A makeover for Karachi: Artists breathe life into city’s walls, replace hate with love

Several artists have hopped on board I Am Karachi’s reclaiming the city’s walls project to replace hate graffiti with positive images. The project on MT Khan Road is underway. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Karachi: For a city whose walls are spattered with political slogans, hate graffiti and dubious advertisements of faith healers, quacks and weight-loss products, a group of artists have a makeover in mind.

‘Reimagining the Walls of Karachi,’ an initiative by ‘I Am Karachi’ that is being steered by the fine arts department of the Indus Valley School (IVS) in collaboration with Abdoz Arts, aims to wipe ugliness off of the city’s walls. The three-tiered project planned over three to four months has several institutions, such as the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi School of Arts and Karachi University, helping to push forward with the transformation.

Several artists have hopped on board I Am Karachi’s reclaiming the city’s walls project to replace hate graffiti with positive images. The project on MT Khan Road is underway. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Supervised by artist and teacher Munawar Ali Syed, the first tier is the Stencil Art Project, which employs the skills of artists who regularly take up the task of embellishing the walls of the metropolis. These artists will come up with ideas to daub on the walls, implementing them with the help of stencils.

Meanwhile, the ‘Wall Project with Children — Bachon Se Tabdili’, led by artist Rabeya Jalil and art critic Shahana Rajani, is an extension of another ongoing project. Providing drawings made by children from areas, such as Shireen Jinnah Colony, Lyari and Sharae Quaideen for the walls in the same localities, this phase has the goal of motivating children to appreciate artwork and reclaim their public spaces.

The Individual-Led Artist Project, on the other hand, seeks to help the ideas of people to materialise on Karachi’s walls with the aid of other visual artists. Slowly taking form on the container compound wall at Moulvi Tameezuddin Khan Road, it will not only enable artists to use art as a weapon against escalating extremism but also give them a canvas on which they can show their feelings for the metropolis.

“Implementing this project was a nightmare at first,” says Adeela Suleman, an associate professor at IVS. “However, commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui and the assistant commissioner, Shahzeb Shaikh, took a personal interest in it and have been extremely helpful throughout the process.”

Several artists have hopped on board I Am Karachi’s reclaiming the city’s walls project to replace hate graffiti with positive images. The project on MT Khan Road is underway. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

According to Wajiha Naqvi, the ‘I Am Karachi’ campaign manager, the consortium is trying to create a counter-narrative to promote tolerance, peace and diversity through reclaiming public spaces in the city. “With this project, the aim is to reclaim the walls of Karachi that are often covered with hate graffiti towards ethnic groups and political sloganeering, replacing them with images that depict positive values.”

For her, the idea behind ‘Reimagining the Walls of Karachi’ is to evoke a sense of civic activism, unity and interest among the residents of Karachi, inspiring individuals and communities to take ownership by protecting their walls, their spaces and, ultimately, their city.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2015. 

Editor (1292 Posts)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *