Akhtar Soomro documented the Afro-Pakistani Sheedi community in Lyari Town in Karachi, Pakistan. The Sheedis are believed to be descendants of sailors, merchants, servants, and slaves who arrived from East Africa between the years 1200-1900.
While the Sheedi often face discrimination and a lack of economic opportunities, and Lyari suffers from government neglect and increased violence due to gang and drug activity, Soomro chose to highlight the unique aspects of Sheedi culture that are derived from their African roots. Soomro photographed and recorded sound at festivals, weddings, and other events, capturing the Sheedi’s distinctive instruments, music, dance, dress, and cultural rituals.
He also photographed Sheedi boxers and soccer players, who are known throughout Pakistan for being the best in the country. Soomro views this work as part of a larger, ongoing documentation of the Sheedis, and his long-term goal is to photograph them in other parts of Pakistan, as well as in other countries.
Akhtar Soomro is a freelance photographer who lives in the Lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan. He became interested in photography while working for a local photo lab. Since then, he has worked as a professional photographer, and has contributed his work to agencies such as Corbis, The Image Works, Rex Features, Polaris Images, and Sigma. Most recently, he has been working as a photographer for Reuters. Soomro’s work has been published in the Daily Times (Pakistan), The Financial Post (Pakistan), International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio’s website.