Pop-up in the Park: Reclaiming public spaces in Karachi

Published: July 25, 2016

Spoken Stage, in collaboration with Girls at Dhabas, hosted “Pop-up in order to reclaim the public spaces in Karachi. PHOTO: POP-UP IN THE PARK EVENT PAGE

Spoken Stage, in collaboration with Girls at Dhabas, hosted an event coined “Pop-up in the Park” at Frere Hall this Saturday in order to reclaim the public spaces in Karachi. Spoken Stage is an organisation that fosters the growth of individual expression through the projection of spoken word poetry and prose. Girls at Dhabas was created with the intention of enabling women to claim public spaces, and is quickly gaining influence as women all over South Asia are using the hashtag #girlsatdhabas.

The event took place at Frere Hall with the intention of reclaiming public spaces.
Photo: Maheen Humayun

An investment in the arts has grown rapidly amongst the youth of Pakistan, and the Pop-up Stage was a platform that allowed the youth to project their voices in the form of spoken word poetry, music and painting.

It was a casual affair with rillies lining a small patch of grass in front of Pakistan’s famous Frere Hall. Chai was served throughout.

These people are amazing and the delicious chai from their pop-up dhaba was flowing throughout. ‪#‎popupinthepark‬
Photo: Spoken Stage Facebook Page

Talent was bidding and the air was thick with inspiration. Karachi is abundant with talent and Pop-up in the Park allowed this talent to flourish on public land.

The time for the talented to hide behind closed doors and anonymous pen names is over – the youth is slowly taking over one public space at a time.

This was the first time I had encountered something like this in Pakistan. It’s so rare to find a group of people openly expressing themselves in a society where expression seems to be squandered by taboos. This in itself is a step towards progress.

A girl recited a poetry slam for all the women that have ever felt like they had to hide their thoughts, or take a back seat to men because of the patriarchy that looms over us. We cheered her on as she echoed over and over again the importance of taking a stand. A band sang a song for all those that have ever felt any kind of pain; their harmonies floated through the air and attracted people from around the park.

Participants singing at the event for those that came to offer their support for the initiative.
Photo: Maheen Humayun

Another girl painted a portrait of Qandeel Baloch in her honour.

A young girl read a piece of powerful prose about loneliness and the shackles of the human mind. Later she sang the famous Hallelujah, and everyone grew still as her voice rendered thought into all those that had ever felt lost in their lives.

There was little to say or do, except immerse ourselves into what was being recited and sung. A spoken word poem filled with fiery repetition sparked excitement in the eyes of everyone there. Another boy read a piece about adjusting back into Karachi after four years of schooling abroad. He went on to discuss his dream of becoming a writer, and the fact that there is always a story to be found in a city like Karachi. Off in the distance, someone blew bubbles into the air, a cotton candy vendor walked around in awe, people stood and people sat and swayed to the music.

Our ‪#‎popupinthepark‬ was a raging success, organically growing as more and more joined in to sing, to perform, and reclaim public space.
Photo: Spoken Stage Facebook Page

Everyone there had one thing in common – they were intrigued by the celebration of art. They were invested in the recitation of poetry, and the calming hum of prose.

An environment of creativity is essential in inspiring our youth and hopefully many more events like this will follow. There are numerous public spaces available to our advantage and yet we have grown accustomed to staying indoors.

Our people need safe spaces to express themselves, and by slowly taking over public spaces, we are allowing ourselves to flourish into an expressive, confident, and creative society.

Maheen Humayun

Maheen Humayun

The writer studied Literature and Creative Writing from John Cabot University in Rome. She is the author of the novella Special. She blogs at karachiiloveyou.wordpress.com/ and tweets @MaheenHumayun

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