This is a Commended Project from the 2019 International Award for Public Art

For years Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan and the country’s cultural, financial, and industrial capital, has also had a reputation as one of the country’s most dangerous cities, rife with crime. This led to the walling-off of many enclaves for protection, and a fragmentation of Karachi’s social fabric.

Yaminay Nasir Chaudhri decided to respond imaginatively to the fragmentation. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cornell University and an MFA in film from SUNY–Albany, she garnered support from the Artspire program of the New York Foundation for the Arts and the United States Institute of Peace. This, plus support from the National University Singapore, several individuals in Karachi, and crowdfunding, allowed her to set up a unique cinema program, centered on a rickshaw.

The rickshaw, which is decorated in gaudy colors and fitted out with a projector, travels around the city showing films in the open air—but not Hollywood blockbusters, Bollywood musicals, or “Lollywood” movies (produced in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city and film capital). The movies that Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema shows were made by people in the neighborhoods.

Chaudhri and her collaborators—the Tentative Collective—worked with local people to help them create mobile-phone video documentaries about their lives and concerns; the rickshaw projected them onto walls, railway cars, even ships in the city’s port district. The goal, the group wrote, was to “temporarily [disrupt] the hierarchies of everyday socio-spatial relations by making visible the multiplicity of urban experiences and transgressing boundaries between public and private life.”

Text by Jon Spayde, based on reports by researchers for the International Award for Public Art.

Public Art Review issue 59Included as part of a feature on the International Award for Public Art in Public Art Review #59.