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Thoughts and late night at the University

So many people here have reached out to their contacts in parts of Sindh, bordering Rajasthan to help me in my search for puppeteers, but thus far, all signs point to Punjab. There used to be puppeteers here, but like so much, this place seems to be decaying and dying. Honestly, I have a hard time with the deep levels of helplessness and despair I see in the disintegration of safety, culture and at times it seems humanity all around. I see bits of hope in the efforts of people around me to create institutions that support communities and bring better prospects to students. However, these efforts seem to be dwarfed by the rapid decline of seemingly everything around us. My students don’t seem to be crushed by that sense of helplessness. They know just this reality that they are in, and are working towards a better future in their lives.

It’s very depressing that so many puppeteers have gone to unskilled types of work, like selling vegetables or eggs to sustain themselves, and have thus stopped passing down their art and essentially disappeared from contact. Things never go as planned on any of the projects I have created in Pakistan. They have thus far worked out, thanks to the help of many people, but not once have things gone as planned despite my best efforts to plan and prepare. There are always points where I question why I was foolish enough to try something so seemingly out of reach. Yet I know that when I find the right people, the humility and skill I get to work with here makes me quickly forget the pain of endless weeks of fruitless searches.

In the US, I watch the decline of my livelihood in animation and the depressing work conditions that only worsen. Here, I see a lot of untapped resources that are very challenging to reach. There are so many apathetic and ingenuine people that have contributed to this mess, that it takes every bit of my mind to keep inching forward, and working towards realizing the vision for “Risalo”. If I did not feel as strongly as I do about the source material and the value of the art I wish to incorporate, I would never have gone to such lengths to be here.

The photos are from a late night at the Sindh University Arts Department. My faculty friends were printing some brochure pages for a thesis show that is being put together with a great deal of care and effort. This work was being done late at night after busy days of administration and teaching. I’m a little lost, not knowing where I am going at times as most people are speaking Sindhi to each other. Efforts are certainly being made to help me with this project. I could use a few more positive results soon. Let’s hope we can find some puppeteers in Sindh before they vanish.

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Hyderabad, Sindh

Today I decided to head into Hyderabad, which is the nearest big city. I had my usual anda paratha breakfast with chai, then head out to the “phaatak” via rickshaw, from where I hopped on a bus to get into town. It’s interesting to see the neighborhoods, huts and river along the way. There are fishermen in brightly painted boats on the river, just as Shah Latif described in his poetry, the the dam stops the flow of water flowing south, creating puddled stretches of land.

I sought out a few places to try and pick up a book and CD set. Traffic is seriously nuts. I mean…there is no right way on these streets. I feel like it has only become worse. People push their way through with their vehicles form all directions, unwilling and really unable due to driving styles here, to let anyone pass. I think that way of thinking exemplifies a lot of the issues here today. Everyone needs to get their inch and they don’t care who they trample to get that momentary benefit, while burning any possible long term gains. This is interesting, because in basic interactions, many people are incredibly kind, but in official settings it is a ruthless place.

I went to a few bookstores without any luck in finding what I was looking for. The music CDs I was looking for were also not available. In figuring that out, I went to a bunch of different places, switching rickshaws to go to Gul Center, the Press Club, Hyder Chowk and the museum. The museum, while run down, had amazing displays showcasing traditional instruments and crafts as well as scenes of different types of artisans at work.

It was a fairly tiring trip. On the way back, I hopped on the outside of a bus to get back to the phaatak. It took a while before enough passengers got off at stops before I could get inside, but it was ok. I got off just past the phaatak and took a chingchi (these are motorcycles lobotomized with a carriage in the back) to the Adabi (literary) Board of Sindh. It was closed. My friend Mangi sahib came and picked me up with his son. We went back to his place, and I was able to check some email etc, hold his third child for a bit and chat. I enjoyed another delicious meal at his home (I’m going to gain some weight on this trip). Afterwards, we dropped by my room. Najee sahib joined us with his adorable little daughter and we went to hang out. We enjoyed some snacks at a sort of family club, then head over to hunt for books. They are so kind, that we went around to several bookstores, just to try and find this book. Mangi sahib also called a few friends, and eventually we found a place that has an Urdu translation I was looking for while driving back via a phone contact. We’ll visit that place another day. On the way back I was once again treated to delicious snacks. This time it was kulfi faluda in a cool little clay boat. Even during all of this time we spent together, I would pick up enough of Sindhi conversations that my friends would have over the phone while I was hanging out with them to know that they are calling all kind of folks to help me to find puppeteers in Sindh.

I’m basically making my way north, looking for puppeteers. It is a dying art form, particularly here in Pakistan, with only a handful of practitioners left. I’m trying to find them, with the best people to help me do it. Mangi and Najeeb sahib dropped by my room once again at night. This time I gave Mangi sahib a proper presentation of the animatic for “Risalo” and the thoughts that go with it. He started looking at the introductory pages of the book I have been basing this work on and found names that he knows. Now that he, Najeeb and Ustad Amb Jogi have a clear idea of the project, they will be able to add from their wealth of knowledge and contacts who have much more deep understandings of the material and the music I am attempting to compile in this film.

my students watching "Gul"

Teaching at Sindh University

Due to some technical difficulties on my end, I was not able to screen my short film “Gul” during the first workshop session. We had an in depth discussion on the creative process, from the seed of an idea, to visual development, reference gathering and concept refinement and execution. I had spoken about my work for companies, and answered questions on the division of tasks at companies, as well as differences between character animation for gaming and films.

After the usual, and delicious anda paratha (egg and paratha) breakfast at the hostel, I head to the campus. I setup my things and we began our second session with a screening of “Gul” It was fun to show the students how I had recorded music right here in Jamshoro, using Sindhi culture, in a piece that travelled the world. We had a fun discussion on their interpretations of the film. I was very glad to hear the confidence and insights that several students shared. We continued with small presentations by each student, regarding their assignment, which was to create a drawing of a character on the basis of 5 reference images of a feeling and 5 images of a culture or time period. The idea is to share a process by which these students can bring an influx of fresh ideas to any project they work on.

Even the self proclaimed shy students did a great job of sharing their sketches and ideas. Some had several designs, some just one. A few had no reference images, while others had many. Through the discussion, each student was able to understand the value of this process. I emphasized the value of their thoughts and ideas, and the validity of their interpretations.

The session would have been 2 hours, but the students were so eager and hungry for learning, that we decided to extend the sessions. We went over how to breakdown and simplify our character designs, and then draw them from the side and in a 3/4 view based on that. It was really fun to see students first struggle and then grasp these concepts and apply them in their work.

I love to see the excitement in their eyes, and a genuine desire to express something in their work. With the right dedication, they can do great things. That of course is the real challenge. I always give everything I can to these workshops and end up pretty tired by the end of each session. Mangi sahib picked me up afterwards, and brought me back to the hostel. There was a program going on at Sindhology, regarding climate change. The hostel staff had prepared an amazing feast for delegates. I joined them, at least for food, then we went to Sindhology. I saw some good entries for the painting contest on climate change. There were several interesting stalls. I particularly enjoyed meeting some fantastic artists/artisans. I spent some time talking to them about their work and possible collaborations. They were very friendly and eager to work directly with artists.

Afterwords, I went back to the hostel for a bit of rest, then walked over to Najeebullah Rashdi’s place. He was working on a portrait for a friend in oil paint. I sat down and connected to his internet to send out some emails and upload a bunch of blog posts. He showed me more of his excellent paintings, which I ended up posting in yesterday’s blog post. It’s really great to connect to all these artists. His little daughter came to visit throughout the time I was there. She spoke in Sindhi, so I could not understand her words, but it was very cute. She brought a little plastic container with slime in it and poured it in my hands. I pretended to sneeze it out.

I shared some of my process and thoughts in my approach to adapting “Risalo”. It was fun to learn about some other musical forms and places around here as well. Afterwards Najeeb sahib and his daughter walked me back to the hostel. She asked her father why I didn’t speak in Sindhi, to which I told her in Punjabi, “Jadon tusi mairai naal Punjabi ij gal karugai, tai mai wi twadai naal Sindhi ij gal karanga (when you speak to me in Punjabi, I’ll speak to you in Sindhi.” She just looked at me a bit puzzled :). I was just kidding around. A lot of people start speaking to me in Sindhi here, but I don’t really understand it, so unfortunately, I have to switch to Urdu. Sindhi sounds beautiful and when people translate bits of poetry by reciting in Sindhi, then Urdu, even the sound of the words and the bits I can pick out are so much more interesting than the sound of the translation, though it is good too. I certainly pick up a lot of fascinating things in conversations with people here. There is a very deep sense of culture and appreciation of it here with the arts folks in Jamshoro. The connection is deeper than I have seen in some other places.

At night, Mangi and Najib sahib took me out for some tea. Though the mosquitos were eating me alive as usual, I got to hear some fascinating stories about a guy named Watiya Fakir from Tando Allah Yar, famous for his anecdotes, similar to Mullah Nasruddin, whose stories are famous in large parts of the world. The stories were anecdotes of questioning society in humorous ways. One story went like this. He arrived to a dinner party dressed as a fakir (wandering ascetic) in tattered and dirty clothes. The hosts quickly pushed him out. He returned a second time, dressed in fine clothing. They let him in and he sat down to dinner. He began rubbing the food all over his clothes. When people in shock asked him what he was doing, he said it was the clothes that you invited for dinner, not me.

There were several anecdotes in a sense questioning religious leaders in their preachings on God, or just making a humorous statement on it. Mangi sahib’s storytelling was really great. He shared it in Urdu for my benefit, but when he would mention a key phrase in Sindhi, it sounded that much more rich.

beautiful marriage display at Sindhology Museuem

Workshop at Sindh University


I started the day by walking down the hill, across the freeway, to a shop to get some clothes washing detergent. I came back and hand washed my clothes. The hostel staff gave me a charpoy to dry them on. The staff are so kind, humble and hospitable.

Mangi sahib took me to the university, and I ran into Hisam, whom I had met while he was studying at CEAD and I was looking for musicians for my short film “Gul”. I did some work with the students at that time. It was good to hear about his artistic development since then. Now he teaches at Sindh University. I also met a sculptor who teaches there named Nadir Ali.

I had set up a meeting with Ustad Amb Jogi, my good friend and leader of the Girnari Jogi Group. It was great to see him after several years. We sat down and I went over the animatic for “Risalo”. There are several things I am trying to figure out in terms of achieving the right balance between poetry and music in the film. Amb, being an excellent percussionist who plays with a wide variety of excellent musicians, is just who I need to figure this out. There was certainly a lot to cover, but this is the first time I have presented the whole animatic. His response was really positive. Also in the same office, was an older man, sitting across the room. He was following our discussion. I got to a the part where I discussed some changes I was making to the story of Beejal to put it more in line with what I am trying to communicate and was a bit worried what they would think of the change. They were both very supportive and appreciated why I had made those changes.

A short while later, after Ustad Amb Jogi left, I spoke the the older gentleman for a bit. His name is Aslam Azad, and he gave me a book of his poetry. He said that he knew I could not read it as it is in Sindhi, but it has all his info on the back. The book is called Azad Khyal (Free/Independent Thoughts). I was so honored, that even before reading about him on the back of the book, I decided that I would have someone who reads Sindhi read it to me and translate. Once I read about him, I knew I had to do this even more. He has been an editor of newspapers and publications throughout his career and took part in the M.R.D. to restore democracy to Pakistan during Zia’s time. I am constantly amazed at the accomplishments of the people I meet at Sindhology and at Sindh University.

Afterwards, I taught the first in a series of workshops at the art department at Sindh University. It was really fun to share my work and process with the students. The seemed eager to learn and we used every minute of time that we possibly could until it was time for them to leave. It was very tiring, but rewarding. I came back to the hostel and grabbed a nice meal prepared by the staff.

Afterwards I did a bit of editing and resting, before Hisam dropped by and we head out to a themed restaurant called Al Jazeera (which had a village theme), no relation to the channel. The food was great, and it was fun to talk art with Hisam. We visited Fatah sahib afterwards. Between him and Ustad Amb Jogi, if there art puppeteers left in Sindh, we should be able to find them. There are already several leads and it looks like we could make some visits, later next week.

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Jamshoro

My first day back in Jamshoro was interesting. The kind staff of the hostel I am put up in made me a paratha and omelette for breakfast. I had my first chai of the day with it. There’s no internet here, so I’m just writing blog posts that I can upload later. The hostel is up a hill, surrounded by some homes and several girl’s hostels for universities in the area. There’s dirt and rocks all around, with bits of green and plastic bags and refuse. There are packs of wandering stray dogs, that leave well enough alone during the day, but at night, I wouldn’t walk here.

I waited a while, doing this and that in my room, before heading down to the Institute of Sindhology. I walked into the library and asked the staff if they had any books on puppetry. They said, I have chosen a difficult subject. There really wasn’t anything on that, particularly in relation to Sindh. I asked them to check on a book by an incredible illustrator named Akbar Soomro. He had created two illustrated books that I know of, on the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (upon whose work my puppet film “Risalo” will be based). I knew about them because I had them send to me from the Berkeley Library years ago. Over the years, I barely managed to find the color one he created at the end of his career. The little black and white one he created at the beginning was not to be found. They didn’t have it at the library either. This is a huge problem in a society either can’t afford books, and or does not purchase them. Akbar Soomro was a great illustrator who created these labors of love at his own expense and was unable to recoup the costs. His books are treasures, that should be reissued and sent around the world. I had the opportunity to see one of his original paintings when visiting his family years ago, long after his passing. I hope to do so again and take some steps towards realizing some kind of positive effort in this regards.

I visited the audio library where I plan to do some research for “Risalo” once I get the necessary approvals. I walked through the beautiful Sindhology museum, which is as usual very accessible to the people whose culture it represents. I picked up a CD of Sur Kalyan, the first in a series on the verses of Shah Latif, recorded by Sindhology with the incredible voice of the late ______.

There was a bit of a mixup in terms of where I was and where I needed to go, but the staff at the hostel helped get me to Naimatullah sahib at the Arts Department of Sindh University. We worked out the details of a series of workshops I will conduct with their students, and he worked on the necessary paperwork for my stay and the sessions. I really appreciate the opportunity to share with these students and the efforts of my friends to make it possible.
We were joined by Mangi sahib at Naimatullah sahibs home for a delicious home cooked meal with daal, eggplant and chicken. I certainly was not shy about eating. By this point, I think I had about 4 cups of chai between breakfast, office visits and lunch. I really appreciate that these two friends take time out of what is a really demanding schedule, dealing with all manner of administrative tasks to make sure I’m well fed, and cared for.

They dropped me back at the hostel and I got some rest. I woke up and did a bit of editing on “Risalo”. I made a bunch of calls, set up some meetings and listened to some Sindhi music recordings that I have set aside as research. The sun had gone down, and I thought I’d go out and do some long exposure photography tests of the stars. I was listening to some of Abida Parveen’s renditions of Sindhi poetry, and a good half an hour passed before I could wrestle myself away from the sublime beauty of her music and go out to do some work.

I pointed the camera up at the sky and played around with different settings on the camera. I’m glad I picked up the camera remote, as that helped keep things more stable when I used bulb exposures which basically keeps the shutter open until you press the trigger a second time.

Naimatullah sahib picked me up and we head over to his place again. This time I got to see more of his art in his garage studio. I’ve enjoyed his work in past visits, but had not seen these beautiful relief sculptures. I have never created fiber glass pieces before, so it was really interesting to learn a bit about his process. He sculpts the works in clay, sometimes from a references for portraits of incredibly straight in the clay, without any planning for some of the other pieces. His level of skill and artistic vision is evident in these beautiful story pieces. After the initial sculpt, he creates a plaster mold, then applies the fiberglass in the mold. It is a meticulous process that yields beautiful, resilient results. We discussed some ideas on how to get this work out into the world.

After another wonderful home cooked meal (there is so much more variety to home cooked food than restaurant faire) and chai, Mangi sahib took me to Najib sahib’s home again. I needed to send a few emails. Najeebullah Rashdi sahib had been curious about my short film “Gul”, so I gave him a DVD of it along with the Girnari Jogi Group album. He showed me a beautiful short film that he had created based around the them of a young girl’s desire for education. There was no dialogue and the pacing was very slow and serene, yet I was completely transfixed by it. Each shot was beautifully composed using the natural landscape of Sindh, along with traditional mud homes and a ramshackle abandoned building.

In addition to that, I got to see some of his sketch books drawings. Besides being a talented filmmaker, he is also an excellent cartoonist. I am truly humbled and amazed by the quality of these artists. It’s really fun to share art. They are so gracious and kind towards my efforts to incorporate Sindhi culture in fresh ways that I know would not be possible without the warm welcome and support that I have always received here. These projects are still a big challenge, and there are many times during the process where I wonder what madness compelled me to think I could pull this stuff off, but these projects, the stories of each person I share along the way and the effort to support and invigorate culture make them something priceless to me. That the people who have helped me, feel good about what I have done, is appreciated beyond words.

Gulab Jogi and Fatah sahib

Department of Culture, Sindh

I stayed the night at the Department Culture of Sindh. I spent the morning editing Phool Patti interviews and the “Risalo” animatic. Every decision to cut out a line of poetry, where two lines are too similar in meaning, opens up the edit to allow music to come in more and gives more weight to the words that remain.

During the day, a Jogi named Gulab Jogi, who lives in Bhitshah, Shah Latin’s town, happened to drop by. We talked for a while and I asked him a bit about how Jogis travel. He showed me a photo album of his many travels and meetings with various dignitaries, dancers and artists from around the world. He was a really jovial and friendly person. He clearly has a deep love of his culture, which he enjoys sharing with people.

He shared a geedar sing and hatta jori with us. The geedar singh is removed from a geedar and used for protection. He emphasized the the geedar is not killed during this process. The hatta jori is a sort of dried root that becomes hard and somewhat bone like.

I got his card and will likely visit him in Bhitshah as I search for puppeteers in Sindh. After that, we took a few photos and he was on his way. My friend Ali Salman Anchal of Phool Patti dropped by with some of my luggage. I said goodbye to Muhammed Ghulam who had woken up and driven with Ali through crazy traffic at a moment’s notice to get me the night I arrived in Karachi. There are some interesting new collaborations in the works thanks to all of these meetings. I hope to share more when they bear fruit.

After that, the kind people at the Department of Culture dropped me at the bus station, from where I hopped on a coaster for Jamshoro. The ride took a while, but it was interesting to see the variety of vendors that would pop on and off the bus to offer their wares. There were the perfume guys that had their pitch down who invited people to test out the perfume for free, then proceeded to walk up and down the aisle and spray some cologne just above our heads. There’s a lot of clever wordplay and a particularly honed style of delivery for these pitches. It’s hard work jumping on a bus and hawking wares by delivering your pitch and just walking up and down, watching for any kind of interest in someone’s eyes and then hopping off, into a sea of chaos outside as the bus starts to leave.

bus to Jamshoro

bus to Jamshoro

People were selling egg burgers, spiced cucumbers, peanut brittle, chenna snacks, hats, kid’s clothes, cell chargers and covers, juice, soda, plastic light up toys etc. There were children and women who came aboard asking for alms, as they made their pitch for doing so to be rewarded for your good deeds and getting an opportunity to visit the holy city of Medina.

snack time

snack time

We stopped at a rest area for a bit to gather more passengers. The conductor went out and brought people aboard, as passengers went out to get pakoras, samosas and other snacks. Once on the highway, we passed a lot of petrol stands and restaurants along the way. It’s pretty crazy how these huge buses and trucks honk like mad men when passing each other while these little cars are nuts enough to weave around them.

Eventually I reached the Jamshoro stop. There are a ton of rickshaws there, waiting to take people further. I called up my friend Saeed Mangi, and he sent Shehzad sahib out with a car. I took some long exposures as I waited. It is quite dark out there, with only streaks of light from passing vehicles. It could be a very creepy place, but no one really bothered me. Drivers asked me if I needed a ride a few times, and when I said no, they went back to chatting with each other.

I settled into the room with campus housing, then Mangi sahib took me out to meet other art faculty and dinner. It was really great to see him again after several years. His kids have grown quite a bit in that time, and have no recollection of me whatsoever, but I certainly remember them. I enjoyed a delicious dinner of chicken karhai, but was left out of most of the conversation as the group was speaking in Sindhi instead of Urdu. I watched stray dogs mill about, as I scarfed down food and fended off mosquitos. I enjoy the sound of Sindhi. Like Punjabi, it has a beautiful flow and there’s a particular way that people connect words and blend them together. Also like Punjabi, it can be beautiful when it is used as such, and not so much in the way that some people speak in a sort of gutteral way. I’ve been working from a wonderful Urdu translation to adapt “Risalo” and look forward to recording the corresponding lines in their original Sindhi so that I can share this poetry that exemplifies the beauty of this language and its people.

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The new assistant drops by

a little promo photo of Haider Ali's latest.

a little promo photo of Haider Ali’s latest.

Some days are slower than others. There’s still a lot of work being done, but there’s less to share in terms of stories. I’ve been waking up around 5am and getting in a good days work before breakfast. I shot some interviews with some of the Phool Patti team, that I’m editing, bit by bit. I’ve been refining the “Risalo” animatic, and continuing my research.

Fatima doing what she does from Adnan Hussain on Vimeo.

While I was editing, this little sweetheart came to visit. She waddled over to me while I was editing interviews. I picked her up and plopped her on the chair next to me. It was a fun morning seeing what silliness she’s up to. The mornings are so quiet, and it’s a great time to do some work and play with an unexpected assistant. Little Fatima is already picking up her father Haider’s paint brushes. The kids have a way of taking me out of that rigid focus on work, and reminding me to sit back a bit and enjoy a silly moment.

Afterwards, Haider and Mumtaz took me to visit another group of Phool Patti artists. People are incredibly gracious. Everywhere you go, as always people offer you tea, or a soda, often both. The truck workshops are very rough around the edges, but the excellence in artistry shines through. This isn’t work that people are just knocking out. There is so much care and pride put into every brushstroke.

From there, we rode three on the motorcycle, with me in the back trailing a heavy backpack. I’m proud to say that I managed to stick to the seat with every muscle in my body over every bump and through each turn and every exciting near death experience. It’s actually pretty exhilarating and incredible.

We ended up at the Culture Tourism and Antiquities Department Government of Sindh to see my friend Fatah Daud Poto. He has been among a group of cherished friends who have made it possible for me to see these ideas of projects through. He was the one who initially connected me to the Girnari Jogi Group in the past, and once again, I find myself reaching out to this same group of friends, with a few additions each time, without whom none of what I do here would be possible. In return, I try to honor this gift by giving everything I can to create meaningful projects with this culture and to support and promote the practitioners of it, who graciously allow me to collaborate with them.

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Yusuf Ghot Phool Patti

I went with Haider Ali and Mumtaz Ahmad to a place called Yusuf Ghot. A talented phool patti artist named Gulraiz Affridi who had apprenticed with Haider Ali was working on a tanker truck. Mumtaz bhai and a few other artists joined in to lend a hand. I got to watch and learn more about the process. Besides that, I came up with some concepts for one of the sequences for “Risalo” that I’ll be exploring further.

It was a quiet day, just listening to the artists and taking mental notes. We rode past a long line of beautifully decorated trucks. It was like walking into a giant art gallery. Haider had me pose with the brush, though I wouldn’t dare mess with their paint jobs. These guys do amazing things. Double and triple loading the brush, they can create beautiful flowers with a sweep of the hand. Even with such quick skills, it takes a team of artists painstaking days baking in the sun to create these masterpieces. They make it look easy because they are able to do such fine work almost entirely freehand. I love watching the process, as rich lines and color flow across these hulking trucks.

I’m working out some details for the next step in this process.

Afterwards, we head back and I got to spend some quality time with Haider’s sweet children. The two little ones are twins, and just about the most quiet, innocent kids you’ll find. They look around innocently, waddling around, poking their paws into things they should not. The little girl is constantly giggling and climbing on things. The little boy just looks bewildered, while his older brother asks a lot of cute questions and walks around making sure they don’t tumble down the stairs. Such a sweet older brother. I love how the little boy has a shirt that says dangerous across it under that vest. Can’t ask for better company on this leg of the trip.

proud truck owner who clearly appreciates the artistry behind the masterpiece

Maripur Hawk’s Bay Rd Phool Patti

Spending time with Haider Ali and Ali Salman Anchan has been really great. While I am certainly here to work on my puppet film “Risalo”, there are a lot of interesting side excursions that are integral to my growth as well as the project at hand. I can’t really do the work without immersing myself into being here and following these sort of side stories along the way. I’m still jet lagged and my sleep timings are all over the place, but I manage to stay awake through the day. As I write about things I am doing, there are a lot of other “Risalo” related developments that will be shared more so when something more substantial comes together.

I took a ride with Ali Salman Anchal and visited Haider Ali and the rest of the Phool Patti team at the Quaid-e-Azam International Truck Stand, Karachi. I got to see more of the process behind the work, which was really exciting for me. From purchasing paints and custom made brushes, to seeing a bit of the division of labor from undercoat to phool patti (which is the actual name of this art form people have termed truck art).

We’re not far from Baluchistan here in Hawk’s Bay, but still within Sindh. It has been really fascinating to meet Mumtaz Bhai, the creative director of Phool Patti (the company) and several other artists on the team. I was photographing one of their beautiful finished trucks from Baluchistan, when the proud owner of the vehicle came by and asked me to photograph him with it. I’m so glad that he did. People don’t often realize the care and attention to detail that goes into this work. As an artist, it’s quite clear to me, but often the general public thinks that like many “services”, it is just a matter of throwing a bit of money at some people to get the job done for a pittance.

What they do not realize is the level of commitment, artistry and expertise that goes into creating these rich works of art. These are true masterpieces and I hope to do my part in getting the general public to see them as such. They are master artists, who rather than being hindered by some paltry college art education, live and breathe this stuff, and pour their souls into every piece they lay their brush upon.

Here’s a little time-lapse of Haider Ali doing what he does. Note, this isn’t a finished piece at the end of the clip.

Haider Ali partial timelaps from Adnan Hussain on Vimeo.

Multan Lok Raqs Party

First Day in Karachi

My first day in Karachi was a good one. We started the day with some Halwa Puri, then Ali Salman Anchan took me to Frere Hall, where we had both wanted to see the famous ceiling mural by the incredible Sadquain. It was every bit as incredible I had hoped.
After that, we head over to a fair where Phool Patti had a booth. I reconnected with my friend Haider Ali, an excellent truck artist I met when he was in Los Angeles, showcasing his work. Haider and Ali Salman formed Phool Patti to showcase the beauty of Pakistani truck art to the world, and to help create opportunities for fellow artists. I will be sharing more about their work soon.
I also met a group called Multan Lok Raqs Party (meaning Multan Folk Dance Party) who put on beautiful dancing horse and camel performances using large wearable puppets. They are based out of Multan, and travel the country to showcase their art. They use instruments such as Shehnai, dhol and chapri. I spoke to The deputy in charge of the group Ijaz Hussain, though the group is lead by Muhammad Sharif who was not in attendance. These are great performers, musicians and artists and as always, I would be happy to directly connect anyone that may like to hire them to perform.
Here’s a short promo video I just created for the group:

Multan Lok Raqs Party from Adnan Hussain on Vimeo.

There was even a puppet show at the fair, run by a group of student volunteers part of a group called Thespianz Theater. They were very friendly and I enjoyed photographing the puppets. The event itself did not create the kind of atmosphere that groups like the Multan Lok Raqa Party deserve. It would also have been great if the organizers had hired some professional puppeteers to really showcase what they can do.
Still, it was great to meet the Raqs party. I am a step closer to reaching some puppeteers.
I rode with Haider on his motorcycle, through some nutty traffic.

motorcycle ride in Karachi from Adnan Hussain on Vimeo.

During the event, we received news of an attack on a Shia place of worship in Peshawar. The people of this country are what make it such an incredible place. There is a great deal of pain here, and huge challenges for people just going about their daily lives, but I see these artists and regular everyday people caught in the middle, just trying to earn enough to get by, trying to raise their kids, and give them the kind of joy they had in their childhoods.
Artists have a great deal to contribute to the cause of nurturing communities and showing them what we were and could be in the future. With more care, an event like this could really enrich these kids that deserve so much more from us. The artists are clearly ready to do their part.
Later, I got to see a phool patti (truck art) workshop with some trucks in the process of being decorated into pieces of mobile art.