The Smuggler: A Mural By Sadequain
TAKE on art|July - December 2017

The story goes that Sadequain (1930 – 1987), living in Karachi, was exhausted and in poor health. He was offered a stay at a government rest house at Gadani in 1958, so that he could recover. Gadani is located in the province of Balochistan on the Arabian Sea, a few kilometers west of Karachi. It must have felt quite remote from the city back then. The western coastline of Pakistan has long been infamous for underdevelopment and for unregulated trade activities with West Asia.

Iftikhar Dadi

For many decades, part of the beach that is walking distance from the rest house has been a major site for shipbreaking. Oil pollution stains and detritus from this activity impact the coastline far beyond the shipbreaking area. The VASL Artists’ Collective held two workshops at the rest house in 2001 and 2006. The rest house, which has been renovated over the years, bears no trace of Sadequain’s prior residence.

Smuggler. The word conjures up visions of illicit desire, of a shadowy world peopled with characters, who are both part of everyday society, and function beyond its rules and morality.

The Oxford English Dictionary (online) defines the term as “one who smuggles commodities; esp. one who makes a trade or practice of smuggling.” Its first usage in the OED, from a 1661 proclamation, vividly captures its outlaw aura: “A sort of leud (sic.) people called Smuckellors, never heard of before the late disordered times, who make it their trade... to steal and defraud His Majesty of His Customs.” This early modern European origin of ‘smuggler’ underscores how regulation according to modern normative laws rendered this activity as being inextricably associated with disorder and fraud.

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