The writing on the wall

REACHING OUT A wall painting commissioned by Sehgal Foundation   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Walls are no longer synonymous with drab. “The Earth without Art is just Eh;” “Live, Work, Create;” “The creative adult is about the child who survived” is just some food for thought that is visible on structures: from concrete walls, these have become concrete expressions! Whether one looks at some of the walls in Lodhi Colony, which have become canvases for artists from across the world; or the metro pillars on Pusa Road with mosaics by students of Salwan Public School, Rajinder Nagar these works of art serve as a medium of edutainment: the wall says it all.

When art facilitates the dialogue

Sreejata Roy and Mrityunjay Chatterjee created Revue, a two-member team of an artist and a media practitioner. Their aim is to understand and express the changes in the city and how our lives are affected by it through conversations.

“Our work involves the participation of girls and women in Khirki Extension and Hauz Rani, with the aim of encouraging them to be vocal about their aspirations pertaining to shared public spaces. Men stake claim to public spaces with relative ease: enjoying the space and time with buddies, talking about the happenings of the world, the country and their lives, or just lazing around with a cup of chai. For women, this is not really the case. Reclaiming public spaces is hence important; this is initiated by building up networks in the community, delving into diverse expressions available and the kind of art that emerges from the whole process,” says Roy.

She tells the story of a barber who relocated his shop to around a section of the painting that depicted children playing to overcome loneliness during dry spells of work. “For a tea-stall owner, who has positioned his shop next to a section depicting girls having tea, the common question asked by his customers is whether families could now be brought to the stall? So, a lot of engagement, discussion and sensitisation are brought-up about through this exercise.”

A Sreejata Roy creation

A Sreejata Roy creation   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The bilingual magazine Mulaqaton Ki Galiya or Lanes of Encounter ( is one of the other outcomes of the project. Another important aspect of the project was the map created on the inside wall of the studio of Khirki Collective or later at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. The painting of these maps expresses personal journeys in the lanes of the locality, and how the idea of food travels and changes with those journeys. The book The Story of an Atlas is a result of this initiative. The journey of the project Mobile Mohalla is extremely fluid. It moves from wall paintings to a magazine, then to a map, subsequently to a book and also includes an archive of objects women use as part of their everyday life.

When culture turns democratic

If you visit the Embassy of Mexico in New Delhi, the wall of the driveway welcomes you with traditional Mexican art by Senkoe, a charming, rather shy, young street artist. He explains his work with enthusiasm: “The motif of the work represents the colourful ‘ajolote’, which are beautiful, whimsical creatures of Mexican fauna. The word ‘ajolote’ comes from the Nahuatl ‘axolotl’, and is a kind of a salamander. Its name can mean “water monster” or a “water dog”, both associated with the Aztec God Xolotl, representative of movement, life and transformation.”

Mexican Ambassador’s autorickshaw painted by Senkoe

Mexican Ambassador’s autorickshaw painted by Senkoe   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Senkoe has also been involved in the painting of the outer façade of the Arjan Garh metro station in Gurgaon, public spaces in the villages of Himachal Pradesh and Kathmandu, Nepal, besides the now-well-known makeover of the Mexican Ambassador’s official vehicle – an autorickshaw. He feels that the portrayal of a country’s culture in public spaces like these serve as excellent platforms for inviting curiosity and interest from the people who live among them. It’s one way of making art accessible and also begins to democratise it. It makes diplomacy within easy reach and is both cost-effective and promises great publicity and reach.

Painting the message

Another emerging feature of street art is wall paintings, which carry a message supporting a social cause. The common thread, however, is the engagement of the local community. “Wall painting has been an integral part of our development communications plans. It ensures better reach amongst the community with low literacy levels, builds good recall and provides information to people who do not have access to any other media form. This medium is the most widespread form of advertising and is the favourite in rural India,” says Pooja O Murada, Director, Communications, Sehgal Foundation.

Organisations like the S M Sehgal Foundation use wall paintings intervention areas to inform communities about their rights and entitlements. “One can find wall paintings of mid-day meal menus in schools for parents to monitor if the food served is as per the specified menu. Pictorial wall paintings helping communities understand the technology behind an intervention like a diagram of a roof water harvesting tank. Even slogans on walls help reinforce a particular message to the community on water conservation and sanitation,” adds Pooja

Art is an evolutionary act, with its impact on society constantly changing. Being dynamic, there are, hence, no rules attached to it.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 8:36:46 PM |

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