Painters breathe new life into old Baghdad neighborhood

In the narrow alleys of an old neighborhood in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, painters were drawing beautiful murals in bright colors on the dilapidated walls to give joy, pleasure, and hope to people of the war-torn country. 

Ali Khalifa, 29, along with his five-member group named "Butterfly Effect" was busy in drawing paintings to depict life in Baghdad and its cultural heritage on the decrepit buildings in al-Anbariyen slum in Baghdad's northern district of al-Kadhimiya. 

Khalifa used to work on repairing and painting houses to support his family. The idea of forming the voluntary group came around three years ago when he volunteered to draw some paintings to decorate fences of a school and a kindergarten. 

"I drew some murals to delight people and received incredible encouragement from them. Only then the idea of forming a group came to my mind," Khalifa told Xinhua. Khalifa was inspired by the concept "Butterfly Effect" that a butterfly flapping its wings can later cause a tornado. 

The name is a symbol of their painting work to give joy and hope to others, as Khalifa believes that small causes can have large effects. About a month ago, the "butterfly" fluttered again in the al-Anbariyen slum. 

Khalifa's group was hired to repair and paint an old house for a poor family. The group decided to paint the house and decorate it with some murals for free. "I saw interest and happiness in the eyes of the family members and their neighbors. We finally decided to continue our volunteering work on the dilapidated walls of the alley and nearby alleys," Khalifa said. 

One month later, red, yellow, green, and blue covered the drab facades of many decrepit houses. Colorful landscapes, children playing in the streets, and other images depicting Baghdad's cultural heritage began to appear throughout the slum. 

"We have been drawing paintings on walls to make the neighborhood a better place for living, and many people encouraged us to continue despite the absence of outside funding from any government or non-governmental organizations," Khalifa said. 

The group members are used to paying out of their own pockets to buy the pigments and brushes, merely receiving a modicum of donations from the poor residents who also provide meals and other encouraging initiatives. 

Amir al-Jubouri, an al-Anbariyen resident, was happy with the group's initiative, saying that "painting the drab walls of the old alleys was a positive act that added joy and pleasure to the atmosphere of the neighborhood." 

"The Butterfly Effect move has created an interactive atmosphere in our neighborhood and inspired life full of hope among the residents who are now expecting people from other areas of Baghdad to roam the old alleys, see paintings and take souvenir photos," al-Jubouri added.

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