Were the first Architecture Design Art Awards really a celebration of the Pakistani creative spirit? – Arts & Culture

Maria Aslam opened the ADA Awards by proclaiming: “Tonight is the night we will make history, you will make history, Pakistan will make history.” But has history been made? It remains to be seen.

The first biannual Architecture Design Art (ADA) Awards were held in Karachi on Saturday January 19th. Some of the city’s most prominent designers and architects gathered at Sindh Governor House where they rubbed shoulders with promising young talents. While the event itself was quite bumpy, President Arif Alvi as well as Governor Imran Ismail were in attendance, a victory for those pushing for government support for the arts.

About the rewards

Launched by ADA Magazine and backed by the prestigious Aga Khan Awards for Architecture, the ADA Awards were the premier celebration of Pakistani excellence in the disciplines of combined art, design and architecture. Although award competitions already exist in each of these areas, a group exhibition is of great value as it draws more attention to the winners, allowing them access to a larger network of professionals.

A woman-led initiative, the ceremony is the brainchild of Maria Aslam, architect and founder of ADA magazine. Aslam intends to celebrate and showcase Pakistani talent nationally as well as on the world stage, stating, “It is the spirits that impact our minds, but the younger generation does not know these artists and designers who make a difference in their daily lives. life. ”Creative work is most often overlooked in Pakistan and the presence of the President at the ADA Awards undoubtedly gives more weight to the event.

Each of the three disciplines, art, architecture and design, was chaired by a respected member of the fraternity. The presidents worked with the ADA team to organize the award categories and then facilitated the jury during the decision-making process.

Can our local artists afford this recognition?

The ADA Awards received over 300 nominations in 3 months from Pakistani nationals residing in the country and abroad. These submissions were screened by a provisional jury before being presented anonymously to the final jury made up of experts from Pakistan and around the world, representing countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Italy, Singapore, France and the United Kingdom.

However, the emphasis was too much on international exposure to the detriment of local talent.

The ADA team prioritized travel costs for foreign jurors over lower submission costs for domestic creators

Art jurors were unable to judge four of the nine categories, printmaking, photography, new media and video art, due to the low quality and quantity of submissions. Art president Sameera Raja, an architect by training and founder of Canvas Gallery, told Images that she had not received any submissions for two categories and that submissions for the other two categories were not of a level High enough, she and other members of her jury blamed the Rs. 5,000 submission fee, saying it was far too heavy for a struggling young artist.

ADA Awards are the first celebration of Pakistani excellence in art and design

Art jury member Savita Apti, a famous Singapore art historian, added: “If they don’t have a submission fee, new talent will emerge. Additionally, Raja believes that artists are not used to submitting their work to competitions and that the artistic segment of the ADA Awards will gain in popularity over the years.

Khurram Kasim, famous Pakistani art collector and art juror, echoed this sentiment, saying the quality of the work presented to the jury was “not up to par” and that a greater effort could have been made. made to reach new artists who do not yet have access to creative circles. He went on to say that art should be treated differently from architecture and design, especially since ADA magazine is not known for its art section.

Responding to questions about the submission fee, Maria Aslam and Aisha Khan of the ADA team said it was a tough call, but after comparing their fees to international standards, they decided it was symbolic and necessary to cover operational costs. Aslam further said, “People who will pay for something, they will be enthusiastic and serious about it.”

While it makes sense to look to international awards shows in order to inspire and successfully propel Pakistani talent onto the world stage, it makes much more sense to take into account the Pakistani context where the awards actually take place. ADA. For most Pakistanis, artists and designers included, Rs 5000 is a very large amount to pay for a discount in one’s very first cycle.

The ADA team prioritized travel costs for foreign jurors over lower submission costs for domestic creators. Such high submission fees make the award ceremony unattainable for most Pakistanis, especially aspiring innovators.

One of the main goals of the awards show is to appreciate Pakistani talent, but this was not reflected in the high submission fees or the outreach method. There was a launch in Karachi as well as Dubai and the ADA team publicized the contest via email, LinkedIn and social media. But in a country where most people don’t even have Internet access and where media coverage of the arts is limited, that’s not enough. Raising awareness at a more local level would have helped spread the word to creatives from various socio-economic backgrounds.

On the other hand, the president of design, Saima Zaidi, director of media and design at Habib University, said her jury chose from more than 40 nominations. She praised the conceptual strength of the project and said that the quality of the design submission was high and it was difficult to choose the winners.

The featured segment was clearly the architecture chaired by the architect and founder of Indus Earth Trust, Shahid Sayeed Khan, who classified the event as “a major achievement of the arts in this country”. Khan said he was pleasantly surprised to receive 82 nominations and found his experience working with an international jury fascinating because “every country has its own approach to how architecture is valued”.

Italian architect Davide Tommaso Ferrando was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Pakistan for the first time and he found Pakistani architecture “new and exciting”. Gonca Pasolar, another architectural jury member who visited Pakistan from Turkey for the first time, said Pakistani architecture is not visible internationally and she hopes the ADA awards will increase visibility.

The ceremony begins

Process and methodology aside, the actual event got off to a rocky start, in part due to the last-minute arrival of President Arif Alvi. Guests had to wait until 7 p.m., half an hour after the ceremony began, while security sweeps were carried out. It was also revealed that phones and bags were not allowed inside the venue, much to the chagrin of many attendees who complained that the invitation should clearly state attendance rules. After a long and somewhat heated clash between the guest women and the Governor House security team, the women were allowed in with their handbags after being checked by security.

Once the guests were finally seated, they were able to appreciate the impressive set-up, a large stage was erected, flanked by large screens on both sides. As the winners received awards, short descriptions of their work were read aloud. However, given the visual nature of their work, photos or videos of the winning projects would have been a more effective way to showcase the abilities of the award winners.

Sohai Abron performs at ADA Awards

After another period of waiting, the ceremony finally began at 8 p.m., an hour and a half late. The host of the evening, RJ Khalid Malik, did his best to get the attention of the disgruntled audience by demanding that everyone stand up – he pointedly pointed at the guests until everyone obeyed – and pay his neighbor a compliment. While this is one of the oldest tricks in the book, it got the job done.

After the Art, Design and Architecture awards were presented, three final awards were presented – Lifetime Achievement Awards for Gulzar Haider and Salima Hashmi, and a “Socially Responsive Award” which was awarded to advertising agency BBDO Pakistan for their awareness-raising project on the issue. civilians killed by drones.

Sadly, the entire ceremony was conducted in English only, despite the fact that there were people in the room who perhaps would have been more comfortable delivering their acceptance speech in Urdu.

The ceremony was interspersed with live entertainment such as fascinating performances by Sohai Abro and the musical Khumariyan. Comedian Shafaat Ali also performed, but he was unable to engage with the audience and his muffled remarks on Italian stereotypes and Mussolini, addressed to the Italian juror, left the audience cringe in their seats.

Shafaat Ali’s performance may have been in bad taste

However, despite Ali’s comedic failures and some organizational issues, the ADA First Awards successfully brought together experts from three distinct but related disciplines, highlighting and creating opportunities for Pakistani creatives who excel in their fields.

That being said, it is not an accessible platform, especially for young artists and designers. It was very disappointing that every presenter spoke only in English except for President Arif Alvi who gave his closing speech in Urdu. In addition, I believe that the outreach strategy and submission fees need to be revised to allow artists and designers from low-income communities to access this emerging platform.

All of this left me wondering if the first round of the ADA Award Show was really a celebration of the Pakistani creative spirit? Or just the spirit of the elite? I am not too sure.


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Joseph E. Golightly