by Sehba Sarwar with Jibran Javaid
In August 2012, Sehba Sarwar met up with Akbar Baloch, a photographer for different Urdu and Sindhi newspapers in Karachi. Akbar Baloch hails from a Pakistani community called “Baloch”(also known as Sheedi), a marginalized group that has roots in East Africa and are linked to ancient slave trade between the two continents. Karachi’s Baloch community primarily resides in Lyari, one of the city’s oldest and most impoverished neighborhoods. Akbar Baloch, a Lyari resident has been photographing his community for decades. Akbar Baloch also introduced Sehba to Rafiq Baloch, who is part of the Karachi Union of Journalist (KUJ) and partly offices at Karachi Press Club.
Both videos are excerpts of longer interviews – the longer transcripts will be published in VBB’s upcoming publication about Homes and Histories.
Akbar Baloch: “In 1964, there were a lot of football matches in Lyari and I used to go every day to photograph. I used to take group photos or sometimes action photos… In those days, there were a few different kinds of Yashica cameras. And there was only black and white film. We used to shoot the black and white photos but we had to take our film to the shops for printing. He would give us chemicals. When we printed the pictures, he’d simply look at the prints and say, “You’ve done under or over…” He didn’t know much about printing – whether the negatives were under or over-exposed. He depended on us! I then purchased another Yashica camera and I enjoyed photography. Through continuing to take photos, I gathered good equipment. I also began to photograph weddings and was doing quite well.”
Rafiq Baloch: “After Partition, many Lyari residents moved deeper into the province. The society is feudal there. And our people were treated like lower class citizens. There’s a stark difference between our people here and people there. My father was a laborer. Around me, people were acquiring education. And I realized that I could better my own life by choosing to get an education. Now my children will have a better life than I did. I chose journalism and I’m well regarded in my field. I played tennis, football, boxing and served on the teams of my college, university and my school. And then my friends and I created “street schools” for children in our neighborhood so they too could learn. Fifty-five percent of our people have advanced their lives by acquiring education. We now work in all parts of the professional sector: in the airline industry, in the import-export business… We live in the Old Karachi, South City, where there are other rich neighborhoods where homes cost millions – we are not there yet. We are not wealthy like other parts of the city. But at least we are no longer living like villagers. We are part of the city today. Our government has developed other parts of the city to match their lifestyles with the west, in some cases. But they haven’t done the same in Lyari.”
Aslam Khawaja is a researcher who has worked extensively on issues related to the Sheedi/Baloch communities. He is contributing an essay to VBB’s art catalog the complements this website.
Jibran Jawaid has been working as a film director/producer for the past 10 years. He has created many videos for documentaries, features, and television shows.
Karachi-born writer and multidisciplinary artist Sehba Sarwar serves as VBB’s Artistic Director/ Founder.