ISLAMABAD: Rural women in multi-coloured attire, young girls learning boxing, traditional kushti (wrestling) matches, countryside kids playing football on a dusty street, tribal men learning the English language, a girl from Gilgit-Baltistan playing Rubab (a lute-like musical instrument), the rare Asian one-horned rhino, vibrantly painted rickshaws that are emblems of a cultural richness.
These are images of Pakistan so rarely seen in mainstream media dominated as it is by narrow narratives of violence, strife and politics that it drove a Pakistani freelance photojournalist to do something about overturning the stereotypes.
A report by Gulf News quotes the mastermind behind the project, Saleem as saying, “All you hear about Pakistan in the news is about terrorism, politics or poverty. But the Pakistan I know and live in is more than that. Pakistan is full of colours, smiles and diversity.”
Last February, as Saleem scrolled through his Instagram feed, he came across a cascade of images from a city that was on the other side of the border, in India. The Everyday Mumbai project that was all about capturing everyday glimpses of India’s largest city.
“I was so inspired by the Everyday Mumbai project and its creator Chirag Wakaskar that I contacted the global community of Everyday Projects to start a similar project for Pakistan,” he said and that’s how Everyday Pakistan was born.
Everyday Projects is a photography education non-profit and a collective of Instagram feeds which represents more than 50 countries. Its mission, according to the website, is to use photography “to challenge stereotypes that distort our understanding of the world.” The collective audience of Everyday Projects is over 1 million now.
Everyday Pakistan launched early this year with Saleem as the founder/curator with the assistance of a fellow writer, Anushe Noor. What started as a one-man mission to challenge stereotypes about his homeland now boasts nearly 58,000 followers on Instagram with a significant following on other social media platforms. “Everyday Pakistan is transforming negative perceptions, one photo at a time,” Saleem said.
The Instagram account offers a kaleidoscopic view of Pakistan’s innumerable wealth in terms of its people, cultures, natural resources, traditions and way of life.
A local walking over an old bridge connecting both sides of a small town named Kohala. Beneath the bridge flows River Neelam, a river originating from the Kashmir and flowing through Pakistan until it meets River Jehlum. Photo by @taleofatraveler #everydaypakistan #everydayeverywhere #riverneelum #bridge
From the fascinating shots of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi, Buddha statues at the Bhamala Stupa near Khanpur, shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Ali Hajvery in Lahore, Shri Naval Mandir Narayanpura Hindu Temple in Karachi, and a portrait of 55-year-old Pakistani Sikh from Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassan Abdal, Everyday Pakistan brings to light the stunning cultural and religious diversity in Pakistan.
The most popular post was of a young man offering prayer in the caves of Quetta which received more than 130,000 likes.
A young man offering his prayers in one of the caves of Jabal e Noor, Quetta. Jabal e Noor is a place where caves are dugged in the mountains to store the old and damaged transcripts of Holy Quran. It has a series of caves of various lengths. In this picture, the bags stacked above each other can be seen, containing the preserved transcripts. Photo/Text by @tauqi #everydaypakistan #everydayeverywhere #balochistan #jabalenoor #quetta #prayer
During Ramadan and Eid, he received many requests from all over the world to share more photos of the festival as people were curious to learn more about Pakistan.
Through the online photo documentary project, Saleem also aims to provide a platform to local photographers to promote photojournalism in Pakistan and build a community of storytellers by giving viewers an honest insight into Pakistan.
For Saleem, the greatest achievement of the project is the response of the people, and from many across the border.
“Two months ago, I posted a photo of Katas Raj Temples, which is located near Chakwal in the Punjab province, not knowing that this photo would forge an emotional connection with someone across the border.”
Soon after, he received a message from an Indian follower of Everyday Pakistan saying her 85-year-old grandfather wished to speak to him. Their conversation quickly moved from English to Urdu to Punjabi. The Indian octogenarian had grown up in that area before the 1947 Partition.
“The call that lasted 11 minutes made my day. I had made someone so happy with just a photo project.” It was one of his most rewarding experiences.
The most admired Katas Raj Temples are located near Chakwal in Punjab, Pakistan. These multiplex temples, and conglomeration of temples,standin homage to the deity and goddess of Hindu folklore. Assorted temples are connected to one another by walkways.It is the considered as the main temple, an important Hindu Pilgrimage site and the second oldest location of Hinduism where they worship and show the adoration to their religion.The whole area of Katas has covered the space of about 260 kanals. Its history dates back to 200-300 years BC. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva – one of the three main Hindu Gods. He is also known for his deep feelings for his wife – their love is the reason for the creation of Katas Raj Temple.The other two are Brahma and Vishnu and when the three come together, they are called Trimurti and complete the cycle of life. There are three main emblems of Hindu heritage in Katas Raj: 1) The lake of tears 2) Stone of Shiv Mahraj 3) Main Mandir (Marriage Hall) Every year 200-300 Indian Hindus come Pakistan to visit this temple and the local Hindus often visit it. Photo by @shahzebsalehzada . . . #everydaypakistan #everydayeverywhere #everydayindia #katasrajtemple #temple #ancient #photojournalism #reportagespotlight #pakistan
Speaking about the project, co-founder, Everyday Africa and Everyday Projects Peter DiCampo said, “Many parts of the world are misunderstood, but some suffer more than others from damaging media stereotypes. Just as sub-Saharan Africa is thought to be nothing but poverty and starvation, Pakistan is thought (by many in the West) to be only a place of only violent extremism. Everyday Pakistan helps us to see more, to deeper, to gain a greater understanding of a diverse, vibrant, and complex country.”
Chirag Wakaskar, founder, Everyday Mumbai, on the initiative commented, “It’s extremely important that we look at Pakistan through their own eyes beyond the realm of politics or the clichéd narratives of terrorism and poverty. I’ve been following Everyday Pakistan for a while now and the pictures are a constant reminder of our shared culture.”