Two children of Lyari play cards (a game only played by adults here) on a broken building in their playground and garbage dump proudly affirming – ‘Zindagi ke Khiladi’ or “We are players of the game of life”.
Lyari is one of Karachi’s oldest fishing villages by the sea. It’s magnificent buildings are jeweled with stories of trading ships from Africa and settlers from across the desert. However, the once treasured Lyari has seen much violence in the recent past.
Take a walk around Lyari and you’ll see the painted tags of gangsters of Lyari in between scribbles and drawings by the children of the town, and torture warehouses converted into playgrounds. Lyari has been labelled unsafe by most in Karachi and it’s glory became a memory as the rest of Karachi expanded. Just as Karachi has been labelled unsafe by the rest of us in Pakistan.
In our workshop, we began to talk to young adults from Humans of Lyari about ‘play’ as a reclamation of the streets and vanquisher of fear. We explore the idea that we are both constantly ‘playing with our lives’ and playing the game of life simultaneously. Both realities coexist.
In the ritual within our workshop, we created a game of hopscotch where each participant would describe what made them ‘unsafe’ in their streets, lives and minds as they stood on one foot, feeling quite unstable. Then, with both feet on the floor each participant would talk about what made them feel safe. Very often, trust and dependence were larger themes that came up. Each square in the hopscotch became a metaphor for a greater sense of safety.
At the end of the ritual, each participant spoke about their ‘safest space’ in the game of life. What made us feel absolutely emotionally secure?
The muses for the mural weren’t far from the streets, photographs of children playing cards became a perfect metaphor for the game of life.
They also became our crew, dipping paint brushes, and fingers into cups of paint.
A young helper uses her fingers to dot traditional Sindh tile patterns on the wall.
Two children playing a game of cards affirm- “Zindagi ke Khiladi”, the players of the game of life.
This building is one of the oldest homes in Karachi. House number 19, was once owned by one of the most affluent men and the first to get a shipping license for foreign trade. Like Lyari is to Karachi, the house now remains ignored and forgotten. An old woman now peers from the wall, holding a boat in her hand, a symbol of Lyari’s glory of shipping trade, and a memory of her own childhood, and says “zindagi ke khel”, the game of life.