TKC – The Initiative and its Vision
TKC – The Initiative and its Vision

A group of academics from the field of art, design and interdisciplinary humanities joined forces to launch The Karachi Collective, aspiring to stimulate and propel research alongside substantial documentation. Through the platform the team aims to generate research, academic, and creative works that further the goals of TKC as a tour de force in Pakistan for critical engagement. Of particular interest are interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and exploring the past, present, and futures within the local context and of those rooted within the South Asian Region and it’s diasporas. The goal is to bring together researchers and practitioners from academia and industry to focus on areas of art, design, and interdisciplinary humanities for a cross cultural exploration and subsequent innovations and collaborations in these areas.

Sobia Khan sits with the editorial team in order to bring to you the vision behind the initiative.


Welcome. It is great to introduce the team behind The Karachi Collective: Saira Danish Ahmed, Syed Danish Ahmed, Tazeen Hussain, and Seher Mirza. I am fortunate to be part of this team too. I take this opportunity to introduce the platform we are all a part of; The Karachi Collective (TKC) has been established as an online platform that will focus on art, design and creativity in the city of Karachi as its epicenter, if you will, and extend to regions beyond its borders. As a center point of activity and the beginning of a dialogic creative exploration for TKC, Karachi is the perfect city to extend outwards from. It is a city of 17 million people, boasting of diversity of cultures, peoples, languages, and histories. Karachi has art and design deeply embedded in its character by virtue of what the city represents.

Let me ask you all, why did you feel the need for a platform such as The Karachi Collective? What is the significance of a platform such as this?


The Karachi Collective is a digital platform serving as an open-source where creative professionals, scholars, students, connoisseurs and art enthusiasts will engage with a myriad of topics ranging from critical discourse in art and design to art education, appreciation, conception and realization of creative collaborations. Being online, open-sourced and digital, the intention is to reach wider audiences across borders.


When you say borders, what borders are you referring to?


As the founder of the collective, my sincere intention is to create an online platform which will serve the art and design community in the midst of an upwelling surge in digital technology which is exponentially shifting frameworks and ways to approaching art, design and creativity. Hopefully, the TKC platform will stimulate learning, redefine the ways in which we make and maintain connections, and make it easier to discover new creatives and creative output within the region. The platform aspires to methodically reflect the shifting landscape of art practices in the field of art, design and craft within Pakistan and the South Asian region. You know, ultimately, through TKC we can create access to art, design and culture for new audiences, elevate critical discourse, be a platform for artistic deliberations and interdisciplinary practices, creative collaborations, co-creation! Such a space does not exist yet for the Pakistani creative community. And, by using the term borders I am also referring to physical borders: spreading across the globe to embrace the creative practices not only within the city and Pakistan but also embrace those within the South Asian region, its diaspora and transnational communities.


I love the idea of creating a platform for the creative community to reflect and engage with each other, and learn from each other. Your vision of creating dialogue that furthers creativity will surely have impact on the creative community. This being an online and open-source platform will also be more inclusive of all creatives no matter what part of the city or any other sub-group they belong to.


There is always a shortage of writing about creative fields and their related practices in Pakistan. Numbers of platforms and venues have disappeared or reduced related content in the recent past. Therefore, new projects such as TKC that encourage critical writing, feeding to the development of contextual discourse, will always be welcomed. TKC aims to provide a space for writers, critics or commentators to not only create academic discourse for local consumption, but it will also be a platform to introduce Pakistani art & design scene to the world. Being an online platform, TKC seeks to create a meeting point for people from diverse creative fields and different geographical locations in order to see the possibilities of crossover and comparative study.

While I was doing my MFA, I experienced the unique aspect of the production of knowledge within your creative practice and its relationship with theoretical discourse. Therefore, I am thrilled to be a part of TKC which will provide a space where both practitioners and theoreticians share ideas and debate.


I think the way you frame TKC as a meeting point and as a realm of possibilities echoes in how many view the city Karachi as well. It’s almost as if TKC will hold a mirror to creatives and creativity in the city. For me this aspect of reflection and consideration from the TKC digital platform is exciting.


Pakistan has almost no presence in the academic and research-oriented fields globally. Creative fields are even further underrepresented. The irony is that even though we are contributors to the creative industry globally, with a growing number of entrepreneurs, professionals and amateurs contributing across many spheres aided by the digital platforms and services, there is little or no awareness of their contributions. A change in this trend can serve many fronts including giving voice to the work being produced in Pakistan, opportunities for further collaborations and projects and a step up from the status of a contributor to leader for our practitioners.

The absence of critical discourse around creative practices is also a key issue. The conception of creative practitioners as the providers of labour for the market is dominant. Often the practitioner finds him or herself unable to break free from the market demands and unable to explore the potential of the creative practice to change mindsets, change habits, imagine alternative possibilities and plan futures. I am hopeful this platform will also serve to lead the discussions around issues that beset Pakistan and how the creative industries can contribute in meaningful ways. In this way we can hope to expand the scope of creative practices beyond the narrow confines of current conceptions, both from within and outside the field.

By having an open interdisciplinary approach, The Karachi Collective can also serve to be the space that allows creative liaisons to develop. In the absence of artists collectives, Arts Councils and local residences etc. there are minimal opportunities for like-minded people to come together to create and share work. This often keeps creatives from experimenting and engaging in passion projects. By providing a space unshackled by industry constraints TKC can be a place to ignite innovation and idea generation and allow for new energy to develop in the field.


The synergy that drew me to TKC was this alignment of discussion on engagement, reflection and mutual learning which is the foundation of innovation and progression. These ideas allow us to grow as communities and form the basis of change and transformation theories.


I think each of the core team members are adding to the possibilities that lie ahead through TKC. To think of TKC unshackled by industry demands and as a place to imagine futures while negotiating change is a powerful motive for creatives to engage with and through the platform.

Saira, Danish, Tazeen, and Seher, I think everyone here would love to gain a deeper understanding of what you bring to the TKC. Please share a little about yourself, your experience, and your expertise?


Although I have been trained as a printmaker and photographer I have always been inclined towards history and I am often found dug deep into contemporary frameworks and creative practices looking to identify historical narratives woven into them. This curiosity led me to enroll in two consecutive postgraduate programs: the first in History (MA from Karachi University in 2002) and the other in Art & Design Education (MArtDesEd from the University of New South Wales, Australia in 2009), enabling me to develop a unique relationship between history and contemporary culture, and the subsequent need to contextualize these structures within the art & design curriculum. The more I enquire the more I realize I am an ardent student of research, and with research comes writing. I am not really sure if writing came naturally to me or if it was something I developed out of my need to expand upon my knowledge. As a teacher, I share and expand on this knowledge in class, and through dialogue with my peers.

Being strongly invested in the field of art and design and having a strong network within the fraternity and academia (both in art & design, and in textiles & fashion – a unique combination not shared by many) gives me an edge over my contemporaries. Moreover, being part of academia and the industry, I am quite clear on the gaps existing between the two and wish to address the same through the platform and the available resources on hand.


I have been associated with academic leadership for more than ten years and have been working as an artist and an academic for 25 years. When I completed my postgraduate degree (by research) from University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, my interest in the aspect of practice-based research grew. Therefore, my interest in participating in such projects now seem to be fulfilled by TKC. Additionally, being an active member of the creative industry for such a long time helps me view everything in perspective.

I also worked as a graphic designer. Working for various publishers in the past will also prove to be beneficial for TKC in overseeing its technical side. At this moment, I will be focusing more on the managerial aspect in terms of taking care of the graphic design areas and the technical side. I will also be helping in identifying contributors, potential projects and venues of possible expansion of TKC in future.


I guess I am particularly suited to this platform since I practice at the periphery. Not being an active part of the design market, I seek and align myself with projects which call out to me, often voluntarily. Some projects I have been part of include serving as a trustee and lead on projects for the NGO Indus Earth Trust. IET has a footprint across Sind and Balochistan in the field of infrastructural and human development. My involvement with them has allowed me to interact, study and help implement projects in the rural areas of Sind as well as advising and designing for their visual identity and communication. I have also been actively involved with Pakistan International Film Festival – PIFF, curating and organizing the discursive activities with guests and speakers from India and Pakistan.  My engagement with The Karachi Art Directory Project is an ongoing directory project to bring together Paksitani artists and art professionals from diverse backgrounds and create a unified platform for the face of Paksitani art scene.

The platform acknowledges and showcases the ‘new’ in the expanding art scene including practice, platforms, publications, curatorial directions, educational offerings etc. I thus find myself drawn to projects that excite me with a promise to ignite new thoughts and seek new directions.

Additionally, I am the Head of Department of Communication Design at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and have an MA in New Media and Society from the University of Leicester, UK. My research interest lies in the digital and the cultures and social practices that are emerging around it. I also have a keen interest in the indigenous practices and manifestations of design, artifacts and cultures around us. My existing work, both publications and projects reflect my interest.


I see my role at TKC as one that bridges relevant research and ongoing global discourse in my area of textiles, fashion and craft with that happening within Pakistan. As a designer/practitioner, researcher and writer immersed in both eastern and western cultures of making I have the privilege of being an insider/outsider in both. I will be exploring the perspectives of the eastern and western gaze and, how and where these connect or should be connecting. This platform provides the perfect springboard to start these discussions with the aim of enriching how we critically think and create solutions for related projects in Pakistan.

My background is as a trained textile designer/maker specializing in hand weave (Central Saint Martins, UAL 2007) who is exceptionally passionate about promoting the handmade and preserving the values that handmade practices bring to our now fast digitizing world. I have extensive experience of over 13 years in craft development and working with traditional crafts makers in Pakistan. I have worked on textile projects with craft communities, from a young age, in Hunza and Gilgit, Tharparkar, Upper Sindh and Southern Punjab running workshops directly with artisans held mostly at their respective villages. In 2020 I completed my PhD by practice at the Royal College of Art (London) where I was researching how power manifests in craft encounters between outside facilitators and craft communities in Sindh, Pakistan. I am a member of the Art Workers Guild in London, a network of over 400 art and craft practitioners who excel in their field. I contribute academically through writing and presenting internationally on topics such as creative economies and about new methods and practices in craft development with a focus on improving power relations.


Seher, it is wonderful that TKC is already creating bridges with you as part of the TKC team rooted in both Pakistan and global practices abroad. What great ideas you all have shared with me and our readers about the collective. I am heartened to learn of the clear vision and focus. I am even more excited on how TKC will engage with the community of creatives in the city, across Pakistan, and beyond!

My own literary and academic background lends itself to the larger mission of The Karachi Collective. As a champion of minoritized and marginalized peoples, I see art representative of the society from which it emerges. The two are intertwined with each other. Through critical analysis of the world and world formation we can begin to reorient the local gaze to be more reflective, dare I say, even progressive. As a lover and supporter of the humanities alongside the sciences, I aim to support my colleagues in holding up the vision of a literary, acculturated, progressive, and humanistic Pakistan. My literary production, academic and administrative experience will hopefully add to this critical investigation of art, culture, and society through TKC.

Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your thoughts. And Saira, I think, I speak for all of us here, we truly appreciate your foresight in starting us off on this journey of discovery!

Image courtesy….

‘Band of Boats’
Ibrahim Hyderi, Karachi
Zoral Naik, October 2017

Usage Right: Single Usage Right, for The Karachi Collective’s online editorial piece only. The photo cannot be printed, manipulated or be used for any other purpose without the owner’s consent.

Dr. Sobia Khan is Provost of East and Lake Nona Campuses at Valencia College, Florida, Inaugural Aspen Prize winning college for Community College Excellence serving more than 16,000 students at the two campuses. Previously, she served as Dean for Academic Success at San Antonio College, Texas, winner of 2021 Aspen Prize, where she oversaw academic and workforce programs alongside academic support service areas. She has also served as Associate Dean, Faculty Senate Vice-President, and as Professor of English at Richland Campus, Dallas College. Khan’s co-edited book, Beyond Equity at Community Colleges: Bringing Theory into Practice for Justice and Liberation was published by Routledge in June 2022. Khan's publications and practice focus on questions of identity and belonging for colonized, marginalized, and minoritized peoples. Her academic work has led her to put theory into practice and be an advocate for uplifting communities through education.

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