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Mazaar, Bazaar: Design and Visual Culture in Pakistan

Mazaar, Bazaar is a brilliant insight into the rich and diverse Pakistani visual culture and can be fittingly called the identity journal of Pakistan. It comprises of 33 essays which have been organised into sections. In essence, this book takes the reader on a journey of discovery of Pakistani culture, making it a highly captivating read. The essays are well researched and flawlessly composed and the book itself speaks volumes of the hard work put into its production.

I immensely enjoyed reading the first essay titled, ‘Dekh Magar Pyar Se’ (Look But With Love), followed by ‘Read’, leading to ‘Be Pakistani, Buy Pakistani’, moving on to ‘PakistanZindabad’ (Long Live Pakistan) and ending with the historical insight ‘Pre-Partition Perspective’. All the pieces under these headings are masterpieces – each of them exhibiting Pakistan’s cultural grandeur.

Each article offers plenty of factual information which most people are unaware of, e.g. the history of Jhoolay Lal; or the thriving business strategy behind Polka drink; or the establishment of the once-phenomenal PIA (Pakistan International Airlines). The book can be aptly termed as the Pakistani visual culture encyclopedia. It also provides invaluable analysis on the symbols which form an integral part of every Pakistani’s identity.

This book covers a range of subjects, varying from beliefs (Ijtimaa, The Journey, Rehmat Ka Sayah) to the common wall carvings (Typography and Wall Chalking) to covering entertainment (Publicity Designs as a Reflection of Lollywood Film Content) and also comprising famous Pakistani brands (Najo Mehndi and Henna Hands, Tibet Talcum Powder, Rooh Afza – Drink of the East, and The Pakola Tale) and then moving on to superstitious beliefs (Fal Divination for Men Seeking a Bride) and also including the captivating history of the local currency and postage. Contributors include Durre S. Ahmed, M. Imran Qureshi, Naazish Attaullah, Amean J, Hassan Zaidi, Arif Mehmood, Arif Hassan, Ayesha Jalal, Quddus Mirza, Feica (cartoonist) and others.

This book is a treat for people belonging to all age groups: for the youngsters, it would be an expedition of unearthing certain facts and trivia and for the adults, a mixture of discovery and nostalgia.

The pictures accompanying these essays make the read even more delectable. From the colourful designs and motifs to scenes captured from daily life, these pictures are a visual delight for all as they are an illustration of the multi-dimensional culture Pakistan is blessed with.

The concept is novel and this compilation is a must read for every Pakistani or anyone who wants to know about Pakistani culture and society – a must-keep on your coffee table. Mazaar, Bazaar shatters recently-constructed stereotypes and exudes warmth, colour, festivity and compassion. This book’s release comes at a time when it is most needed.
About the Author/Editor:
Saima Zaidi, a Communications Designer, studied at the National College of Arts, Lahore and the Pratt Institute, New York. She teaches Typography and History of Design at the Department of Visual Studies, University of Karachi

Mazaar, Bazaar
Design and Visual Culture in Pakistan
Edited by Saima Zaidi
Hardback, 350 pages, February 2010
ISBN: 9780195475944
Price: Rs. 3000
Oxford University Press

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