With the support of the Pakistan Japan Cultural Association (Sindh), which is engaged in conveying Japanese culture in Pakistan, and as one of the projects commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan-Pakistan diplomatic relations, we created a mural at the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) in Karachi.
NICH is a large children’ s hospital with 553 beds, managed by the Sindh province authorities, where children can receive medical treatment free of charge. It is said that in Pakistan, there is a low school enrollment rate of children who in Japan would be of an age to receive compulsory education. Many of these children, who are not receiving a school education, are working as laborers, and poverty is also preventing them from attending school. In view of this current situation in Pakistan, we wished to create this mural together with the local children as a way to give them great hope for the future.
This time, the mural was created in a children’ s hospital and the hospital proposed that the theme be “Safety, Protection, and Hope”. In Pakistan, children not receiving an education become workers and many of them are in poor health. Moreover, the devastating floods that hit the country in September 2022 claimed the lives of 528 children. I felt that the children, who have their future ahead of them, need a society that can keep them safe and protected, as well as to be able to see the bright hope that awaits them.
Each year, along with creating a permanent mural for the project country, Over the Wall also makes a flag to be given to the children of the next country where the project will be held. At the previous location, Haiti, the local children made a flag to pass on to the children of Pakistan. In Pakistan, we worked together with children in Gujranwala to create a flag that will travel on to Benin, the location of the next project.
Using art supplies provided by our sponsor Sakura Color Products Corporation, we held a number of workshops. One was for the children hospitalized at the National Institute of Child Health, another was at the Japan Information and Culture Center, Consulate-General of Japan in Karachi, to which children from orphanages in Karachi were invited, and also one at the Science School, Gujranwala in northern Pakistan.
Sirens wail and horns blare, drivers stick their heads out of their windows to shout in objection as our minivan slips past and through the gates of the hospital. A familiar-looking guard raises his hand to signal and our vehicle begins to enter the hospital grounds, maneuvering its way through a crowd of people.
As soon as we get out, we are surrounded by many people and we greet each of them, one by one, shaking hands as we do. Before we know it, the crowd has got even bigger and the car horns are blaring again. Aqabat the guard, who has been waiting for us to arrive, has buckets of water lined up and he looks proudly over at us. We climb up the scaffolding, formed from rusty iron pipes and recycled materials, where we are able to get a panoramic view of Karachi. The Karachi coast is a stone’ s throw away, but the smog makes it difficult to see far. The people in this city, living as they push and jostle one another, have tremendous energy
This time’ s mural project in Pakistan actually took three years to reach completion. Although originally scheduled to take place in 2020, it was repeatedly postponed due to the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and, at one point, it was thought the project would have to be cancelled. However, it was able to go ahead in 2022 through an invitation from the Pakistan-Japan Cultural Associations (PJCA) to act as a commemorative project for the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Japan. The mural was created at a children’ s hospital, which provides free medical care, in the center of Karachi.
I chose a green sea turtle as the mural theme and decided to draw it laying eggs on the beach at Karachi to symbolize the lives of children. The eggs under the sea turtle are surrounded by colorful flowers. These flowers were all painted individually with great care and thought by the local people. More than 350 people participated in this event, including local school children, students from the Japanese School, consular officials, doctors, hospital staff, guards, and drivers. The expressions on their faces as they painted the mural showed how much fun they were having and it gave me a strong sense of how art can connect people beyond language, culture, and religion. One of the guards, Ayoub, who had taken part in the painting every day since day one said, “This mural was painted by all of us. From now on, we will take good care of it!”
I still remember the moment when we completed our work together.
The grown figures of the children hatched from the eggs are drawn on top of the sea turtle. Cricketer, football player, artist, singer, doctor, scientist, Saudi Arabian oil tycoon – my wish is that at least one of their dreams come true and that this mural will become a symbol of hope for the children.
December 3, 2022
Over the Wall – A Global Mural Project Artist: Kensuke Miyazaki
“Karachi’ s Green Sea Turtle”
November 24, 2022
7,000 x 10,000 cm
“Mural for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit”
November 25, 2022
25,000 x 2,000 cm
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