The Peace Walls of Lyari

Two weeks ago, I visited Lyari following an instagram post on a friend’s wall that showed some beautiful murals on one of the streets there. Anyone who knows the history of Lyari, a war torn part of Karachi thanks to decades long feuds between two gangs, would be intrigued by the sudden popping up of murals promoting peace.

Ahsan Shah, the boy behind this initiative, decided to walk me through the street and talk about why this move is so important and what motivated him and some of the youth in his hood to change the narrative that plagued them.

“We are sick this title of “Gang War” that is always associated with us”, says Faisal Hanif, one of the team members and a local activist.

I decided to document their efforts and help them out with their mission a little. Ahsan spoke of the communication gap he felt between Lyari and the rest of Karachi. He talked about how he and other young people felt misunderstood and disconnected from the city because they carried the heavy tag of belonging to Lyari. These peace murals were like a Bat Signal to anyone out there, an invitation of sorts, to come and engage with their part of town which everyone had avoided (for all the right reasons) in the past.

“We want peace and we’ve come a long way since the gang wars ended- we want the young people from Lyari to be involved in positive activities and build careers outside Lyari and for that we need to bridge this gap.”

Aspiration and motivations are important and these ambitious boys radiated such positivity that I was thrilled to be helping them put their voice out there. I realized just how hard it was for them to pull off an act as simple (as it seems) as painting a few walls, till two days later Ahsan messaged me saying that their work had been vandalized; particularly the murals they had painted that advocated for women’s education.

“These people (religious fundamentalists) are afraid of women succeeding in life- they think if women are empowered their shops will shut down or something!”

When I asked him how he planned to respond to this incident, Ahsan was very clear that he was ready to repaint everything they ruined.

“We will celebrate and dance our way down the road to repaint it!”

Ofcourse, I had to be there for that.

So click below on the link to watch the 17 minute long documentary. Click and watch how after decades of gang wars, turmoil and communication gaps, a group of young people in Lyari are on a mission to shed the negative associations attached to their hood through art. Discover their dreams and challenges they face, as described by a local boy from Ahmed Shah Bukhari Road. Watch how he and his friends chose to deal with an unpleasant incident that attacked their peaceful motives with joy and positivity!

A big thank you to Bilal Hassan and Ahsan Shah. This spontaeous documentary was so much fun to make because you were a part of it!

Ps: Watch it in HD