Political graffiti appears on beautified Karachi walls

A party leader has offered to clean up the political graffiti and restore peaceful messages


Rabia Ali August 11, 2015
Graffiti scrawled across artwork done on walls near Civic Centre. The walls had been painted as part of a reclamation campaign under the ‘I Am Karachi’ initiative. PHOTO: ADAPTED FROM TWITTER

KARACHI:


If you want to get to know Karachi, drive around the city and observe its walls. For these walls have voices of their own - political opinions, religious views and even contact details of spiritual healers who have the power to solve all your problems.


For the past few months, however, the city was trying to carve a new image for itself; by reclaiming these walls. Messages of peace and unity and stenciled art replaced the ugly, haphazardly scrawled graffiti. Brighter colours and images of birds and flowers brought out smiles on the faces of citizens. Deep down, though, the skeptics knew it was all too good to be true.

Read: Karachi artists reclaim city walls from hate graffiti

On Sunday, the social media flooded with images of defaced walls that had until a day earlier, carried messages of peace. Political graffiti had been scrawled hurriedly across the artwork on these walls near Civic Centre. What followed was the usual slander, the blame-game and the accusations being levelled against the alleged perpetrators.

After all, these walls had been painted by citizens as part of a reclamation campaign under the 'I Am Karachi' initiative. The hue and cry ultimately seems to have paid off as a party leader offered help and compensation to restore the art.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MNA Ali Raza Abidi has offered to rectify the stencil-arts walls. According to Abidi, the vandalism was initiated by their rival political party, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement - Haqiqi (MQM-H).

"Workers of the MQM-H spray-painted 'Altaf Hussain ghaddar [Altaf Hussain traitor]' across the city in Shah Faisal, Landhi and Mehmoodabad, not even sparing these beautiful walls," he said. "In return, our workers cut out the ghaddar [traitor] bit and replaced it with the word 'only'." Abidi said he has reached out to the organisers of the 'I Am Karachi' initiative and offered to do whatever is required to rectify the walls.

For his part, the MQM-H spokesperson Khalid Hameedi denied the party's involvement, adding that the party doesn't need to paint walls to call Altaf a traitor. "Everyone knows what he is. We don't need to paint it on walls," he said.

Blessing in disguise

A representative of 'I Am Karachi', who did not wish to be named, told The Express Tribune that it was on Monday they came to know about the graffiti appearing on their walls after the issue was raised on social media.

Another official said that the offer to rectify the defacement by the political leader had set a precedent for other groups. Now, political parties would think twice before defacing these beautified structures. "These walls belong to the people of Karachi. We did not protest when the political graffiti covered them, but will protest if their beauty is undermined now."

The group has located graffiti appearing on other walls, such as near the Quaid's mausoleum, but said it was a random act of mischief.

Read: Karachi walls: The roadside Gallery

Another representative said that the purpose of beautifying walls was to send out positive messages. These walls are rid of political, religious and sectarian hate messages. "This has sent out a positive message that people are taking ownership of walls. It is creating awareness."

Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2015. 

COMMENTS (7)

usman777 | 7 years ago | Reply I beg my fellow urdu-speakers, please get rid of this scourge.
neil uchong | 7 years ago | Reply The word graffiti is completely inappropriate, as it is an art form. These random scribbles cannot even be classified as tags ( an immature form of graffiti ). Graffiti is beautiful street art adding color to the urban landscape, representing culture and the roots of the artist's expression. I am a graffiti artist residing in the city of Karachi and will not tolerate the use of the term graffiti for these scribbles on the wall. I support #iamkarachi but paint murals from the savings from commissioned projects. I hope other artists come out and start beautifying the city as well and soon color up the nation.
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