Colombian artist Vicky Fadul is helping the residents of Hauz Khas slums transform their surroundings

Eclipsed by the uber cool and trendy environs of Hauz Khas village are the Hauz Khas slums which many of us who frequent the Village remain oblivious to. It is a slum just like any other, bordering a posh area that erupts into news mostly owing to a negative development. But the last five days have been different. The area is engulfed in frenetic activity and this time it is fuelled by enthusiasm and positivity. With her project ‘La Casa Pintada’ (The Painted House) Columbian artist Vicky Fadul is literally filling the lives of the residents with colour. Very soon they will start living amidst colourful walls adorned with beautiful motifs and patterns all done by themselves.

After implementing her project in 55 villages in Colombia, United Kingdom and Indonesia, Vicky with the support of Embassy of Colombia in New Delhi has brought her project to India. In the slums of Hauz Khas, she is training and encouraging people to paint the walls of their houses with foam rollers. “It’s a very old technique in Colombia. Earlier we used to have ceramics and stone rollers but now we have foam rollers. The participants are taught to how to etch out designs on rollers with a heater rod and mix colours, which have been provided by Asian Paints. They are free to do their designs. But before they carve these designs on rollers, they have to draw them on paper and show it to me. Indian culture is so aesthetic that you don’t need to tell people much. They are coming up with very elegant designs. Mostly people paint flowers but here they have done the imagery of elephants, Ganesha, etc.,” says Vicky.

From young school dropouts to 40-year-old women employed as maids and cooks in the nearby localities, Vicky’s initiative is attracting participation across the board. Seventeen year-old Damini, whose father is unemployed and mother works as a cook, looks at it as an addition to her skill base. “If I get involved with it at a deeper level, which is very possible, it can become a means of income for me. Moreover, who doesn’t want to live in beautiful surroundings. Right now we are painting just the exteriors which are so dirty but if I had my way, I would paint the interiors of my house too,” expresses Damini, who painted rose and an intricate rangoli design on a wall.

Vicky reveals that in the villages of Colombia, a few have made the skill a means of livelihood. “This skill has great utility because it can be taken up professionally and also implemented in daily life. The participants are going to get a certificate. Also, the corporates who sponsor it can continue the programme after I leave like they have elsewhere.”

The artist travels with the project consciously choosing to work with the marginalised. “I think colours have a transformational capability and a healing quality. From the perspective of community too, it is great because it binds them all, brings them closer,” says Vicky from her experience. Fourteen-year-old Reshma, who is learning stitching at the community school Muskaan, agrees. “Nobody refused permission to paint on their houses. They happily agreed. And it is fun to be working and painting together,” says Reshma, who painted a creeper motif on the wall.

(‘The Painted House’ concludes on September 15)

This article has been corrected for a typographical error.