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World Monuments Watch Day: Shikarpoor Enlivens to Renewed Pride and Raised Hopes

World Monuments Fund’s initiative of celebrating heritage with local communities at 2014 Watch sites sparked a renewed sense of pride and hope among residents of Shikarpoor and its community of heritage supporters. The 20 November Watch Day events at Shikarpoor—organized by Heritage Cell of the Department of Architecture and Planning, NED University, in collaboration with WMF and the Endowment Fund Trust for the Preservation of Heritage of Sindh—turned out to be a huge success, stimulating enthusiastic participation from the local community. Activities of the day started with a seminar at the historic Government Boys High School #2 (originally the Hopeful Academy, built in 1900), where renowned scholars and speakers discussed Shikarpoor’s illustrious history and socio-cultural traditions; followed by an open discussion charged with enthusiasm of local community activists who raised their deep concerns over the fast disappearing built heritage of their city and challenged the lacklustre response of authorities in stopping the ongoing pillage of their inherent legacy.

Informal activities starting in the late afternoon and extending into the evening became the highlight of the day, with keen participation of a large group of students bursting with excitement all through the route of the “heritage walk” that culminated at the historic Ganesh Park (now known as Liaquat Bagh). Participants remained engaged for hours trying out the jigsaw puzzles of historic landmarks from Shikarpoor (specially designed for the event) and sketching activities supervised by student volunteers from NED University’s architecture department. Materials for these activities were provided to these young participants in the form of kits, along with t-shirts and light refreshment packs. These will perhaps remain as their prized possessions for a long time, along with cherished memories of the day. The response at the “heritage watch volunteers” registration desk set up at Ganesh Park was also overwhelming, reflecting on the community’s deep association with their environment and their desire to contribute to safeguarding their heritage. Among many ideas and demands from the community floated as possible supportive measures for heritage protection were suggestions for the establishment of a building control authority, activation of a “heritage watch” network, and provision of facilities for technical support to heritage property owners.

Besides the large number of participants from different sectors of the community, the event was also well attended by guests from other cities, including over 60 people from Karachi (student volunteers, organizers, architects, reporters, and other professionals). These visitors left with enriched experiences of generosity from Shikarpoori hosts, who not only proudly volunteered guided city tours but also opened their houses to sumptuous hospitality before and after the events.