'What Will People Say?'

Log kya Kahenge’, Inherited Words, Wishes and Warnings in Lahore In old Lahore, apart from historic heritage buildings and crumbling stories, poetry, proverbs and propaganda are an integral part of one’s inheritance. The words of treasured poets are remembered, and wishes and warnings are repeated and passed on from one generation to the next. In the Fearless Collective workshop in Lahore with young artists, we partnered with Faizghar to explore the fears and emotions we pass on through words by creating a book of our own inherited warnings. The rhetoric phrase ‘Log kya Kahenge?’ or “What would people say?” rings through most households across India and Pakistan as a manifestation of our fear of judgement by our families and friends. But who are the ‘people’ whose judgements withhold us from living and owning our lives? The Fearless Collective’s first public art intervention in Anarkali bazaar is a reclamation of that phrase and encourages us to drop our fear of judgement of ourselves and each other. The mural, with deep earthy colours and sprawling calligraphy asks: ‘log kya kahenge log hum hi to hain hum kia kahein ge?’ ‘What would people say? we are the people what will we say?’

Special thanks to all the artists of NCA Lahore and BNU. Our fearless farishtas Alibaba and Shehzil Malik, and the National Bank of Pakistan in Anarkali, on whose wall this exists.

Lahore is heavy with old brick, history and the words of poets weighing down upon us. In Lahore, we were invited to part of Faiz Ghar festival, inspired by the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. And so we decided to explore the concept of "Inherited words and warnings". We pass on heritage and history books from one generation to another, but what are the fears, warnings and other words that get carried by generations of women and men? As we entered lahore, a quote above the National College of Arts in Lahore says "Kasb-e-kamaal kun, ke azeez-e-jahaan shwe", 'And we shall make such beauty with our hands, that we will be loved by all'. A very appropriate set of words to begin our Fearless Pakistan journey with
The ritual of the workshop of inherited words began with each of us sitting within a book of our own inheritances. Each participant was invited to sit in the middle of their pages, and on either side write a phrase, word, fear or emotion that had been passed on from a previous generation. On one side, we'd scribe something positive or encouraging, the real family jewel, and on the other we'd put down something negative. One by one, we laid our pages on top of each others, creating a book of our collective inheritances. The discussion was intimate and emotional, often digging up personal histories, family secrets and generations of strength. From the group emerged fearless farishta Shehzil Mallik's voice, as the last page was laid on our book of inherited fears, Shehzil spoke of the rhetoric phrase often heard in Indian and Pakistani households - "Log kya kahenge?" or "What will people say?". A stopper that comes up as a reminder to be mindful (and fearful) of the judgement and opinions of others. The answer from the group emerged - What will people say? We are the people, What will we say? A perfect affirmation for our wall of words.
We began to take photographs of ourselves to paste on the streets. This in itself is an act of fearlessness in Lahore.
There's always a good deal of synchronistic chaos with Fearless walls. While permissions to paint had been sought weeks in advance, it all fell through. And so Shilo, Shehzil and Nida had no choice but to wake up at the crack of dawn and begin seeking permissions for a wall to paint. Eventually, in a moment quite reminiscent of the first ever fearless wall in India, we asked a chaiwalla on the street if we could paint a wall behind him. In a moment, he said- Sure! "Permission" granted, little did we know that we were about to paint the wall of the mosque of the biggest branch of the National Bank of Pakistan. Quite a historic moment for a first wall.
And so we begin to paint, when a few hours into it security and people from the building we're painting on descend upon us, asking us what we're doing. We're taken into the headquarters of the National Bank of Pakistan, and enroute spot a beautiful calligraphy mural by Saadiquain in the corridors of the building. Quite a sign for a workshop on words. Outside, we continue to paint furiously, hoping to be able to finish our mural before we're asked to leave by the security- When Nida and Shehzil emerge with the director of the National Bank of Pakistan. He looks at the work and says- Please go on! This is beautiful.
And so in beautiful urdu typography we begin to scribe - Log kya Kahenge? Hum hi to log hain. Hum kya Kahenge? 'What will people say, we are the people, What will we say?

Gift to Fearless!

Fearless Collective wouldn’t be possible without friends like you.  Fearless has U.S. 501(c)(3) status via our fiscal sponsor, Social Good Fund.  All donations are tax deductible.  Thank you for your continuous love and support.