Manora Field Notes
Manora Field Notes is a project in three parts, an iteration of the artist’s long-standing and evolving engagement with Manora Island, a peninsula located off the harbour of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. Khan’s sustained contemplation of the island’s landscape, history and present reality has yielded a complex alternative geography, which conveys larger concerns of post-colonial histories, climate change and displacement.
Khan’s visual practice is built on a process of critical research, documentation and mapping-based exploration, focusing on urban public space and its entanglement with history. The artist has concentrated on the transformations of sites such as the expanding Karachi harbour and Manora Island. Her archive of images, objects and recorded observations, which document the evolution of the island, engages with multiple bodies of knowledge – historic myths and local communities – to foreground the dimensions of embodiment, ecology and habitation.
From the eighteenth century onwards, Manora served as a defence outpost facing the Arabian Sea. Its many sites of worship – the Shri Varun Dev Mandir, Saint Paul’s Church and the Shrine of Yousuf Shah Ghazi, amongst others – point to the diverse religious history of pre-Partition South Asia. Over the past decade, Khan has witnessed the slow erasure of the island’s architectural history and natural ecology. These transformations reflect in microcosm some of the larger issues of environmental change, social and economic justice, and mass displacement. Like the island that stands as a sentry-post, this exhibition is an observation point that produces insights which bear relevance to other sites in the Global South and across the world that are undergoing similar transformations.
Manora Field Notes was first shown at the Pavilion of Pakistan, 58th Venice Biennale, curated by Zahra Khan and commissioned by the Pakistan National Council of the Arts and Foundation Art Divvy
Lahore Biennale02, Between the Sun and the Moon, curated by Hoor Al Qasimi