A group of artists and volunteers have joined hands to reclaim Karachi's walls, which have been smeared with bloodstains of murder victims, hate graffiti and quack cures for erectile dysfunction.
Artists are now painting the walls with cheerful designs to bring the lost pride back to an often violent, chaotic and corrupt city.
In the recent years Karachi, Pakistan's economic capital and biggest metropolis, has been been going through a rough phase of extortion, murder and kidnapping -- for religious, criminal, ethnic and political reasons.Those behind the new project, called Reimaging the walls of Karachi hope that by taking art to the streets they can bring a more positive outlook for its 20 million inhabitants.
"We are working together and taking back the city by reclaiming the walls which are filled with hate graffiti," artist Norayya Shaikh Nabi tells AFP while drawing an abstract of the city on a wall along a busy road.Nabi, an art teacher at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, is one of 200 artists, artisans and labourers taking part in the project.
With the help of the city authorities to get the permission they need, they aim to repaint walls in 1,600 different places -- from warehouses to schools to flyovers and underpasses.
The scheme is being run by I Am Karachi, a charity working for the cultural, social and literary uplift of the city, backed by funds from the US Agency for International Development.
Rare street art
Pakistan boasts some talented young artists, but public art is rare.
"In my 17-year art practice in the galleries, I have enjoyed working here the most as I am directly communicating with my viewers."Under Syed's watchful eye, a team of artists use stencils to create images of boys flying kites, donkey cart races and other images of rural life.
Elsewhere, flamboyant, brightly coloured paintings of peacocks and elephants have not only radically changed the feel of Karachi but have also drawn foreigners, who usually move with extreme caution around this seemingly volatile city.Aside from daily murders, Karachi was hit by two major terror attacks in just over a year.
Schoolchildren have also been made part of the project, in the hope of shifting a sense of ownership of the city and its appearance on to the younger generations.
"We included younger people so they can carry this work on further," says Nabi, while working with her teenage daughter on a wall."When they grow up they will feel that they are comfortable in sort of working for the city -- this is like planting a seed to the next generations."
The artists hope the project will subtly change people's behaviour after years of violence, softening them a little.
"I believe that this will yield good results in the long term," Syed says.
"When you see positive things around you, your behaviour becomes positive and a big change comes along in one's life."