Wednesday March 27, 2019

Decoding Indian graffiti scene: How the artform has evolved to convey social messages



By Harshmeet  Singh

Kerala’s Kochi seems like a changed city nowadays. While some choose to call it vandalism and illegal, others are in awe of it. The walls in the Fort Kochi region have been filled with splendid graffiti artwork by an unknown artist (or a group of artists) that goes by the name of ‘Guess Who’.  Experts can’t help but see the popular UK graffiti artist Banksy as an inspiration for the artists carrying out these works.

Long seen as an art form used to protest against the set world order, graffiti has slowly come of age in terms of the designs and creativity the artists have to offer. A number of European nations have dedicated specific walls to the graffiti artists to carry out their art, hoping that they would adhere to the boundaries. But considering the free spirit attitude of graffiti artists, it isn’t a surprise that many of them dare to choose the elite neighbourhoods and leave a colourful impression. ‘Anonymity’ of the artists is perhaps the only rule of graffiti art which adds to its intrigue.

India’s Daku

One of the first graffiti artists in India, Daku’s works majorly comprise of writing his symbolic name in different fonts. He is in fact the first such artist to use Devnagari script in his work. According to him, more than protesting against any establishment, his works are a protest against the established lettering and typography used by the usual painters. He calls himself a part of the International graffiti artists’ collective known as 156. He has often teamed up with another graffiti artist who goes by the name ‘Bond’. Their graffiti works can be seen at a number of walls in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar, Ansal Plaza and Hauz Khas.

One of their ‘official assignments’ included an invitation to the TechFest 2011, organized by IIT Mumbai. “People are quite bewildered by the fact that we are doing this for ourselves and don’t get paid for it. I do it because there is nothing in the city when it comes to street art. If my artwork can make someone stop and think what is it, why is it here, my job is done”, he chuckles.


JNU – the hub of India’s graffiti art

A walk around the campus would convince you that JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) is certainly one of the most vibrant educational institutes in the country. With the hostel and departmental walls filled with different graffiti, creativity reaches its pinnacle in the JNU campus. Unlike some other graffiti arts in the country, the wall works at JNU speak the language of protests. These graffiti works raise trivial issues ranging from the Israel – Palestine conflict and gender inequality to Naxalism and price rise. Coming from one of the most politically active student campuses in the country, such strong expressions don’t surprise many people. The University has earmarked certain spaces in the campus where the students can put up their handmade posters and engage in a dialogue.


Delhi street art festival 2015

The St+art Foundation India is bringing together 12 national and International artists in the ongoing Delhi street art festival 2015. Scheduled to run till March 31st, the festival would see the artists working together for murals, exhibitions and taking workshops and talks about their art. The list of participating artists includes India’s Daku, Anpu, P.C.O and Yantr.

The international artists that would be in the scene include Spain’s Okuda, Japan’s Lady Aiko, USA’s Axel Void, Paulo Ito from Brazil, Germnay’s Clemens Behr, Portugal’s Samina and Rukkit from Bangkok. Hanif Kureshi, St+art India Foundation’s Creative Director said that “There will be eight special projects in collaboration with different government bodies such as MCD, NDMC, PWD, Department of Women and Child Development and DUSIB with focus on themes like the Swacch Bharat Campaign, Women Empowerment, Traditions & Transitions, Recycling, Pollution and Urbanisation. From permanent murals to temporary installations, flyover pillars, underpasses, night shelters, gardens and government buildings will undergo amazing transformations. We are looking forward to engaging local communities and general audiences in these special projects“.


Delhi – India’s graffiti capital too?

Over the past 5 to 6 years, Delhi’s walls have started speaking a different language. Getting rid of the disgusting paan stains, many walls now carry impressive and colourful art forms. A big city and huge population is an ideal set up for the graffiti artists and street painters and love to work in the night hours and transform a boring wall into a speaking masterpiece with a few hours of the dark night. ‘Art should be out in the open for everyone to see’ is the driving principle behind most of these artists, majority of who start when they are into their teens.

Viewed as vandalism and a menace in the European countries, graffiti is illegal in a number of countries. But fortunately, acceptance of this art form is on the rise in the Indian metros. This growing acceptance is also a sign of the coming of age of Indian street art form from ‘gadhe ke poot, itthe naa moot’ to more sophisticated versions which are pleasing to the eye and mind.


Next Story

Brutal media, the beloved minority, and the tortured majority

The media has changed its sphere of projecting people who are national and the anti-national elements are tragically boasted for their deeds

This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night.
India is plagued with a disease called Rape. Wikimedia Commons

I’m afraid, it’s quite clear that the ferocious jaws of the media and the fierce claws of the minority are well up to the annihilation of the whole civilization of the Indian subcontinent. Wake up, wake up from your slumber! The “secularism” is a sharp-edged dagger handed over to you to cut your own root.

– SALIL GEWALI, Shillong

If something that really makes one look at certain reputed media with the eyes of suspicion then it is for their blatant play of double standards. The double standard itself is disgusting. The integrity of the service is greatly compromised here. When such unethical trick is played at the cost of humanity then the consequences could be very disastrous. This could steadily push the society into the sea of frustration. Thereafter the social anarchy.

This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night. Those who are suffering from a varying degree of mental glaucoma may fail to see it.

Have we not witnessed that media fraternity often sets off the alarm bells when the victims of the crime instances are from a “particular community” but it maintains a “brutal silence” when the perpetrators are those it considers minority or Muslim? Yes, the particular minority are eternally beloved, so they are blameless. Even the traitorous terror-makers from the minority are unblemished to such media folks and a major group of columnists associated with the media. That’s why such elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir, a bunch of secessionists in the academia and so on and so forth.

Also Read: ‘Don’t Sensationalize or Glamorize Suicide’ Asserts WHO ; Says Media Can Play a Significant Role in Preventing Suicides

No wonder if one who sings ‘Vande Mataram’ then he certainly stands to lose the support base of such media, no matter how influential he is, no matter how dedicated and truthful he is. So, I humbly advise any active citizens, particularly those who want to serve the country, not to utter this jingoistic phrase when alone. Better not at all. On the other hand, if you roar – ‘Bharat ke tukde tukde’ or ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, which are heard more aggressively and more frequently these days, then all defensive forces become hyperactive to safeguard you. These subversive activities by any brats will be soon celebrated and interpreted as a part of the fundamental right, that is ‘freedom of expression’. Have we not noticed in Kashmir where CRPF or other security personnel receiving humiliating bashings, the video clips of which often go around on WhatsApp, from the local? And in case the bold security persons retaliate then those elites from their armchairs thunder that the democracy in the country is under threat? The majority are attacking the minority, blah, blah, blah..!

Elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir.
Elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir. Wikimedia Commons

I believe everyone knows how certain so-called student leaders often openly incite their unruly crowds at JNU and other academic institutes. But when the questions of sedition are raised against them then the media comes forward to denounce the government. Mr Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Shehla Rashid Shora, Mr Jignesh Mewani… are lovable sweeties to those intellectuals because their treacherous adventures make them more cheery and lustier. Each anti-nationalist “scream” by these jerks never get wasted. It is systematically used to degrade the nation, demean the culture and denigrated the religion.

Till some years back college ruffians were nonentities but now they are held all of a sudden as leaders and opinion makers. These dangerous creatures are applauded and discreetly advised how best to go about. Many national political leaders as well jump to embrace and defend these troublemakers. But, on the other hand, the same warmth, attachment, and love are not at all showered upon any patriots by any mainstream media. So, citizens who want to sincerely endeavour to bring peace in the country are not at all given any platform, nor encouraged. Rather, the nation’s lovers are intensely scoffed at. They are non-existent, nay subhuman, to the pseudo-secularists. Of course, those people, often branded as ‘bhakts’, are aptly dragged only to paint them with bad colours.

Also Read: Fuelling propaganda: Has the modern media lost its sense of objectivity?

This Republic day brought a great grief to many. A 22 years old student – Chandan Gupta of Kasganj, UP, was heartlessly murdered. His crime is his participation in the ‘tiranga yatra’ singing Vande Mataram. No noticeable outcry of condemnation from any influential elites. Again, Ankit Saxena, a photographer who loved a Muslim girl, was attacked, and girl’s relatives silt his throat in cold blood. Most of the media carried the news as “honour” killing as if it was in some way justified. What would have happened if the same heinous crime was perpetrated by the majority? It would have been Dadri-2. In another monstrous incident, a BJP party worker Mr Santosh was stabbed to death in Karnataka. The killing of patriots is too frequent in Kerala. But no ‘award wapsi gang’ gets ever freaked out at the news …!

Such brutal attacks upon the majority are a very regular phenomenon. But what is “very less known” to the whole general public is that over 95% of such gruesome attacks, and also various kinds of sexual atrocities upon females of the majority, are “not at all reported”. Only those which can’t be suppressed get published. But they usually die down well before the dead bodies begin to rot. Well, no scream of criticism, no alarm of “intolerance” is ever raised by any over-conscious citizens when the people from the majority are killed. No media panel discussion ever called in otherwise cases. Nor even the condemnation of the “onslaught on the humanity” ever heard.

Kanhaiya-Kumar was responsible for openly inciting unruly crowds at JNU.
Kanhaiya-Kumar was responsible for openly inciting unruly crowds at JNU. Wikimedia Commons

Well, had there not been a double standard in reporting the attacks on the “humanity”, if ever the ‘freedom of expression’ is truly valued, such barbaric perpetrators, no matter which community they are from, would not have at all reared their ugly heads. Is it not probable in near future that those beloved villains might “double-cross” and pose continuous threats that would toll the death nail for the double-tongued journalism, apart from the majority! The prelude to that situation is double clear now than ever before.

Also Read: Macaulay’s harrowing effect on Indian media

Lastly, please note, none of the horrendous crimes by the particular community ever become a “Dadri” — the stench of which is still being felt by our depraved columnists. Is this not a part of the grandiose scheme? The situation is dangerously ominous! I’m afraid, it’s quite clear that the ferocious jaws of the media and the fierce claws of the minority are well up to the annihilation of the whole civilisation of the Indian subcontinent. Wake up, wake up from your slumber! The “secularism” is a sharp-edged dagger handed over to you to cut your own root. This is a bitter truth nobody can refute!