I write today with a very heavy heart to hear that a fellow activist and an amazing artist is no longer with us. Asim Butt (1978-2010) aged 32 took his own life yesterday morning in his house, whatever be the circumstances that pushed him to taking this tragic step, it has left many friends shattered and in tears.
I personally knew Asim only briefly, but long enough to have realized that he did leave a lasting impression upon me. We interacted during the November 2007 General Musharraf’s martial law days, where he was one of the core founding members of the Peoples’ Resistance group in Karachi. With a section 144 enforce across Pakistan and the army & police out to arrest any violators, we looked for creative ways to visually register our protest, one pet trick were the covert gorilla protest which lasted barely 20 minutes in random locations across Karachi, but Asim brought in a new twist he organized a team of activists to graffiti various art symbols across Karachi that visually displayed our rejection of the dictatorship.
The symbols ranged from a simple yet powerful red “eject” signs to the “Dictator 420” stenciling, all were inspired by Asim alone, he initially assembled a team of Peoples’ Resistance activists at our usual “Hawai Ada” [the covert name given to T2F more because they had a Wi-Fi connection called Hawai Ada or Airport] the assembled team took out scissors and an army of spray cans to create a number of these creative stencils and then Asim personally lead them on a gorilla mission across Karachi to spray-can stencil them on some very prominent locations in Karachi quite often under the cover of darkness to avoid being arrested. I fondly recall one day driving around the 26th street, to see every wall in the area plastered with the Asim’s infamous red “eject” symbol, a simple, yet powerful message to the looterers and plunderers of our country that we have had enough of their non sense and it’s time to Eject and make room for change
It also brings a smile on my face to recall that one day in November on the sidewalks of SeaView, where we were publicly inviting people to help us in graffiti’ing the area, out of sheer mismanagement of time we were suddenly confronted with a police mobile ready to haul us all in. The excitement which ensued was amazing, trying to negotiate out of the sticky situation, while at the same time we did our best to hide away all the incriminating evidence [Asim’s stencils and spray cans] had us all laughing for many days to come. Quick thinking by Asim and others we cajoled the police force to let us off with a stern warning, more because all the evidence had simply disappeared even to their astonishment. All credit went to Asim for his ever jovial smile and his endless energy that kept pushing us to do more.
On a side note I even fondly remember pictures of STOP signs he painted on burnt buses, cars and trucks following the aftermath of the 27th December 2007 carnage – to signify that we DO NOT want this type of massacre on our streets, he did this on his own free will risking his own life to make a very symbolic and important statement. That to be showed a very inspiring side of Asim Butt, on one hand I was busy protesting on the streets against this dictatorship, but Asim protested through his Art
He now shall live within our lives fondly remembered in such short stories about this brilliant 31 year old Grafitti Activist whom we came to know as Asim.
Here’s to Asim Butt – may he watch over us for many years to come, guide us, inspire us and help us contribute in helping steer this nation into a better future – No doubt he shall be missed, but I choose to celebrate his life, NOT morn his absence
RSVP to A tribute to Asim Butt on Monday 18th january 2010 at T2F 2.0