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One wall at a time

May 22, 2015


AN artist creating a painting on Thursday on a wall that was earlier smeared with assorted graffiti.—Photo by Momina Khan
AN artist creating a painting on Thursday on a wall that was earlier smeared with assorted graffiti.—Photo by Momina Khan

KARACHI: Walls are believed to have ears, but here in Karachi they have vision also as they become the eyes as well as ears of the city, telling any passer-by about the current political wave or any spoof business; our walls even preach about religion. These very structures depict the pandemonium of the city. So, some individuals thought it was high time that an initiative was taken to erase the writings on the wall and breathe life into it, through art.

Led by Adeela Suleman, head of the fine arts department at Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture, in collaboration with ‘I am Karachi’ under the project titled ‘Reclaiming walls of Karachi’, the team has artists Munnawar Ali Syed, Shahana Ranjani and Rabeya Jalil. They have launched three such projects in various parts of the city.

“The walls of Karachi are spreading hatred — we can only see political or religious slogans plastered on them. Some take these walls to be a marketing hub and use it for cheap business purposes. We have decided to revamp these walls by Stencil Art Project and aim to paint around 1,500 walls in areas such as Saddar, Numaish, Gora Qabristan and Civic Centre,” said Mr Syed, who is also a teacher.

Although the walls have been painted in different colours to be designed later, some people have covered them again with chalking about the death anniversary of an Iranian leader. “Our eight to nine walls have seen this fate but we can’t really help it. However, it is positive to notice that those who are helping us paint those walls are the same people who do chalking, and now they are doing something artistic instead,” he added.

Spearheading the project, Ms Suleman, who is optimistic about the success of the project, said the team was grateful to Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui for his help. She also stressed the bright side of the project: “Even though some people might try to create impediments by painting slogans on walls yet to be designed, our task is to replace them with art. We have successfully designed different walls and none of them have been repainted. So, I think it is better to focus on the brighter side of the picture which is depicting that art has restored beauty to the walls.”

Speaking about the two other projects, she said ‘Individual-led artist project’ comprised 50 artists, who would paint their own work on the walls in the Moulvi Tameezuddin Khan Road area. Ms Rajani and Ms Jalil, on the other hand, will be catering to the ‘Bachon Se Tabdeeli’ project, in which children will paint the walls of different government schools.

Mr Syed also pointed out that while stencil art could be produced on any wall in Karachi, the 50 individual paintings could not be copied anywhere else because they were creative work of the artists.

The students involved in these projects are from the IVS, the department of visual studies of the Karachi University, North City School of Art and a group of artists of Abdoz Arts.

“It is not solely to beautify the city, rather people internalise whatever is written on the walls. This initiative aims at countering the element promoted by the slogans that endorse hate-speech and other negative messages. This will hopefully help in changing the way we see our city. We have received an overwhelming response from people, who are approaching the artists to design the walls in their areas as well,” said Wajiha Naqvi, campaign manager of ‘I am Karachi.’

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2015

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