KARACHI: Karachi is all set to witness the third round of the 'I Am Karachi' initiative of beautifying the city's walls by ridding them of hateful graffiti and painting artwork instead.
Talking about the aim of the street art project, whose third phase will be called 'Walls of Peace', 'I Am Karachi' executive director Ambareen Kazim Main Thompson said that the message was very clear. "We wanted to take off the hate graffiti from the walls and give birth to positive ones," she told The Express Tribune. "We wanted to build on a peace initiative, hence the 'Walls of Peace'."
The third round
The third round of the walls beautification campaign is all set to kick off in March. "We plan to shield these modern heritage walls," said Thompson. "Besides, [we want to] allow young children from the various schools of the city to be given a tour of these walls with a guide and delve on the historical images." She added that the major initiative is to enhance the 360-degree view of these walls via TPL Maps if you pass by these localities in your car.
"To further the cause, we plan to light up the 22 pedestrian bridges in the city, some of which will have escalators," said Thompson. Besides this, 'I Am Karachi' plans to look into the abandoned buildings of the city and transform them into art spaces. This will be along the lines of what the Americans did in Detroit when they launched the Heidelberg Project. "We plan to re-inhabit these [abandoned] buildings and change the look of them."
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Protecting the walls
According to Thompson, they have requested Commissioner Ejaz Ahmed Khan and Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar to make sure that these walls remain protected and deploy their junior staff to ensure that the walls do not get vandalised. "[We want] people to take ownership of the city," she said. "Painting on these walls of Karachi will be an ongoing process."
As many as 2,000 walls have been painted so far in the first two phases. Of these, 486 walls are protected - these walls alone will be marked on the TPL Maps. "It is for the people of Karachi, by the people of Karachi," said Thompson. "It shows the artisans' love for their labour. Various artists, artisans and students have greatly contributed in painting these walls."
The 'I am Karachi' initiative has been so well-received that people belonging to different faiths have approached the team, asking them to paint and revamp the walls of their respective places of worship, said Thompson. "[This will be something] besides the growth of the cultural landscape [through the project]."
Changing the face of Karachi
According to Thompson, they want to change the culture of Karachi that will be passed on to the next generations. Today, there is aerial firing as part of celebrations. "That is something we do not want our next generation to hear," she said. Thompson added that with their street art initiative, they want to create an atmosphere of ownership. "Like people from New Jersey living for a while in New York claim they are New Yorkers or people residing in Surrey [who move] to London call themselves Londoners, we want all Karachiites to be proud citizens of the city and claim it thus," she said.
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Talking about 'I Am Karachi', Thompson said that it is basically a platform for reaching out to the citizens to take ownership of the city, letting go of the ethnic, religious and class differences that engulf us. "It motivates one to foster peace via dialogue, which is all done apolitically," she asserted. "Pakistan has far greater talent than its neighbouring countries and it should be a model for the rest to follow."
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2017.
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