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‘Canvases of positivity’: Australian artist’s floral murals paint hope for Pakistani city besieged by violence

Australian artist Gabrielle Brinsmead in front of a floral mural she painted in Karachi, Pakistan. Source: SBS Urdu

An Australian artist’s artworks on the streets of Karachi - a city that has witnessed extremist violence for decades - aim to spread the message of hope and equality.

Although it is winter in Pakistan, Gabrielle Brinsmead, an Australian artist, has painted a blossomed summer in Karachi - Pakistan's largest port city - with bougainvillaea, hibiscus and frangipani adorning the city walls.

“These flowers abound in New South Wales as well as in Karachi,” she says.

“I wanted to paint these flowers, first of all, to brighten this space which once upon a time was all green… But I also wanted to alert people in this city to the fact that the city is filled with beauty."

Australian artist Gabrielle Brinsmead
Australian artist Gabrielle Brinsmead
Mohammad Saqib

It’s filled with flowers, and they are for the rich and for the poor. They fall on the ground; they are very equal. They don’t bloom better for people with more money or people who follow a certain political party.

Ms Brinsmead hopes her artworks will give a message of hope to the people of the city. 

"As a nation, the Pakistanis are very proud, and they receive the message that they are not good enough. I think it’s so easy to always be saying ‘this is wrong, this is bad’, and I think it’s so much better to say ‘this is really good’," she told SBS Urdu.

Australia’s Honorary Consul in Karachi Barrister Jahanzeb Awan said the themes of the art murals – women's empowerment and the environment – are key to Australia's work in Pakistan.

Art plays a major role in society, and it can be an effective and inspiring way to reach people with important messages.

“We hope these artworks will help to promote gender equality and women's empowerment and make us think about what we can do to help to protect our wildlife and habitats, as well as being a positive contribution to the city of Karachi,” Barrister Awan said.

Art on a street wall in Karachi, Pakistan
Art on a street wall in Karachi, Pakistan
Australian High Commission, Islamabad
 The murals have been commissioned in collaboration with 'I AM KARACHI' project that promotes the city through art and culture.

Executive Director of I AM KARACHI, Ambareen Kazim Thompson said that the project is a “symbol of peace and harmony” and a “message of hope and positivity".

“It is important to remember that only through tolerance and acceptance do cities and people grow strong and united.

Executive Director of I AM KARACHI, Ambareen Kazim Thompson
Executive Director of I AM KARACHI, Ambareen Kazim Thompson
Australian High Commission, Islamabad
“One of our most visible projects is the peace walls of Karachi. In the last three decades, Karachi has gone through a lot of violence and extremism. So, we started a project where we changed these walls from canvases of hate to canvases of positivity.”

She says the project was executed in collaboration with the provincial government of Sindh and the Australian Government. 

"We decided to paint the pictures of positivity, to paint themes of women empowerment and also further to strengthen the friendship between the two countries."

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