Story

The Karachi Circular Railway

The Karachi Circular Railway—KCR—is a multimedia installation that explores the path of the now-defunct transit project. It immerses viewers in the fastest-growing megapolis of the 20th century—Karachi, Pakistan—taking a meditative journey through one of the world’s most complex and conflicted megacities and exploring its urban and human landscape.

Using interactive features in highly original ways, the viewer is transported through the city’s neighborhoods, sub-cultures and topographies. Digital stills, ambient sound, text, video and unique aerial footage of Karachi shot from a drone combine to unveil a side of the city that defies the dominant media narrative of extremist violence and terrorism.

Journalist Ivan Sigal visited and photographed the entirety of the abandoned railway line, walking through many of Karachi’s most dangerous neighborhoods and probing stereotypes about the city’s insecurity. The resultant footage, and accompanying text, recreates the journey through the space of the railway.

Every image captures an aspect of the railway’s tracks, stations, inhabitants, and current usage: walkway, trash dump, playground, makeshift factory, informal housing settlement, returning wilderness, abandoned station, encroaching buildings, foliage, wetlands, markets, and long-haul trains that still run along some of the tracks. The images also capture the movement and noise of remaining inter-city stations and trains, a counterpoint to the stillness of the abandoned commuter stations. In a narrative driven by geographies, its characters are the visible elements of the city.

KCR is available as a single-channel video, as a nine-channel interactive installation, and as a multi-screen exhibit. It is partially funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and has been shown at Harvard’s Fogg Museum, in public installations and film festivals in Karachi, Nicosia, Port of Spain, Bucharest, Varanasi, Camden, Maine, and Kalkuta. It is running at the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto in 2018. 

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Informal Housing, Footbridge near Orangi Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Informal housing, footbridge near Orangi Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Tracks Under Karachi Port Trust Interchange, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Tracks under Karachi Port Trust Interchange, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Informal housing, Urdu College Halt, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Informal housing, Urdu College Halt, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Footbridge, Wazir Mansion Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Footbridge, Wazir Mansion Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Traffic, Chanesar Halt, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Traffic, Chanesar Halt, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Platform, Karachi City Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Platform, Karachi City Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Wall Across Trestle Bridge, Orange Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Wall across Trestle Bridge, Orange Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Footbridge, Manghopir Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Footbridge, Manghopir Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Acacia, Near Depot Hill Station Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Acacia, near Depot Hill Station Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Portrait near North Nazimabad Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Portrait near North Nazimabad Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Informal Housing, Orangi Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Informal housing, Orangi Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Interior, Depot Hill Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Interior, Depot Hill Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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SITE Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

SITE Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Shah Abdul Latif Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Shah Abdul Latif Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Handmade Trampoline, Orange Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Handmade trampoline, Orange Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Orangi Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Orangi Town Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Portrait, Gilani Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Portrait, Gilani Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Liaquatabad Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Liaquatabad Station, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Market, Shireen Jinnah Colony, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Market, Shireen Jinnah Colony, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

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Laminating Paper, Along the Tracks Near the Lyari River, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.

Laminating paper along the tracks near the Lyari River, Karachi, Pakistan. Image from KCR, by Ivan Sigal. Pakistan, 2014-2017.