Hope through art: Artist brings colour to the life of street children

Salma Habib visits Karachi's slums every week, trying to ignite creativity among the children


Artist Salma Habib works with street children to stimulate their imagination and creativity. PHOTO: COURTESY ARISH MESIAH

KARACHI: Salma Habib, the founder of non-profit initiative Taleem Ko Aam Karo, chooses to work with street children because, she says, their minds are like soft clay — they show creativity that is unhindered by the rules of the classroom.

She was addressing students at the seventh 'I Am Karachi Talks' session, organised by 'I Am Karachi' in collaboration with the Express Media Group at Fatima Jinnah Dental College on Tuesday. As she narrated her journey to ignite creativity among Karachi's street children, recalling how art helped bridge her fears, the audience burst into applause.

An art teacher at the AMI School, Habib initiated her project a year ago in an attempt to connect with street children in the slums of the city. The ideology of Taleem Ko Aam Karo, according to her, is hope through art - a medium that bridges the gaps made by society. "It works to provide street children with access to the arts and the ability to explore creative expression, lighting the candle of hope and knowledge in them," she said. "The mission is to bring colour to the life of kids camping out under the open sky around the city."

Each week, she plans an activity for the children, and on Sunday, she takes a rickshaw to a randomly selected slum area, accompanied by loads of art material.

"I try to make a difference in the lives of innocent children through these art therapy sessions," she explained, adding that they learnt how to work in groups and build friendships as well as basic skills. "What they make, they get to keep as a memento."

The rationale behind her visits to these slums is simple. "I want the children to experience art through these sessions, which might just become a lasting memory or help them onto a path better than the one they are already on," she said. "We must have a sense of empathy to take such initiatives to change the fate of Karachi."

Her goal is to have an art studio for street children, where they can make things, sell them, communicate and grow - a space that belongs to them, where they can learn to just be children.

Habib concluded the session by conducting an activity with the audience. She distributed two hearts, a heart sticker and a piece of string, telling the students to write a secret on the sticker, stick it between the two hearts and stitch them together. Placing a box that said 'Let It Go' on the stage, she asked them to drop their ‘secrets’ in it.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2015.

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