Sadaf Mahmood, Heritage Fighter
“I Am a Pakistani Patriot”
Who am I?
My name is Sadaf Mahmood. I am a traditionalist, and a patriot from Karachi, Pakistan, who is fighting to preserve Karachi heritage sites. People ask me all the time if I’m an architect. I’m not an architect, but that doesn’t mean I’m not qualified or I don’t understand architecture or I don’t have the vision to admire something within my country. I can be proud, and I can take ownership.
What do I do?
I am the co-founder of Reimagining Karachi, a heritage preservation initiative of SEED Ventures, an impact investment company in Pakistan. With my partners Faraz Khan and Khusro Ansari, we started these two initiatives in 2012. We wanted one platform for everyone who was either working for heritage, associated with conservation in some way or sympathetic to heritage preservation, be it an individual or an organization.
How does it work?
We divide our work into several tiers. First, we create awareness at all levels of society, including youth, corporations and the masses. Then we document and archive. There are 1,061 actual listed buildings, but overall there are more than 1,800, and we want to capture them all. This step is followed by physical conservation. And the final step is a sustainability plan to help prolong the life of the architectural asset.
Tell us about your favorite building…
In Karachi, there is a building called Duarte Mansion. I write poetry, and sometimes I connect my poetry to certain visions. The first time I noticed this building, I realized I had seen the same building in my dreams and I heard beautiful poetry. I’ve known that building for a long time. It is just a facade now. It doesn’t have any particular architectural style but it’s absolutely beautiful. If I could get my hands on it, I would love to restore it.
Why is heritage conservation important to you?
What you see here in Karachi is very little Islamic architecture. You mostly see monuments and sights that were built either by Parsis or British engineers. So people say this is not our heritage. My answer to that is –it’s in your country, you own it and you use it. If it’s part of your country, it’s your heritage. In moving ahead and in trying to acquire everything that’s new and shiny we are forgetting where we came from, what our forefathers stood for, what our roots was like, what our history and heritage and culture were like. We need to create awareness for people to understand our roots and the significant role heritage plays in our lives.
How does your work help the community?
So many people are struggling to make ends meet because many graduates are not being absorbed in the industries. We are trying to make them understand that heritage conservation creates livelihoods. Conservation is a tedious job and requires a lot of manpower. So we create employment opportunities. We believe that once Karachiites get the long-term impact on their lives, it will make all the difference.
*Photos courtesy of Reimagining Karachi and The Karachi Walla