Ahmed Ansari & Mehwish Zaidi: Guftugu



The word ‘guftugu’ means ‘conversation’ or ‘dialogue’ in Urdu and Hindi, with the connotations of being something casual and engaged, a sit-down between colleagues or friends to discuss common matters of interest over a cup of tea. Guftugu is a project connecting design scholars from the US and Pakistan, colleagues united in overlapping craft and interests over a conversation across space and time through the mediation of an ephemeral artifact, paper pamphlets often crafted by South Asian children in different forms of play. Guftugu explores how older forms of asynchronous communication from childhoods that belonged to a world where Skype and other instantaneous communication platforms have not collapsed and flattened space and time can still act as mnemonic devices. The folded pamphlets hold links to audio recordings of conversations about the changing global nature of design practice and education between two design scholars, Dan Lockton (US), and Zohaib Zuby (Pakistan), and the exchanges will run over the course of the exhibition.

Each of these exchanges have been recorded in a specific manner – both scholars initially crafted questions they’d like to ask the other person, and these questions were then sent, and a day taken for each person to listen to the other’s question, and craft an answer in response. The conversation between Dan and Zohaib weaves its way through themes and topics of crucial importance to Pakistani scholars, ranging from the continuing influence of neo-orientalism and neo-imperialism on Pakistani society, the nature of globalized knowledge and its institutions, and thoughts about co-existence and co-creation across countries and cuture. The nature of the conversation slowly unfolding over time, with time to reflect on each answer and craft a reply, melds echoes of the art of letter writing with the immediacy of oral traditions, and invokes a sense of what shape and form writing traditions in Pakistan, belonging to a largely proto-literate culture, with a heavy emphasis on the speakers voice and their tone as a storyteller, are like. The aesthetic of the installation borrows heavily from traditional Pakistani patterns and colors often found in ceramic and visual art.


Ahmed Ansari taught courses in interaction and game design, the philosophy of technology, and cultural and media theory at several academic institutions in Karachi before coming to Pittsburgh to pursue his PhD in Design Studies at CMU. A member of the Decolonizing Design collective, he is now involved in studying and thinking about techno-social relationality and different ways of conceiving space and technology, especially in relation to ideas of immunology, excess, and logics of hybridity and coloniality. A Fulbright scholar, he has an MDes in Interaction Design from CMU, and a BDes in Communication Design from IVSAA, Karachi.

Mehwish Zara Zaidi is an assistant professor in the School of Media & Communication Studies at SZABIST, Karachi. A graphic designer by background specializing in information design, she teaches classes in graphic design, media design, copywriting, and concepts and theories of information visualization. She has a BDes in Communication Design from IVSAA, Karachi and an MDes in Communication Design from the University of Malaysia, Sarawak. Along with her design work, she has been dabbling into short fiction and documentary filmmaking, focusing on subjects like healthcare and feminist activism in Pakistan.