Instep Today

On preserving history

September 12, 2018
By Maria Shirazi

The Dawood Foundation (TDF) Ghar has introduced an exhibit titled, ‘Moses Somake - The Man who built Karachi’ that is an exploration of the structures that Somake built in the city decades ago.

The Dawood Foundation (TDF) Ghar, that opened its doors to the residents of Karachi almost a year ago, was transformed into a museum while retaining its heritage.

TDF Ghar, which follows the concept of T2F in Karachi, is an informal learning space where people can come together for intellectual interactions and entertainment.

Built in the 1930s, TDF Ghar aims to connect the society, especially youth, with the rich, vibrant history of Karachi. With that spirit, various exhibitions are organized in order to relive the true spirit of old Karachi.

In August, an exhibit titled ‘Moses Somake - The Man who built Karachi’ was launched that will run till October 14, 2018.

In a bid to know more about the exhibition, Instep got in touch with Hiba Zubairi, Communications Team Leader, The Dawood Foundation.

“‘Moses Somake’ explores the buildings that he helped construct in Karachi,” said Hiba, adding that this exhibition offers virtual tours of five buildings that are not accessible to public. “Somake architected astounding structures in Karachi like the Mules Mansion, BVS School, the Karachi Goan Hall, Edward House and Flagstaff House that still stand tall. Through these virtual tours, visitors can experience 360 degree view of all the five buildings and can relate to the work of Somake.”

Somake was born to a Jewish family on June 6, 1875 in Lahore and spent most of his life in Karachi before migrating to England in the mid-1940s. It is not precisely known where he learnt his art, but studies show that he was a member of the Society of Architects in the first decade of the 20th century. His portfolio echoes the religious diversity that existed in Karachi in the early 20th century, which included designing a mosque, a Christian club and a school for Zoroastrians.

Apart from virtual tours, visitors will also get a chance to watch certain documentaries that will provide them with specifics about the structures. “We have contacted Rumana Husain (author of Karachiwala), Leonard Dias (President – Karachi Goan Association), Kermin Parakh (Principal – BVS Parsi School), Rasheed Khan (Caretaker at the Flagstaff House) and Yasmeen Lari (Co-founder and CEO of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan) who are associated with these places and can share the maximum information with the people,” informed Hiba.

According to her, the exhibition is designed solely for the residents of Karachi and because there wasn’t any sufficient information available online, the organizers personally went to the buildings and spoke to the tenants who had been living there for decades. “While interviewing the current owner of the Mules Mansion, Mr. Cyrus Cowasjee, he shared that Somake imitated Buckingham Palace’s design in the construction of this mansion.”

Besides, Somake’s granddaughter, Doreen, was also contacted – she was surprised to hear that her grandfather’s buildings still exist in Karachi.

Doreen said that Somake’s house in London was bombed during the Second World War. Luckily, he was safe because he had already moved away during the blitz. Most of his belongings (including many of his papers and designs) were destroyed or badly damaged. Doreen stated that Somake died from a stroke on April 6, 1947 in London.

On a parting note, Hiba stressed on preserving our heritage and added, “Most of the buildings are in really bad condition. From this exhibition, we just want people to understand the need for preserving our history because once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever. We want people to go and see how they looked in reality once upon a time.”