Advancing the Art
and Well-being

Karachi Biennale 2022 showcased the means of artistic expression, particularly for the youth to help them voice their concerns and speak their heart out.

By Mariam Khan | February 2023

In Karachi, the much-awaited moments came recently when people of all age brackets, comprising the young and the old, congregated together to experience the art and interact with the leading artists in different corners of the city. This time, the overriding theme of Karachi Biennale 2022 (KB-22), a two-week art extravaganza, was ‘Collective Imagination: Now and the Next, ’ and an assorted melange of art exhibitions, live performances and the state-of-the-art installations put in nine different venues across the city were a sensory delight to those who revere art and aesthetics. In the two-week art celebration, there was something for almost everyone to take home. For instance, Alecia Neo’s ‘Ode to people whose labour builds and sustains a city’ or Erin Gee, Julia E. Dyck and Vivian Li’s ‘Audio Placebo Plaza’ where ‘music is made to create repair.’ Imran Qureshi’s ‘Deen O Dunya’ stole the show as this part of the biennale beautifully exhibited how ‘religious rituals, culture, and modern technology merge in a carnivalesque form’.

The third edition of the Karachi Biennale 2022 (KB-22) offered various programmes for people to help them focus on how arts can improve their well-being. One such workshop was held for young art lovers in particular under the title of ’Giving Emotions Meaning Arts and Health Workshop.’ In the workshop, the participants were shown how to express themselves and improve their well-being by using the multidisciplinary medium of immersive art.

Talking about the need for such programmes, Atteqa Malik, Trustee, Vice Chairman, Treasurer, and Global Outreach Chair, KB Trust, said, “Recent reports indicate a sharp increase in well-being dysfunctions in our society. According to the research carried out in 2007-2009 (PAMH Survey), an estimated 34% of the local population is facing mental health challenges. This trend is echoed throughout the world as conflict and rising levels of uncertainty have led to widespread anxiety and depression.”

It is in response to this that various well-being programs have been specifically introduced help people to express their emotions and navigate career goals and relationships with confidence, says Atteqa Malik. Malik added that most workshop participants “expressed the need to make a positive change in their lives as a reason to sign up for the workshop.”

Angé Weinrabe, the Founder of GEM, believes there is a necessity for the existing medical model of mental healthcare to connect to culture and bring more than just the psychosocial model of support to work alongside the more dominant medical model by incorporating the use of creativity, play, tradition and ritual, such as music, art and theatre/film.” Weinrabe believes there is the capacity for true healing, particularly for the youth people who tend to experience severe anxiety due to complex factors they are immersed in and ones they have little chance at changing, such as their social, political, traditional and economic environment.

Most importantly, employing a range of art-based techniques may provide a perfect avenue for public health organizations to tackle taboo topics that are otherwise hard to discuss in local settings.

The Interactive Research and Development (IRD), a public health research organization working across several disease areas, including mental health, provided mental health support and screening facilities at the GEMAH workshop. The GEMAH-IRD collaboration showcased the fact that art-based techniques provide safe spaces to better engage young people in a healthy conversation about mental well-being.

Read More