Study the locality and create murals that not only beautify the locality, but also use the walls to speak about issues troubling the neighbourhood. Rashmika Majumdar checks out the unique student initiative Wall Call

From portals to an alternative world, students from Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology are into creating murals around the RBANMS grounds. The art students have adorned the walls with murals on various themes which they call the ‘Wall Call’. Part of their one-month long interim course that commenced mid-November, the project tries to engage students with the community and create pieces that not only beautify the area, but also highlight issues that affect the neighbourhood.

The murals by Shobha Bhat and Shloka Prasad Kumar echo people’s voices with conversations in English, Hindi and Kannada. “We spoke with the people and even eavesdropped on their conversations in order to understand residents before we started painting,” says Kumar. A mural with images of a bull, autos, scooters, roadside eateries and hand gestures is another piece that tries to give passersby the flavour of the neighbourhood.

Arzu Mistry, one of the two facilitators of Wall Call and a faculty of Srishti School says, “A wall is not just an empty site to draw on. It is active and alive. The art responds to the area where it is situated. So a mural where a transformer pulls an auto depicts an auto-stand close to a transformer in this locality.”

“Students mapped the area extensively for about two weeks and understood the neighbourhood. This approach to the wall is multi-dimensional and helps the art sit within a particular context,” she adds.

A portal to another world

Looking at the world with a different lens and connecting to a world of fantasy which is not different from the real one is another theme portrayed on the murals. One looks into the playground through the window of a submarine and spaceship. The children play football in the submarine mural but there’s a twist. The ground is actually a whale’s back, the ball is a blow-fish and oxygen pumps are their school bags. “Children from the RBANMS School would clap and cheers us on. This mural is about kids and they can relate to it the most,” says the creator of the mural, Jerald Jeeroly.

Cracks along the wall have also been incorporated within murals which show objects trying to escape from the cracks while windows and gates which are actually found in the locality, are pulling them back inside. A broken slab on the ground has also been used and fish and frogs seem to jump out of the crack. A figure on a bicycle is a recurring feature in various murals. This theme which the trio, Anushka Divecha, Shuchi Bellare and Kristel Viegas, calls ‘The Traveller’ serves as a unifying thread that binds different murals together.

Art + activism

“When we spoke to residents, the major problem that affected them was garbage strewn all over the place. Nobody was willing to accept responsibility for the garbage that they ultimately generated,” rues Mallika Manchanda, a student. This fact inspired the theme “Not Mine”, the two words stencilled along the wall in several languages and 300 circles where residents could fill in the blank after “Not Mine ___” with words like garbage, banana peel, scooter and so on.

Amitabh Kumar, a street artist himself and another facilitator to the project says, “The “Not Mine” concept can even be extended to larger issues such as ‘Not My Ulsoor Lake’.” “Residents complained about men urinating on the walls. We have attempted to address this issue by the VCUP (acronym for We See You Pee) campaign. The plan is to extend this campaign beyond murals and give children stencils of the letters ‘VCUP’ which they can use to spray wherever they find perpetrators urinating on walls,” Kumar adds.

Another mural draws a parallel between a garbage collector and a crow, showing both as scavengers pulling a sack of garbage. Along the same wall is a mural showing stray animals having a meal. “The area has a lot of stray dogs and cows that feed on garbage. This issue has been reflected in the mural,” says Abhishek Nishu, one of the creators.