The sound of a razor blade scraping flaky paint and hate-filled slogans off the walls shrills through the warm Karachi air. Some onlookers yell at the students painting the walls in anger, others silently gaze in awe.
Betel spatter, vulgar language, the city's walls have survived through layers of filth accumulated over the years. But this year, things have changed for the better. Students from numerous schools and universities have taken it upon themselves to breathe a new life into Karachi's walls.
“It’s time we rescued Karachi’s long-standing walls from those who pollute it and reclaim it back,” said Veera Rustomji a student of Indus Valley of School of Arts and Architecture.
“Half the city is drowning in garbage and the other half in religious, political, lewd and intolerant text that can be seen at every nook and corner. If you look around you will only see dirty walls full of opinionated content and slogans. We want to repaint those walls,” she said in a deep, low voice.
'Re-claiming the walls of Karachi' is one of the three projects led by Adeela Suleman, head of the Fine Arts Department at Indus Valley school of Art and Architecture, in collaboration with ‘I am Karachi’.
Stencil Art Project is being coordinated by Munawar Ali Syed with 15 artists on board who will be responsible for the artwork. “Up till now we have done stencil art on Hassan Square, Civic Centre, Saddar, Shahrah-e-Quaideen, MT Khan road, Airport, Kala pull,” said Adeela.
Not only are university students involved in the task, school children have also been involved in the initiative.
Under the project 'Bachoon Say Tabdeeli', children are mapping their school area on the walls. Rabeya Jalil and Shahana Rajani are working with school children; so far they have painted the walls in Shirin Jinnah Colony and Lyari and will then help in painting some walls at MT Khan Road.
Some of the best artistic work can be seen on the walls at MT Khan Road, on which rows of containers can be seen, neatly stacked on top of each other. The containers coupled with the ugly wall chalking had collectively been an unpleasant road travel for many.
While conversing with the artists working at MT Khan Road, Sheikh Mohammed Zakir, a student at Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture, said, “All over the world people look at cities for their good aesthetics and art. In Karachi we are only exposed to political, sectarian and the brainless wall chalking of Aamil Baba, Junaid Bangali etc.”
The replacement of hate speech with artistic expression was the concept that Adeela came up with. The 'Individual Artists Project' focuses mainly on revamping the walls on MT Khan road and the surrounding areas of Airport.
She adds, “Through our Stencil Art Project we have so far repainted more than 1000 walls . Under the Bachoon say Tabdeeli project, we have targeted almost 25 walls whereas the Individual Artists’ have remodeled up to 80 walls by now.”
Surprisingly, no one has so far tampered with the painted walls.
"It has been observed that in the past the freshly painted walls remain untouched by the offenders because it requires more paint and effort to do wall chalking on painted walls," said Adeela.
Another student of Visual Studies at Karachi University, Mishal Khan, said, “I have been doing graffiti art at numerous places in Karachi since a long time. It’s a great initiative with a good message that is being sent across through our walls.”