In this episode we meet 2018 Architecture graduate Asad Kamran and chat about the essence of home, channelling pressure and saying something as an artist.
Each episode is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. In season 3 we talk to graduates about going back. But is it back to the beginning or back to the future?
Asad is a multi-disciplinary artist. He has exhibited work in Pakistan and internationally. He is also the founder of Cinema 73, which is a trans-disciplinary community cinema in Karachi.
Whether it is returning home after graduation, returning to Edinburgh after adventures elsewhere, or just returning to a place that felt like the past but turned out to be the future, season 3 of Multi Story Edinburgh explores how going back is never life in reverse.
All opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Edinburgh.
Multi Story Edinburgh has been created and produced by the Alumni Relations team at the University of Edinburgh. If you are interested in telling your story, please get in touch and let's talk.
Music: Since When by Mise Darling from freemusicarchive.org
Waves: JuliusH / Pixabay
Artwork: Vector created by vectorjuice / Freepik
Sonia 0:10 This is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. This is season three, back to the beginning, or back to the future.
Asad 0:24 I'm in Karachi, Pakistan, just by the Arabian Sea.
Sonia 0:30 Asad Kamram, Architecture graduate.
Asad 0:34 So I graduated in 2018. So I've been back ever since, but I've been moving around. I've been to Toronto for a bit, doing my masters from there, but I'm back here now. I guess you can only see home, or understand the meaning of home once you've left it or once you're away from it. And the essence of home makes itself visible to you when it's not around you. So of course, I felt the difference and the change, and I felt the distance. When I was in Edinburgh, I felt it with an intensity. Initially, it was very isolating, and lonely. It was dislocating. It was like standing in this open field, this vast op-- open field and now suddenly, you're meant to curate your own version of your life. Because before this specific point, everything has kind of been prescribed, or everything you've done is kind of already set up in a particular way. So suddenly, you're in this new-- new-- new space, new geographic landscape and you're meant to design your own lifestyle and your own itinerary, which was really the bewildering, but fascinating. It was scary, but it was, it was everything I needed [laughs]. I got to understand myself better. I saw myself more, I understood my likes and dislikes with a little bit more clarity. I was allowing myself to look at myself as who I was versus how other people saw me. And that was a very new feeling for me. And then you see yourself through a completely different lens, because you're not Asad from Karachi where everyone else is from Karachi as well. You start situating yourself in a new story, that was the beginning of me creating my own kind of-- my own narrative about who I was. So that's how it changed me a little bit, it allowed me to see things as me for the very first time, I think. Because when you're home, or when you're in a place where you've been for a long time, the edges between you and the outside world kind of blur. So you don't know how much of the outside is in you and how much of you is in the outside until you leave. And when you leave you-- you kind of understand your own edges a little more. And you're like, hey, that edge, which I thought wasn't mine is actually mine, or this facet of my personality, which I can't seem to grab on to while in this new place was possibly only alive while I was in that old place, you know?
I was never sure, I was never sure what the hell I was doing until I actually started doing things. I just got into the University of Edinburgh like a lazy A-level student, I applied and I got in I was like okay, fine. Architecture is something that I'm interested in, I'll do it. And then after doing my first year, I had to take a gap year because my mum passed away. The way I absorbed Edinburgh after that moment or after having returned was very different to how I had seen it before. And I was much-- a lot more you know, porous, I was soaking a lot more of it in because I had come face to face with the reality you know, of having lost something and-- and feeling alive felt so precious. So Edinburgh became suddenly that place where I could really start looking at it as-- as this precious moment in time where whatever it gave me was so meaningful and rich, but as time progressed, I felt that I had a lot to feel, I had a lot to say. Edinburgh was equipping me with the sensitivity towards my surroundings, it was equipping me with ways of looking at my surroundings in ways I hadn't ever seen before. And I felt like I wanted to utilise what I had absorbed and apply it in a place where I-- which I understood and knew more intuitively, which was Karachi. So I felt like I had to say something. And if I had to say something would be best, as you know-- it would best resonate with the place where I was from. So I decided to return to Karachi as soon as I graduated. Initially, I was like, okay, I must prove my worth as a foreign qualified graduate and get a job and-- at this reputed architecture firm. And I was like, got that job and seven months in, I was like this is-- I was having trouble breathing there, I just couldn't, I couldn't do it. And I remember I actually-- I remember on my last day, I physically walked out of that office. And people don't do this much in Karachi, they're not really-- Karachi's not a very walking-- walkable, walking-friendly city. And I stormed out of that office, and I walked all the way home, which was like a 30/40 minute walk, which is something very, like, not normal in Karachi to do. I started this community cinema, as a way of reacting to that pressure, that pressure that I felt, that top down pressure that I felt I kind of channelled it through by opening the doors of this community cinema that I inaugurated, and it was my way of saying something to the streets or something to this city. It was my opening up of my arms and my own expression as an artist and that grounded me. It felt very real. It felt like I was taking the first step towards a direction that was-- that I'm meant to go on, it felt right to open yourself up through an artistic expression to your cit-- to my city or my neighbourhood like that. So I saw this film in-- in the theatre once, it was called Gully Boy, it was this rags to riches story about this rapper from the slums of Bombay. And the most sort of popping song of that film was titled Apna Time Aayega, which means my time will come, you know. So that was the first film that I played, which was kind of my own expression, I was saying that I am on the journey to discover myself through my city. And my time is going to come. So that was my first screen. The cinema kind of served me in so many ways, because it shifted my perspective of the city. I was-- I wasn't just someone who felt things about the city. I was someone who was involved in actively reacting to the city, you know, through-- through art, and that really changed my positioning and socio- culturally, it switched my lens, it allowed me to make new friends, meet people who were kind of looking at the city, through a similar lens that I was.
Everything in my life these days is about figuring out what the hell and where the hell home is. And just now I'm thinking about dream houses. And I was looking at the works of these Italian artists who made these kind of-- these houses that transformed into packable boxes that could be delivered or moved around. I see my life as this great homecoming, and I don't know, I think I will arrive hone one day. Physically, I may not be around, I think I'm moving around a little bit. But this-- this desire to find home is gonna be a forever task, it seems.
Sonia 9:23 We also ask our guests to tell us about a place, somewhere local, somewhere that kind of captures something important. Something worth sharing.
Asad 9:37 [Sound of gentle waves] the Arabian Sea. I will take you by the ocean side. It's called Sea View, that giant strip of public seafront that faces the road, which I live across and just have you sit there and listen to the crashing waves and as the sound of the city blurs into the distance. And your eye kind of gazes from across the waves onto these dizzying lights that some rickshaws sometimes have. It's a perfect embodiment of Karachi, you get the ocean breeze, you taste this salt on your tongue. You get some of that salty sand in your eyes, with a soft kind of gaze, you just look back at the dusty skyline. And that's it, in that moment, it's all Karachi is for me, just the ocean and the dust, and the people and, and the heartbreak and the heartache and the love and the despair and the sea salt and the smell of the horseshit [laughs]. And it just-- it's a whirlwind of these kinds of thoughts and those sensory feelings, just sensorial elements in that moment. That just overwhelmingly makes it a recipe for Karachi, you know? [Inhales] and you take a deep breath in and you're like, Oh my God, I am very much physically gulping Karachi right now. And it's a perfect concoction, you know.
Sonia 11:39 Thank you for listening. Join us next time for another graduate and another story.