Karachi, like any other metropolis, is constantly hustling and bustling with life and sound. Daily routines are often exhausting leaving very little time for leisure, yet people find ways to enjoy the bittersweet city life. When it comes to entertainment and freedom of expression, there are a few avenues. The Commune Artist Colony is one of those rare spots in Karachi where people can unwind and be themselves. Created by renowned artist and designer Yousuf Bashir Qureshi, this space is for all forms of visual and performance based art. The commune welcomes musicians, filmmakers and artistes providing a much needed space that aims to slowly but surely strengthen the creative community in Karachi, which is generally sidelined due to the halter-skelter lifestyle of the city.
We spoke to Ashraf Kalim, the marketing director who shed some light on the Commune. For the team, the day begins with meetings where they discuss a plan of action. The space regularly hosts events such as photography and fashion exhibitions, plays, film screenings, music gigs and red carpet events. “We are never short of visitors here,” says Kalim, who is available at the commune for one-on-one sessions with anyone who is in need of a little inspiration. He feels that by playing his part and contributing he can encourage local artistes to step up. Upcoming artistes and musicians frequent the commune every now and then for encouragement. “A lot still needs to be done in terms of encouraging artistes to work on collaborations, promoting young talent, and showcasing the work of Pakistani artistes at an international level,” added Ashraf Kalim.
Be it photo shoots or studio space, the Commune always provides a platform for talented artistes to create art and display their work. The team places a great deal of importance on the performing arts and is also known for hosting musical events ranging from Sufi music, pop concerts and electronic music festivals. “It is quite popular among the local musicians, who may use the space for a full-fledged musical event or just a casual jam session,” says Kalim. In a city like Karachi where it is not an easy task to get people to engage with art and forms of creative expression, the Commune tries to play its part in enabling the locals to fulfill their artistic senses which provides them with a much-needed escape from their hectic daily routines. The support artistes get from the Commune also plays a role in validating their desire for artistic expression. “We’ve played a small role in encouraging individuals to pursue their passion professionally,” says Ashraf Kalim.
However, the political situation of the city and Pakistan as a whole has had a lasting negative effect on the arts. “It makes it tough to persuade sponsors and international artists to come here and exhibit their work,” Kalim added. This is one of the biggest drawbacks for the Commune. They have experienced difficulty trying to get local art schools and institutes to collaborate, rather than working individually on the same goal of revival. But they have not let this discourage them and are continuing to work hard on their future plans. The dedicated team are focusing on giving the Commune a re-launch as well as more events with artiste collaborations. The team are also working on a social media campaign to raise awareness about this space and are planning to hold workshops for schools and colleges all over Karachi. The Commune also plans on partnering up with multiple art organizations which will enable them to extend their reach globally. “It is a great venue to get together and express, may it be art or just people trying to bring a positive change in their community, city and country,” Ashraf Kalim added.