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Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema

Yaminay Chaudhri

A collaborative guerrilla cinema project fueled by cell phone films and a rickshaw-powered projector!


A Project of The Tentative Collective
November 1 2011 - 2015

Imagine if a rickshaw pulled up into your neighborhood and started projecting videos on a boundary wall. What would happen? Would projections on the wall create gatherings of people? Would families bring picnics over? Would opaque boundary walls transform into ephemeral cinema screens?

Ideas of temporality run throughout this project. They resonate with Karachi because of the precarious nature of this city and it's citizens' unbelievable resourcefullness in the face of hardship--they simply coopt failing infrastructures, find detours around potholes and keep driving.  Abundant uncertainty prevalent in Karachi has the upside of breeding creativity and allowing surreal situations to open up within the mundane...


We will ask people to submit 2-5 minute cell phone films in response to the question, "HOME: ‘What do you do in your free time?’". 

We will work in the public spaces of some of Karachi’s marginalized migrant communities and elite neighbourhoods.

We will schedule free screenings on boundary walls and other vertical architecture in the city with the consent of neighbours and the greater community.

We will facilitate and organize public cinema gatherings for local communities to re-imagine and re-use public space.

We will catalyze dialogues about home and migration in migrant communities of Karachi using collaboration and narrative story telling. 

We will privilege the voices of marginalized migrant communities living in Karachi who consume media but do not have equal opportunities to participate in its production.

We will attempt to eliminate media representatives and create local, direct, unmediated, self-generated narratives about living in Karachi.

We will gather artists and local residents to collaborate and share ownership as a new Tentative Collective team.

Expanded Project description

The global conversation about foreign migration has regained intensity during recent times of economic crisis. As resources become scarce, entitlement battles fought along lines of nationality and belonging become more common. In such situations, the rights of migrants are most neglected. Economically marginalized migrant populations are the worst hit in terms of both finance and social security. Where do these people belong? What are their rights and entitlements? In no other place is this question more in need of answering than in Pakistan—a country whose many citizens suffer as migrants overseas but struggle equally hard in their own country from an identity crisis of contested belonging.


A city of roughly 21 million, Karachi hosts a vast diversity of people rivaling cities like New York, Rio or Bombay.  The flow of migrants to Karachi began in large numbers during the 1947 partition from India. Ever since then, great numbers of rural to urban and international migrations have changed the demographics of Karachi dramatically. Karachi is estimated to house nearly 2 million illegal immigrants in addition to much larger numbers of rural to urban migrants from the interiors of the four Provinces. Most illegal migrants and rural to urban migrants live in marginalized squatter colonies of the city. Advancements in communication technology, particlarly television media, has had a strange side effect of further polarizing Karachi’s diversity.

Could we possibly step out of this oppositional polarity by using vernacular communication technology--self generated media from cell phones-- to create local platforms for personal exchange?  

This project aims to catalyze dialogues within and about marginalized communities of Karachi using locally generated projections of their cell phone videos. Among these ‘marginalized’ people are migrant populations living in several informal squatter settlements all over Karachi with few or no government amenities, access to good public education, sewage, clean water, security, or legal rights. They are not only migrants from various parts of Pakistan, such as rural areas of all 4 provinces but also migrants from other countries such as Bangladesh, India or Myanmar. Insecurity about identity and belonging (as both citizens and non citizens) creates an opportunity to discuss what home and identity in Pakistan’s most populous city means.

To provide context and reveal the subjectivity of some of the leaders of this project, we will also host mobile cinema events in more privileged neighborhoods in Karachi and in neighbourhoods with mixed demographics.

Why is this activity important?

This activity is important because it creates space for under-represented narratives about life in Karachi. We are interested in creating new spaces for dialogue for marginalized communities that have been historically sidelined by colonial, military rule, government, class structures, and feudal-social structures. 

Contemporary neo-liberal policies and globalization have put more stress on these communities. This project will create a platform for communities to talk about their lives, ideas of home, and national identity from multiple points of view.

For Karachi, a city torn by violence and intolerance, a culturally diverse and open forum such as this will create alternative public spaces to inhabit. We believe in art's role in influencing social change and this project will be yet another experimental intervention in the discourse about migration, ownership and public space.  

What will the mobile cinema do?

Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema will aim to set up workshops to teach basic skills necessary to make cell phone films in various settlements in Karachi. Artists and filmmakers will be invited to lead these workshops and form teams with local residents which will then form new ‘Tentative Collectives’. Our methodology privileges self made cell phone media as opposed to high quality film technology so that the under-served neighborhoods in Karachi would be able to participate in the production of media as opposed to just the consumption of it. This also allows the creation of a community of filmmakers who can continue sharing conversations even after the Mobile Cinema has left the scene. Cell phones were chosen as ideal because while a majority of this population does not have access to the internet almost all families have access to cell phones. Cell phone media, in the context of Karachi, has the potential to become the most accessible and participatory platform for a more inclusive conversation. This potential rocks!

We aim to accomplish these screenings by hooking up a projector and speaker system to a CNG/Petrol Rickshaw. This media rickshaw will serve as transport as well as power generator for our equipment. Its appearance takes cues from the local off-the-grid vernacular that is very comfortable in all (non-elite) parts of Karachi and physically capable of traveling to areas where personal cars may be too large or unwelcome.

Who are We, and What is the Tentative Collective?

The ‘Tentative Collective’ is a nomadic collective of people who share resources to create critical works of art in public places. These works of art aim to excite the public imagination and create new spaces for social engagement. Our projects strive to be collaborative, site sensitive, and inclusive to different strata of society. We value collectivity, and strive to make something special out of makeshift, tentative and mundane opportunities in everyday life. Based in Karachi, Pakistan and New York State, the ‘Tentative Collective’ wants to create conceptually rich experiences to engage with and explore the cities we inhabit.

This project is being coordinated by Yaminay Nasir Chaudhri, the founder of the Collective who makes work in Pakistan and the United States. Mohammad Saddique Khan (chacha), will be our local Pakhtun liason. Our team has also recently grown, including a brilliant urban scholar, Dr. Nausheen H. Anwar to act as an adviser. Once the work begins in Karachi, this November (2012), our team will grow a lot more opening up the Tentative Collective’s doors to collaboration with artists, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, residents of the locations where we will set up our screenings. We expect an equal collaboration between the artists and the local representatives from each site and believe strongly in sharing credit and ownership. 

Website and contact Information:

Contact person:
Yaminay Nasir Chaudhri

This is where You come in We need your help!

Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema project could use your support to wrap up the final stages of it's work: circulate a publication and video documenting the experience of the project over the course of three years.
The funding we have successfully raised so far has helped us organize twice as many screenings than we had anticipated! Thank you :)

Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema' is a sponsored project of Artspire, a Program of NYFA. ARTSPIRE is a 501(c)3, tax exempt organization founded in 1971 to work with the arts community throughout New York State to develop and facilitate programs in all disciplines. ARTSPIRE will receive grants on behalf of 'Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema', ensure the use of grant funds in accordance with the grant agreements, and will provide program or financial reports as required.