To initiate a cultural exchange between India and Brazil, two artists beautify a few dilapidated Capital walls

Two young artists are busy turning a huge wall at Hauz Khas Apartments into a work of art. As the sun diminishes to bring on the night, they focus on their work swiftly but meticulously, almost oblivious of the perennially moving traffic and people gathering to see what they are up to.

The two young artists are Delhi-based Harsh Raman Singh Paul and a Brazilian Sergio Cordeiro. They are part of a Street Art Project supported by the Brazilian Embassy in the Capital called Brinda - Brazil and India in Art. Brinda is meant for a cultural exchange between India and Brazil, in which the two artists are assigned to create public art fusing the cultural similarities of the two countries.

Harsh and Sergio have chosen three walls which see maximum footfall. The first one is right opposite Agrsen Ki Baoli on Hailey Road. The second, deep inside Hauz Khas Village and the third, the road-facing boundary wall of Hauz Khas Apartments on Sri Aurobindo Marg.

The duo has decided to paint the walls according to the kind of people it is visited by, and each design mixes the countries’ styles, lines, colours and cultural commonalities. For instance, the rundown wall opposite Agrasen ki Baoli (a tourist delight) is painted with the theme of divinity and the evil eye. If Harsh has painted the divine figure of Ganesha and the unsightly evil eye with its tongue hanging out and its face reading buri nazar wale tera muh kala inscribed in Hindi, Sergio paints Nossa Senhora Aparecida, the divine Portuguese figure, and Carranca – an evil eye which is a scowling figurehead of a mix of a man and animal. All these figures float on the river (a synonym for God in both the countries), while spiritual beads or rudraksh suspends over its waters.

“Like in India, superstitions and spirituality are integral part of lives in Brazil, so we blended them to show similar belief systems,” says Sergio.

The second wall at Hauz Khas Village delineates a philosophic theme of life and death. It portrays a man, (here) symbol of life, on a sea-saw trying to balance it with mother death on the other side. Death is wrapped in a sari designed with macabre figures on it. While the shoe of the life reads “Rejoice the ride”, the border of death’s sari reads, “Rejoice the end”. Life, in quite a joyful mood, offers a flower to the death. And the death – created in suitably surrealist style -- is unable to hold it. Its petals, hence, break and float in the air.

The third wall on Aurobindo Marg, which the duo finished this week, attracts its passers by with its sheer youthfulness and a blend of music and dance. It depicts the figure of a Bharatanatyam dancer as the wall begins. By the time the big wall ends, she transforms into a traditional Brazilian Samba dancer. Traditional Indian musical instruments like the tabla, sitar, mridangam and Brazilian musical equipments like agogo, the oldest known instrument used to create Samba music, atabaque, the hand drum, appropriately form the backdrop.

Harsh, also an ex-art director with Prakash Jha, says, “Music and dance form the essence of Indian and Brazilian culture. So, we have created this wall in a way that Bharatanatyam dancer transforms into a Samba dancer from one side of the wall, and from the other side, the Samba dancer breaks into Bharatnatyam mudras. From both the sides, therefore, the wall gives you a feeling of a melodic movement.”

The duo’s work will be documented by two young Brazilians, Carina Barros through a documentary and Amanda Servule, who will write a book on their experience of working together for the Brinda Project.

Though the walls have turned artistic, the duo says creating public art is not free of hassles in India. Says Sergio, “Though we had permission from the Indian and Brazilian Embassy, and we carried required documents proving the same, we have been harassed by the cops each time. At all these sites, they tried stopping us saying ‘It is not allowed’. A cop close to Agrasen ki Baoli even asked for money. But I am smart, I didn’t give any.” He adds that Brazil is used to public art, so he never faced such problems there.