International Artists’ Residency


with Maria Z. Benjamin & Sana M. Ali

Maria Z. Benjamin and Sana M. Ali created works during a month long residency at Vasl Artists Collective, titled ‘Build’, held in the cities of Karachi and Lahore.

Sana M. Ali’s work employed the visual vocabulary of the barren landscapes and the constructs of the city. The experience of the city of Lahore, where architectural, social and political histories overlap, and simultaneously renounce and harmonize with each other, trigger a play of push and pull in her work. There is a particular interest in the secularity and sacredness and in the collapse and fracturing of spaces. She has referenced the system of the grid in architecture along with elements of the sacred.

About her experience with the residency, Sana expressed that, “Being a part of the Vasl residency was as much about experiencing the city of Karachi as it was about opening up new frontiers in my own art practice. As the largest city in Pakistan, Karachi is a complex palimpsest and one finds a remarkable amount of diversity, whether it is in the landscape, language or the social and cultural climate. As an urban/cosmopolitan landscape, Karachi provides the most interesting and comprehensive backdrop on a scale not found in any other city in the country. Being a local, this was a pleasant surprise for me to discover. It was the space and time of the residency that enabled me to be both an outsider and an insider simultaneously.”

Maria Z. Benjamin’s work looked at nature and how it is structured and interpreted through ideas, hopes and desires. This approach led her to spend time in museums and touristic environments, reflecting on how one interprets the meaning of the environment. Benjamin felt that, “The residency offered by Vasl provided me an excellent opportunity to research both Karachi and Lahore. I was keen to meet people, photograph the city and do some filming. I began by talking to and filming the boys working on Clifton Beach for the documentary – which became a part of my work at the residency. I also spent time in Lahore, photographing the city and filming families in the Christian colony. The Vasl team provided me with excellent support structure, cultural awareness, security and well-being while moving around the city.”