Artist restores defaced murals on Karachi Press Club walls
KARACHI: The man who painted city heroes outside the walls of Karachi Press Club saw his hard work ruined before his eyes when some politico-religious groups vandalised the walls on Thursday.
“If they do it five times, I will redo the painting myself five times,” said artist Haider Ali, the chief executive officer at Phool Patti. “We have pledged peace for this city.”
At around 4am on Thursday politico-religious activists defaced one of the city’s famous spaces for free speech – the Karachi Press Club (KPC). Portraits had been painted on the club’s boundary walls honouring female activists, such as Orangi Pilot Project director Perween Rehman, journalist Zubeida Mustafa, activist Sabeen Mahmud, architect Yasmin Lari and dramatist Fatima Surraya Bajia.
The vandalisers spray painted political slogans and drew beards on the faces of the female heroes, sparing the male ones.
Phool Patti joined hands with the ‘I Am Karachi’ campaign to carry out this project in the campaign’s second phase. The project was implemented through artists from Vasl Art two months ago. “I spent 25 days here, initially for the first 10 days I whitewashed the walls and cleared the surface then for the next 15 days I painted these portraits,” said Ali.
“Truck art is something that is greatly appreciated the world over, it marks a sign of peace and love,” he shared. “I get appreciation all the time when I paint at the global level, either my work gets a thumbs up or a flying kiss but look at our own countrymen: they say ‘tasveer banana haram hai [it’s a sin to create an image]’.”
Ali questioned the knowledge being imparted in schools and seminaries. “Is it okay to deface someone’s image on a wall, regardless of how much work and effort the artist put into it? The culprits must be held accountable at all costs,” he said.
“Of course I am very disappointed but this will not stop us from doing more [art]. We will not stop,” vowed Vasl Art coordinator Adeela Suleiman. She recalled two previous incidents, one in which a political party had created graffiti on the walls of Civic Centre but later went out of their way to apologise.
Meanwhile, the politico-religious group whose name is scrawled across the walls denied its involvement. “Firstly, we haven’t gone there in recent days to protest, so it is not one of our men who did this. We don’t allow wall chalking,” claimed Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST) spokesperson Fahimuddin Shaikh. “Secondly, the government must look into the matter and see who is defaming our party’s name here at KPC.”
However, the closed-circuit television cameras at KPC show men vandalising the walls and many people believe they are PST workers. “Whatever happened wasn’t good but I really don’t know when or how this happened,” complained KPC secretary Maqsood Yousufi. “The people whose portraits had been painted had only beautified these walls by their mere physical images. It was really liked by the journalistic community and by the common man walking down the street.”
“Peace walls are part of Karachi’s heritage and they belong to all Karachiities,” said Ambareen Kazim Main Thompson, executive director of the ‘I Am Karachi’ initiative. “The vandalism is unfortunate as the vandals are also citizens of Karachi; they should have pride and ownership of Karachi’s public and heritage buildings,” she said.
Thompson said that ‘I Am Karachi’ is reviewing the damage. “We are heartbroken that these eminent figures who have served Karachi all their lives have been defaced in such a manner. We will restore these walls,” she promised.
KPC officials began whitewashing the graffiti on Friday evening.