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Story Publication logo March 14, 2024

Life After Demolition, Told Through Art



Pakistan’s poor urban planning and drainage system causes a cycle of infrastructural destruction...

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Multiple Authors

A series of scaled down black and white photographs tell the story of demolition in the Kausar Niazi Colony. Image by Nawal Malik Bangash. Pakistan, 2023.

In the summer of 2023, a solo exhibition by Karachi-based artist and curator Zahabia Khozema was held at VM art gallery, Karachi, titled "Kiya Ye Taraqqi Hai? Tumharey Liye Ya Humarey Liye?" ["Is It Progress? For You or For Us?"] This exhibit of mixed media chronicled the demolitions of the Kausar Niazi Colony, a settlement in Karachi near the Gujjar Nullah stream. 

The gallery walls were covered in paintings, etchings, and photographs of varying sizes, depicting the houses and settlements at Kausar Niazi. A particularly captivating aspect of the works was the spray-painted numerical figures on several houses, indicating that the houses were to be demolished. These numbers were seen in the scaled-down black-and-white photographs that covered a wall, telling the story of a town that has somewhat lost hope. They were also included in the large mixed media works that covered the gallery walls.

The mixed-media canvases situated the Nullah against the backdrop of houses. Despite the houses being drawn as two-dimensional and minimalist, the spray-painted numbers were a detail to which the artist paid particular attention. Fear of demolition was a pervasive theme throughout the exhibition.

Different mediums of art used

The storytelling in Khozema's show exhibit was more than visual: One wall held a screen and a pair of headphones where an evocative Urdu poem, a little over two minutes long, played on repeat.

The poem asked questions about who owns space and has agency over safety and security in space. White font against a dark background added to the urgency of the situation. 

But what happens after demolition?

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the exhibition was the inconclusiveness and lack of a sustainable post-demolition plan. The artist depicted scenes of post-demolition in a series of three screen-printed works. Created entirely in a shade of dark red, the works captured the chaos and confusion, showing unchecked infrastructural ruin and tarpaulins for roofs. Found objects, such as plastic tarpaulins that serve as temporary roofs and ceilings for broken homes, further emphasized the lack of a permanent solution.


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Land Rights

Land Rights

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