You can’t turn a street in a city of Pakistan and not be assaulted by slogans of political fervor and Ranjha-Esque proclamations of love plastered across the walls of houses, buildings, schools, and even government offices. Graffiti Art takes this bold act of claiming public spaces and adds an illustrative artistic flair to it. There has historically been an association between Graffiti and vandalism in Pakistan and abroad. However, the last few decades have seen the rise of a generation of artists that have taken this controversial practice and have raised it to a craft and an art form. These artists have not only used this medium to express an artistic instinct, but graffiti artists like the famous Asim Butt have also used their work to make political statements.
Asim Butt’s Graffiti Art on the Refugee Crisis in Pakistan
This new wave of Graffiti Art has taken over the streets and walls of Pakistan’s urban centers and even has spread into the country’s interior regions. With artists like Asim But, Mirchi, and Neil Uchong transforming the urban landscape into a fertile canvas for expression, Graffiti has started being thought of as a way of reclaiming public spaces that have fallen victim to degradation and neglect. Provincial governments even embraced this philosophy in the early 2010s: from 2014-2016. The Punjab government launched a “Street Art Pakistan” campaign where students from schools and universities from all over the province were brought to paint the walls of its major cities; similarly, in the same period, the Sindh government began inviting Graffiti artists to paint over political vandalism in its cities.
School Walls Painted by Students across Punjab
Graffiti Art, however, has expanded its scope beyond the walls and public spaces that it is usually associated with, and the motifs and artistic stylistics particular to it have taken a life of their own. So much, so that popular Graffiti motifs and design styles have started being seen on everyday items such as mugs, pots, wall-hangings, and even furniture. And hence, Graffiti Art has in this way penetrated mainstream culture so strongly that it has started being reproduced not just on walls and public spaces but has transferred its influence on a wide array of merchandise.