Another stroke on the wall: Non-profit grabs brush to paint over hate graffiti across Karachi | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Another stroke on the wall: Non-profit grabs brush to paint over hate graffiti across Karachi

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: Determined to reclaim Karachi wall by wall, a non-profit organisation has started painting over hate speech sprayed across the city and replacing it with words of love and peace.

Abdoz Arts, a non-profit organisation, is the brainchild of three undergraduate students Umer Asim, Humble Tariq and Wahaj Ali Khan. The three young men and their team of street artists plan to fix one wall at a time and hope to reach a point where they are able to eliminate all hate speech from the streets of Karachi at least.

“Wall chalking in the city is indeed quite unpleasant,” said Asim, a student of the Institute of Business Management (IoBM). “From clichéd political slogans that have little to do with modern times to remarks that encourage people to take up arms, one would be hard pressed to find a public space that has been left untouched.”

Asim felt such sights have become so common that most people don’t even think twice after looking at them. “It is necessary we remove this hate speech from our walls,” he added.

One of the group’s significant projects was when they whitewashed the entrance wall of Sir Syed Government Girls College. “The entire wall of the college had hate speech scribbled on it so the administration asked us to replace it with something more productive,” said Humble Tariq, a student of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA). “We whitewashed the entire wall first and then painted artwork that said ‘Welcome’ on it.”

The three founders recalled how they came up with the idea of this unique venture. “We were going through several business ideas but were unable to come up with something unique and interesting,” recalled Asim. “One day we were standing outside my house when we noticed the lot of hate speech on the walls and felt that we needed to do something about this.”

Spreading colour

The group gave much thought to picking the right name as well. “Initially, we were thinking of names, such as Kolapuri,” said Asim. “But then we came across the word Abdoz, which is Urdu for ‘submarine’. It is a surreal idea that all of us live in a yellow submarine that spreads colour along its way.”

Their artwork is combined with inspirational messages, particularly related to social issues, such as child labour, education and women empowerment, said Tariq. “[These issues] are then beautifully rendered on the walls by artists, such as sAnki and Rebel.”

One of the artists, Faizan Sheikh, who goes by the name of ‘Rebel’, has bigger plans. “Although graffiti is being used as a strong tool for marketing by companies, the true potential of graffiti has yet to be realised,” he said. He termed it “a flourishing business of the future” as it can be used as a source of outdoor branding but for personal customisation as well.

Even though the project is only a few months old, it already boasts of a large body of works in a short space of time. They have been part of several corporate social responsibility campaigns of organisations such as Johnny Rockets, and institutes, such as IoBM and IBA.

Express Tribune