The exhibition displayed 100 winning posters shortlisted from 5,300 entries | Momina Khan
The exhibition displayed 100 winning posters shortlisted from 5,300 entries | Momina Khan

Can a poster change the world?

Poster For Tomorrow – a nonprofit organisation initiated by a community of artists based in Paris, France, in 2009 – believes that the combination of visual representations and powerful pieces of text can act as a force for change. The multinational team uses posters as their primary medium of activism, as they exhibit their work around the world with the message of peace and goodwill.

From December 16 till December 22, 2016, the walls of the Faraar Gallery at T2F in Karachi were plastered with eye-catching posters. Rip-roaring image compositions, collages, typographic works, as well as abstract creations, resulted in a diverse array of posters that were presented under the title Make Extremism History.

The posters provided a rich alternative history of extremism worldwide, one probably not learnt from history textbooks. When we talk about extremism, what instantly comes to mind is militancy or terrorism, but the designers knew that there is more to extremism than just that. There was a focus on nationalism, the extreme rich and poor divide, religious and ethnic strife and even extreme climate change.

Many of the designs were inspired by historical and contemporary global issues, such as the present refugee crisis in Europe. Some designs communicated a powerful message of unity, others emphasised blind faith as the root cause of extremist behaviour.

The exhibition’s curator, Khuda Bux Abro, explained the selection process for the exhibition: “Students and designers are invited to participate, regardless of sex, religion, nationality, race or social status. From the 5,300 entries, 100 posters make it to the exhibition. Of those 100, ten judges from across the globe select a poster each that they like the most and those are our top ten designs.”

The exhibition showcased many jarring metaphors, creative artistic representations and interesting framing elements. The language of the posters was simultaneously graphic and detailed. Designers reassembled their thoughts and photographs to create intense modern works that pushed the boundaries of expression.

One example of this was shown in a poster, “Education Prevents Extremism”, by Mirjana Solomun (Australia), as it showcased a vest, loaded with pens, in place of bullets.

Artist Khuda Buxs Abro and HRCP Chairperson Zohra Yousaf addressing the crowd | Momina Khan
Artist Khuda Buxs Abro and HRCP Chairperson Zohra Yousaf addressing the crowd | Momina Khan

Bare legs in a mini skirt imprinted on a hot pink background, reading, “Measuring Morality by the Length of a Skirt”, by Penkar Elianna (India), was a comment on patriarchal society’s restrictions on women.

Another poster by Allahyari Dariush (Iran), “Peace At Risk!” showed a slice being drawn out of the peace sign, showing how the world is eating peace, one piece at a time.

Among the visually stimulating posters on politics and history, was a poster charting the poor-rich divide. Qin Qiao Ran's (China) poster “The Rich Get Richer” is an artwork that, unlike other posters in the room, aimed at extreme divisions created by wealth, which has been growing over the years and will continue to if not tackled.

Posters like “Climate Change Bites” by Newhouse Meta (United States) showed that extremism towards the climate can be just as detrimental to our health and safety as the one shown in Mareen Hollman’s (Germany) poster on “Education Against Extremism”, which displayed the parts and minute details of a gun, showing how it will take an educated mind to put things together.

While most designs made use of weapons such as bullets, guns, grenades and bomb jackets, there were some that were earthy, such as the one by Romero Moises (Mexico), titled “Peace”, that depicted two white doves fighting over an olive branch.

Using colours, shapes, historical references and symbols to impart the message of moderation and tolerance to their audience, the posters clearly reflected the state of extremism in the world today. Owing to their precision and lack of clutter, minimalism in the images was what made them impactful.

Glancing at the state of the world today and its multitude of problems, would an exhibition such as this have an impact on the people it's meant to have an impact on?

Can a poster really change the world?

The writer is a staffer at the Herald.