Walking into this artistic home in Karachi, one is immediately struck by the fascinating artefacts that dominate every space. But there is order in the plethora and the home owner brings his innate sense of design to displaying his fascinating trove of collectibles. A gorgeous burst of the flaming gulmohar flower added a vibrant touch. Zaid Hameed has a degree in textile design, which he teaches at two Karachi schools. He is also a ceramicist, artist and has recently launched a catering business called the Karachi Tiffin Company.
On a blisteringly hot morning, he ushered us into his lovely home and treated us to refreshing sherbets (falsa and gooseberry) from his catering menu as well as succulent mangoes from his own tree with a dash of Tiffin Company’s special masala. All the while chatting about his love of all things artistic and intriguing …
Your home is amazing. One doesn’t know where to start looking. Since when have you been collecting things?
I have been collecting since I was in class 3. I started with home and décor magazines and I had piles and piles of magazines. Every Friday, after namaz, I would go to the book bazaars that were set up on thelas and buy magazines. Later I was a regular at Khori Gardens where I picked up all my coffee table books that one would now pay an arm and a leg for. Sadly many of those bazaars that I would frequent no longer exist.
Did you grow up in this house?
I was actually born in a heritage property on Bundar Road, behind Civil Hospital. It is now completely dilapidated but it was a massive and beautiful space. The ceilings were filled with frescos from Hindu mythology but my grandfather had them all whitewashed. My family is fairly religious and my mother doesn’t like figures so you won’t find any deities in my collections… much as I like them I respect her wishes.
One of the pieces I have from that old house is this couch, or a ‘coach’ in local parlance. It’s actually a pre-partition piece. There is also a heavy jhoola from the old house but it’s stored away.
Take us through your fascinating collection.
All the corners are curated and have a story. My silver collection started with my Nani’s pieces. There is her box which was used to hold paan when she went out, then some of her pieces are from Burma where she lived for some time. I have been brought up by three very strong women; my mother and two khalas. This corner tells the story of a women, there are many feminine symbols in it.
Then there is my lotus collection. Many of my displays are very delicately layered; one piece is laid upon another to create something.
I love birds as well, there are my peacocks and you will find birds perched on all my painting frames.
And most things are picked up from the local flea markets?
Mostly, but many are from my travels, then friends give me things when they know I am into something; like I have hundreds of elephant figurines ranging from the tiniest to much larger. But I’m an addict (laughs). I have been scouring the local bazaars every single week. This sil batta is from Ladakh and I actually use it to grind spices when I cook dumpukht!
The glass collection includes Egyptian perfume bottles but the glass balls are mostly from Sunday bazaar.
When I pick up things abroad, I try to buy things with an artist’s signature. I avoid buying mass produced tourist stuff.
Then there is my Karachi corner with books on Karachi and coral and shells as homage to the sea.
So you must have a massive collection of things just stored away too.
I have rooms full of things. In fact, I cannot possibly display all that I have collected; my rugs, my Japanese collection, Chinese, Kashmiri… I do rotate the objects.
You are also a ceramic designer?
Yes. I got into ceramics after I graduated from Indus Valley School. I didn’t have a job straight away and I had always been interested in ceramics. So I started visiting the potters and creating things with them. My first exhibition was at a SAARC Women’s event. Then I designed a collection for the Khaadi Chapter 2 launch and I still make pieces on commission.
The now ubiquitous Hala birds you see everywhere were introduced by me. In fact, I have certain ceramic bird designs you won’t find in the market because I asked the potters not to replicate those. I enjoy contemporising traditional craft.
The tapestries on the wall reflect your textile background.
Yes, the large piece in the front room is French which you can recognize from the motifs. Initially, my collections were very local and ethnic. But I learnt as I went along and my best friend’s mother really educated me about foreign antiques. I now have a huge collection of Jasperware for example.
So how did the Karachi Tiffin Company start?
So if I look back, all my interests reflect strong childhood influences. I have been cooking since I was eight. As an only child who was not very sporty either, I was always stuck to my mother and khala’s hip. The love of textiles is from my mother and aunts who were experts at chikan kari and other embroidery. And then they were both expert cooks; my mother being really good at snacks and foreign foods and my aunt does the traditional desi cooking. My immediate family really took on the food legacy and, while my grandparents were alive, we regularly hosted huge family meals.
So the Tiffin Company serves traditional desi cuisine?
Yes. We are Memon so there are a lot of traditional Gujarati recipes but also Hyderabadi food, and some foreign influences like Afghan cuisine and so on. And I can curate the menu to your needs, for example I can do small bites and snacks… I am also documenting my Nani’s recipes and may compile a book some day.
Your outdoor space is also beautifully created.
I love plants and gardening and all the little pieces are from my collection of course. My neighbour is an architect and I take all these cube testing blocks from him to create bases for things.
Do you entertain often?
Yes, I entertain my friends a lot and we spill out into the patio and garden space. I serve a farshi dinner on the patio. I cover the patio in rugs and carpets and take out my vintage ware. It creates quite a Moorish ambience.
In fact, I plan to offer a dining experience at my home through the Karachi Tiffin Company; sit down dinners for eight to ten people. It’s the concept of a home restaurant which is catching on abroad.
Photography by Naeema Kapadia