In conversation with Ramish Safa – of caricatures, art, and exposing kids to creative learning 


If The CariCature Shop has caught your eye online then you have probably been witness to some amazing graphics, brilliant illustrations and some desi flavor.

The mastermind behind the project is Ramish Safa. The name might ring a bell for some people since Safa was on the Kachee Goliyan Comics team. Pakistan Today sat down with the artist to talk to him about his most recent projects, his journey as an artist and more.

Tell us about your journey as an artist

I have been working as an illustrator for almost seven years now. I have worked as a comic artist, storyboard artists, digital media and social media artists, character designer, concept designer, environment designer, product designer and what not. But the one thing that I have always, always loved was doing caricatures.

I remember getting my first copy of MAD magazine when I was 12 and this was the time that I had just started trying to figure out who I was as an artist. I was experimenting with different types of styles and media and I think one of things I enjoyed the most was caricatures.

Fast forward a decade later and I was still doing them although most of my focus had shifted to making comics (this is where Kachee Goliyan Comics came in).

But four years into making comics, I had started feeling a little suffocated. I liked doing them but I felt like there was a lot that I couldn’t do in terms of experimentation. So when we decided to take a break from it, I went straight to doing caricatures. Once I got back the hang of it, (It had been more than 10 years since I made them seriously) I started a Facebook page and started doing them commercially.

Who’s behind the CariCature Shop, is it a team?

This is not a team effort so far. It’s my second year running The CariCature Shop and I am still trying to find out a suitable team. I am very finicky and detail oriented when it comes to work so it’s not easy trying to get someone who matches my attitude and dedication.

A page from Safa's book for children. This one teaches them how to make planes! (Image courtesy: Ramish Safa)A page from Safa’s book for children. This one teaches them how to make planes! (Image courtesy: Ramish Safa)

Tell us about your current project

The current project, called Karachi Arts Initiative, is something I was cooking up for quite a long time. A couple of years ago, we did a comic book project under the Kachee Goliyan brand head that dealt with promoting a culture of anti-violent behavior amongst at risk children.

It was a massive success and the insights that we gathered from it were tremendous. I realised that a major chunk of the kids in the country were very limited when it came to exposure to creativity. They’re not enough outlets or opportunities for them to develop their creative capabilities and they end up getting stuck in dead end routines.

I wanted to change that and so I devised an entire program that would push that limit and attempt to create a culture of creativity. The first tool was the art book that was full of little DIY projects that would introduce the concept of creating things from limited resources to the kids. We also introduced something called the incentive program which would reward kids who made the projects in the books through weekly lucky draws. Eventually, we planned to do art festivals where these kids would be invited to come and showcase their skills and get mentoring sessions from artists, actors, entrepreneurs etc.

How has the response been to the Karachi Arts Initiative?

The response from the children was great. They wanted the books, they wanted to be rewarded and they wanted to compete against each other.

Every school we set up a stall in had children overrunning us and our spots! That’s where the current problem arose. For every kid who bought the book, there were at least 10 who couldn’t. Some couldn’t afford the books, some couldn’t convince their parents to give them money and some were downright stopped by their parents.

So the parents were a problem?

I had a few kids coming to me telling me their parents told them not to waste time with such stuff. And so we decided to tweak our business model. We figured if we were to raise funds externally and give the books to the kids for free, we would simply remove the barriers that stopped the kids from having access to the books. But that created another problem. Raising funds from external sources. We tried sponsors and even tried to convince some big schools to support the project by investing into the books and buying them for their students but unfortunately, even our best bets backed out.

Without the funds, how will you move things along?

I am a stubborn man and I hate asking people twice so I decided to take it into my own hands and do something about it. I introduced the idea of raising funds by drawing quick caricatures of people and the response was great. [People looking to get a quick caricature made at a much lower cost can head over to The CariCature Shop page on Facebook!]

The Karachi Arts Initiative sounds great, what will you do next?

Quite honestly my hands are full! I am already trying to expand The CariCature Shop outside Pakistan and trying to look for sources to generate funds for the Karachi Arts Initiative. We have a kickstarter campaign planned out and we are also trying to look for donors who can help. My main focus is to get it running smoothly at least for a year.