irfan Ali Taj. 

Amin Gulgee's performance of his immersive artwork, 'The Forgotten March' features the artist at KB22 at NJV High School, Karachi. (Amin Gulgee)

Pakistani artist Amin Gulgee’s work of performative art for KB22, titled ‘The Forgotten March,’ is about “laughter and forgetting.”  

Gulgee collaborated with students and teachers of the NJV School, where the performance took place.

UK police release new images in fresh appeal for clues about British-Pakistani girl’s death

Updated 13 sec ago

UK police release new images in fresh appeal for clues about British-Pakistani girl’s death

  • Surrey Police hope the release of images will prompt people to share information about Sara Sharif and her family
  • UK authorities were alerted about her death by a call from Pakistan in which a man identified himself as her father

LONDON: British police on Friday released new pictures and renewed their appeal for information into the death of a 10-year-old girl, whose father will face trial for her murder.
Sara Sharif’s body was discovered at her family’s home in southern England on August 10.
A post-mortem examination revealed Sharif had sustained “multiple and extensive injuries” over a long period.
Her father, stepmother and uncle have been charged with murder and causing or allowing the death of a child.
They are expected to stand trial next autumn.
Surrey Police said they were releasing the new images “as part of our ongoing appeal for information to help us build a picture of her life prior to the discovery of her body.”
Police added that the photos “present Sara in the way we believe she may have dressed in the months prior to her death.”
“We are hoping that these images will prompt more people to come forward with information about her and her family.”
One of the pictures shows Sharif wearing a black hijab in what looks like a school photo and in the other she is wearing a blue hijab.
Sara’s father Urfan Sharif, 41, his partner Beinash Batool, 29, and his brother Faisal Malik, 28, traveled to Pakistan the day before her body was found.
An early morning emergency call alerting officers to Sara’s death was made from Pakistan by a man identifying himself as the father, according to detectives.
Following a month in the South Asian country, they returned to the UK on September 13 and were arrested on arrival at London’s Gatwick Airport.
They have been remanded in custody and are due to appear in court on December 1 for a plea hearing.
Their trial is due to begin on September 2, 2024 and is expected to last six weeks.

IMF chief wants Pakistan to increase tax revenue from rich, protect vulnerable

Updated 21 min 54 sec ago

IMF chief wants Pakistan to increase tax revenue from rich, protect vulnerable

  • The poor segments have been suffering due to high inflation which the government has attributed to IMF reforms
  • Kristalina Georgieva says economic reforms are not easy to implement but they are in the interest of Pakistani people

ISLAMABAD: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday her organization had been consistently communicating the need for Pakistani authorities to generate more tax revenue from wealthier social segments while protecting the underprivileged classes in the country.

The top IMF official made the comment during a brief interaction with a Pakistani reporter on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

Her statement comes against the backdrop of spiraling inflation in Pakistan which has primarily affected the poor. The government has consistently attributed the increasing cost of living in the country to stringent economic reforms recommended by the international lender while approving a $3 billion bailout in June.

“Let me send a simple message to everybody in Pakistan,” she said while speaking to Geo News correspondent. “What we are asking in our program is please collect more taxes from the wealthy and please protect the poor people of Pakistan.”

“I do believe that this is in line with what people in Pakistan would like to see for the country,” she added.

The IMF chief acknowledged the conditions laid down by her organization to revitalize Pakistan’s economy and address the mistakes of the past were not easy to implement.

However, she maintained they were in the interest of the people of Pakistan.

Georgieva statement comes following her meeting with Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Tuesday in which she was briefed on measures taken by the country’s interim administration to stabilize the economy.

The IMF asked Pakistan to raise energy prices and following market-driven exchange rate which made the CPI hit a record 38 percent this year and the national currency plummet to all-time lows.

Kakar said he had a “constructive dialogue” with the IMF chief who, in turn, said there was an agreement to follow policies to ensure stability and foster sustainable and inclusive growth in Pakistan.

International report highlights polio eradication challenges in Pakistan, other countries

Updated 22 September 2023

International report highlights polio eradication challenges in Pakistan, other countries

  • There have only been seven cases of wild polio reported this year, five in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan
  • Experts say outbreaks linked to vaccine-derived polio are more challenging and have paralyzed more children

LONDON: The global effort to end polio is likely to miss two key targets this year on the path toward defeating the virus, according to an independent strategic review.

The aim in 2023 was to interrupt the transmission of wild polio in the two countries where it is still endemic, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and do the same for a variant form of polio known as “vaccine-derived” that is causing outbreaks elsewhere.

The Independent Monitoring Board, a group of polio experts who oversee the work of the UN-backed Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), said neither target would be hit this year.

The GPEI agreed on both counts, citing insecurity in key locations as one of the remaining challenges and stressing in a statement responding to the review that ending the vaccine-derived outbreaks is likely to take the most time.

Wiping out polio, a viral disease that can cause paralysis, has been a key global health aim for decades. Cases have been reduced by more than 99 percent since 1988 thanks to mass vaccination campaigns, but making polio the second infectious disease ever to be completely eradicated, after smallpox in 1980 – has proved more difficult.

“But it can be done. And we need to make sure we finish the job,” said Aidan O’Leary, director of polio eradication at the World Health Organization, a GPEI partner alongside governments and funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

There have only been seven cases of wild polio reported this year, five in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan.

O’Leary said interrupting transmission of this form of polio was likely to happen by early 2024, just a few months after the target.

This meant the hope of a conclusive end to polio by 2026 remained alive, at least for wild polio, he said in a phone interview with Reuters on Thursday.

However, outbreaks linked to vaccine-derived polio are more challenging, he said. This form of polio can occur when children are immunized with a vaccine containing a weakened version of the live virus. They are protected, but the weakened virus excreted by these immunized children can spread and mutate among an unvaccinated population, ultimately becoming harmful.

Such viruses have recently paralyzed nearly 50 times more children than wild poliovirus, the monitoring board review said.

The GPEI aims to focus its vaccination and surveillance efforts on the areas where these kinds of polioviruses are concentrated: the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, north western Nigeria, south-central Somalia, and northern Yemen, O’Leary said.

“This is what is needed to shift the game,” he said. “Clearly the timelines are under review ... but we can do what has to be done.”

Pakistan army chief meets Saudi counterpart to discuss defense ties, security cooperation

Updated 22 September 2023

Pakistan army chief meets Saudi counterpart to discuss defense ties, security cooperation

  • Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s militaries have a history of extensive defense cooperation
  • Two nations often participate in joint military exercises, Pakistan army trains Saudi cadets

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief, General Asim Munir, on Friday held a meeting with the leader of Saudi Arabia’s armed forces, General Fayyadh Bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, and discussed strengthening bilateral cooperation in defense and security affairs, the army’s media wing said.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia share strong defense ties and security cooperation. An annual tradition involves cadets from the Kingdom, along with counterparts from other Middle Eastern nations, visiting Pakistan to undergo specialized army training. The two nations regularly engage in joint military exercises.

On September 9, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia launched a joint naval exercise near the Kingdom’s Al Jubail city and in August the two countries launched an inaugural joint special forces exercise to benefit from each other’s counterterrorism expertise.

“During the meeting, both sides deliberated upon various areas of mutual interest and bilateral cooperation, including defense and security matters,” the army’s media wing said of the meeting between the two generals.

A day ago, General Al-Ruwaili visited Pakistan’s Naval Headquarters in Islamabad and met a senior Pakistan Navy official.

“The visiting dignitary appreciated and acknowledged Pakistan Navy’s efforts and commitments in support of collaborative maritime security in the region,” a statement from the Navy said on Thursday.

Riyadh and Islamabad also enjoy close cooperation in trade, economy, culture, information, and investment. Pakistani expats living in Saudi Arabia are the largest source of remittances to the South Asian nation.

Pakistan open to welcoming Mohammad Amir to World Cup squad — chief selector

Updated 22 September 2023

Pakistan open to welcoming Mohammad Amir to World Cup squad — chief selector

  • Fast bowler retired from international cricket in 2020 citing discrimination, ‘mental torture’
  • Chief selector says if Amir to be considered for World Cup is willing to play domestic cricket

ISLAMABAD: Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said on Friday Pakistan was ‘open’ to the possibility of welcoming former fast bowler Mohammad Amir back into the squad ahead of the World Cup if he consistently performed well in domestic competitions.
Amir announced his retirement from international cricket at the age of 28 in December 2020, claiming he could no longer play in an atmosphere where he did not feel welcome in the national team.
Amir, who was jailed in 2011 for his part in a spot-fixing scandal, served three months in prison and a five-year ban from all forms of cricket before returning to the Pakistan squad in January 2016.
The left-arm bowler excelled in limited-overs cricket after that, helping Pakistan to the Champions Trophy title in 2017, but was dropped from the squad to tour New Zealand in 2020.
Questioned about the chance of Amir returning to the squad for the upcoming cricket World Cup starting next month in India, the chief selector said “the doors are open for everyone, including Amir.”
“Aamir is a great cricketer and he had decided to retire,” the official said.
“If he wants to play for Pakistan, the doors are open for everyone. If he comes back and plays first-class cricket and performs well, he will definitely be considered … I have said this before, neither the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) nor the selection committee closes the door [of opportunity] for anyone.”

In an interview with a local news channel when he retired, Amir said he had been “mentally tortured by the team management, subjected to frequent taunts, and felt deliberately sidelined.” 
Asked if he was leaving the sport altogether he said: “No, I’m not going away from cricket. If you have seen the atmosphere here and the way I’ve been sidelined, I got a wake-up call when I was not selected in the 35-man squad,” Amir had told Samaa TV.
“I don’t think I can play cricket under this management. I think I should leave cricket this time. I am being tortured mentally. I don’t think I can tolerate any more torture now.
“I’ve experienced a lot of torture from 2010 to 2015. I was away from the game and sentenced for my mistake. I’m being tortured again and again...”
Amir, who has 259 wickets across all formats, had retired from test cricket in 2019 to focus on the white-ball game.
He was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers in the 2019 50-overs World Cup in England with 17 wickets as they missed out on a semifinal spot.