The mural painted on GSA House.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
The mural painted on GSA House.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Haji Adam has worked on the docks and timber pond area for years. “The area was always pretty drab, there was always a lot of traffic and smoke,” he told Dawn, “but now I feel like I’m walking around Europe, not Karachi”.

Haji Adam was one of the many spectators, diplomats, artists and celebrities gathered at GSA House on Wednesday to look at a public art mural (2,300sq ft) painted by Italian street artist Giuseppe Percivate.

The mural is part of I Am Karachi’s International Public Art Festival (IPAF) scheduled to be held early next year.

The mural, which took nine days to complete, is said to be the largest piece of public art in the country.

Speaking to Dawn, the artist who had splashes of blue and green all over his hands said: “I wanted to create a design that was simple yet effective. I noticed that in Karachi, there isn’t much colour on the buildings. The people wear colourful clothes, the buses are colourful but the buildings are grey or sandy or other singular colours.”

Explaining the concept, he said that he wanted to put some colours in the city. “I ended up using acrylic paints on the exterior and think this mural should do well for another 10 to 15 years, even longer. To represent Pakistan, I used the jasmine flower, and for Italy I took inspiration from a flower that is important to me. It’s called Stella Alpina, which is loosely translated to mountain stars. It grows up in the mountains,” said the artist who is visiting the city for the second time.

He added that that the mural was based on Italian and Pakistani flowers and birds as it was a joint effort by the Italian consulate and IAK.

Selecting the building, Mr Percivate, who has been painting since he was a child, said he was shown a couple of buildings and underpasses but the GSA House had him hooked.

“The mural is a gift from the people of Italy to the people of Pakistan. I hope that this installation and IPAF will serve as a harbinger of positivity; depicting a peace-loving and vibrant side of Karachi not just to the rest of Pakistan but to the rest of the world,” said Ambareen Kazim Thompson, IAK’s executive director.

According to Italian Consul General Anna Ruffino, when IAK reached out to her for a collaboration she was thrilled. “I have been impressed by the work they have done. They’ve given a new life to the buildings of Karachi. There’s a wonderful message behind this: that beauty can be shared by everyone and can last in a city like Karachi. Looking at this building, I think it adds a nice touch of colour to the city,” she said.

Talking about the public art festival, Sameera Raja of the Canvas Gallery and member of the IPAF advisory committee, said: “IPAF is a cultural organisation committed to bringing a

colourful and cheerful change to Karachi. After the success of the walls of Karachi project, which was an IAK initiative, IPAF is now working across six districts of the city. We want to encourage ownership by the people for the neglected parts of the city and turn them into useable public space.”

Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani was present at the event as chief guest.

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018