Community wields magic brush to transform waste site into mural art

Wall at government school stands transformed

June 14, 2014 10:56 am | Updated November 16, 2021 09:59 pm IST - PUDUCHERRY

Artist Suresh K. Nair working on the cement relief at Government Primary School in Kurusukuppam, Puducherry. Photo: S.S. Kumar

Artist Suresh K. Nair working on the cement relief at Government Primary School in Kurusukuppam, Puducherry. Photo: S.S. Kumar

What would you do when you have to walk past a heap of garbage at the street corner every day? Cover your nose and walk away? Or would you think out-of-the-box and do something to create a work of art from a waste site.

The neighbourhood in Kurusukuppam has shown the way for others faced with similar predicaments by turning an area unofficially designated for dumping waste into a stunning piece of mural art. Much like the work of some magic brush, the wall at the Government Primary School, Kurusukuppam, now stands transformed and how!

It all began with a sense of disgust that Kirti Chandak, director of Tasmai, a Centre for Art and Culture, felt at the regular sight of garbage indiscriminately dumped at the junction between Francois Martin Street and Advocate Chinna Thambi Street, right in front of the school.

“I was discussing what could be done with a friend, and we thought of changing the junction into a beautiful corner and also solve the waste problem,” she says.

Ms. Chandak roped in artist Suresh K. Nair, assistant professor, department of painting, Banaras Hindu University, who happened to be in the city for his ongoing exhibition, ‘Musical Drawings,’ at Maison Perumal. Using cement relief work, he went on to render an adaptation of one of his well-known works from Banaras for the wall. The painting is divided into five sections with each segment displaying the elements of nature-space, earth, water, fire, and air.

“I have personalised techniques used in mural art in Kerala which is found within temples and made it suitable for the outdoors,” says Mr. Nair, whose work is influenced by the fluency of musical notes and characterised by a series of definitive squiggles.

“Public art is permanent and accessible to everyone. People who pass by will see it,” says Mr. Nair. “It creates awareness of the environment among the public. It is possible that this work may inspire these schoolchildren to study art,” he says.

As a spinoff, the project also incorporates waste collection and segregation. Ms. Chandak’s team has started a door-to-door waste collection borrowing a tricycle from the Raj Nivas neighbourhood association. The team has also been installing two blue bins for mixed waste, one green bin for wet waste and one orange bin for dry waste at the site with instructions on waste segregation in three languages. “Already, we are seeing some change as a few people have come forward to use the bin,” she adds.

Collaborative effort

A host of people pooled in to see the project through. The transformation of the wall came about like some open source project.

P. Saravanan from Cuddalore repainted the road sign, while art student E. Murugathas, artist T.Saroja and French resident Jean-Luc Rolland helped with the mural work.

Designer Mithran helped with video documentation. Patti, an American resident, and the school staff helped in watering the mural, which has to be done thrice a day for a week. Devangi R. and Vidhya from Urban Design Collective and D. Saravana collaborated on the dustbin design and installation. Murugesh, who has worked with Puducherry Municipal Services Private Limited, helped in implementing the door-to-door waste collection, with inputs from Christopher Paul from Gorimedu on waste management.

K. Lakshminarayanan, local MLA, helped in securing the permissions from the municipality and the Education Department and also chipped in to source raw materials.

“The school management is quite thrilled and want us to repeat it for the remaining walls,” says Ms. Chandak.

An official from the Education Department has also suggested this project could be replicated in other schools.

“We want to make this a role model. The focus thus far has been on maintaining White Town alone. If each community can do something similar in their area, it would be a great start,” she adds.

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