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Moabit is famous for his satirical money art, opting for dollar bills as his material-of-choice. But that’s not the only thing he’s famous for. We caught up with him to find out how his three and a half week trip to Pakistan went back in December and January.
During the COVID era, the world has ground to a halt, most borders are closed and there is little to no chance of travelling. So, how did Moabit make it halfway across the world to complete his latest project? “Pakistan was one of the countries that would let me fly in without having to go through heavy restrictions during the pandemic. I have a contact there who showed me around a few cities before I picked the location of Lahore for the mural I had in mind.”
But arriving in Pakistan and making some murals isn’t as easy as it sounds: “a country where street art is not necessarily a thing”. The military is heavily active at this moment, they often have road check and the soldiers are heavily armed, defending the cities. “I saw children walking up to our car window asking for money, and thought about how I wanted to create a mural about the people I saw on the streets, so it could be about the actual locals.”
Now that he has a place and a subject of choice, it was time to put something together: “I had two designs in mind, one of which I was unable to complete as a mural. It’s a mixed idea based on the flag of Pakistan and the Dreamworks studio intro. It features two gold balloons, like the ones sold in the streets of Lahore, with some street art blended into them. The moon-shaped balloon represents comfort for the kid sitting on it, while the star, which is held on the end of the stick, represents the bright future for the child. The reflection of the star is shown on the boy’s face. Unfortunately, I was never able to start the mural due to restrictions in the central location I wanted to paint, and the contact for that particular location wasn’t helpful.”
“Because I couldn’t fix a location for the first design, I began working on the second design. It was hard to find the spot because everything is controlled by the military or the police, and it was necessary to involve one or the other to watch out for me while I executed the painting. I quickly made stencils for the painting, and the next day I began spraying it up while the police stood behind me. It’s a painting which makes a statement in support of education. There are three figures, of which two are children, and one is a woman. The woman is carrying a water jar on her head as many women do there in Pakistan. On the right-hand side, there is a boy carrying a heavy load on his shoulders. In the middle, there is a girl carrying a tray full of books.”
“The meaning behind the design is that children should be educated in schools instead of being used for physical labour that puts a stamp on the rest of their lives. It’s a monochrome, multi-layered stencil painting. Only the books have colour, and the girl is closest to the viewer, while the others are faded into the fog, a typical weather phenomenon in Lahore. The small Urdu writing says ‘Education is the Key’, while the bigger letters say ‘Lahore.’” The location of choice was a suburban area of Lahore, a spot where plenty of locals can view the mural.
This wasn’t the first mural Moabit has created. In fact, his past work has influenced the work he did while in Pakistan: “I have a mural in Venice, Italy, that I did a couple of years ago, related to the migrant crisis in Europe. I also did a series of canvas paintings called the “Politically Correct Series,” which showed various issues that migrants face, exhibited in Venice at Imagina Cafe for the Overseas Taste Venice art show. Doing these kinds of paintings inspired me to create more work on social issues.”
Like his past projects in Europe, the murals he created in Pakistan will go on to influence his future creations: “It is likely that stylistic details and themes in this mural will be found in future murals and other works of mine. My painting process is always getting updated whenever I complete a new work, depending on the material, as well as my developing interests.”
So, has Moabit got any project in the pipeline? “My plan is to do a few street murals this year in various locations, which are to be determined. They will emphasize the social issues which I find important.”
And what about planning another trip to Pakistan? “I would like to go back in the future and paint the first design that I was unable to complete.”
Interested in adding some of Moabit’s artwork to your collection?
Here are some of our Moabit favourits:
The hand-painted dollar bill depicts a provocative Minnie Mouse. A statement against the objectification of woman and the monetization of sexuality.
Another hand-painted dollar bill creation from Moabit. This time, Donald Duck is feeling the addictive effects of capitalism. The desperation of Donald Duck’s nephew illustrates the negative effects that it can have.
Another sneer towards capitalism, ‘Cock Richie’ depicts a rooster, covered in graffiti and colour, as the leader of the cash pack.
‘Flooding the neighborhood with Electricity’ depicts a scene about the effects of big money and pollution of the local environment and communities and what the power of compassion can do to change it. It’s visualized by a factory pumping pollution into the atmosphere, but the girl, rising out of the smog, ‘waters’ the community with her love and compassion, giving them a chance for survival.