A new artistic movement is taking over the capital, one wall at a time. It’s not unusual these days to come across a wall covered in beautiful murals — known colloquially as street art — in Delhi. Go to places like Shahpur Jat, Khiriki Extension, Hauz Khas Village and Connaught Place, and you’re bound to find out what Delhi’s small but growing community of street artists has been up to.
It was only a few years ago that this movement — which some people use the hyperbole “street art revolution” to describe — started in earnest in this city. Still, this was too late by global standards.
By the late 1970s, street art was already a flourishing and legitimate form in New York City, for instance. And Delhi’s street artists are merely greenhorns in this respect. But things are beginning to fall into place for them, thanks particularly to the street art festival, St+Art, which has become an attraction to artists from the world over, after its first iteration here in 2014.
This is one of the prime reasons why Delhi’s street art “scene” is beginning to catch traction. Today, several young hopefuls, armed with spray cans, are following in the footsteps of the pioneering street artist of the capital: a man who was known by the moniker Daku, and who was considered by many to be India’s Banksy. What’s more, even some international artists are now willing to bring their talent to the streets of Delhi.
“There is a reason why we chose to draw two Indian children facing a fire on the wall we painted here. The fire symbolises the city itself, with its traditional elements of architecture, culture and simplicity of life in Delhi.
In south Delhi, if you travel on the road that connects Shrinivaspuri with the Modi Mill flyover, you come across a shabby looking wall of the municipal garbage collection centre, exactly opposite the hotel Tivoli Cititel. What makes it stand out is the fact that it has now been transformed by art, covered as it is in an incredible set of murals. The wall was painted last month by a group of three street artists from Uruguay called Colectivo Licuado. The trio, which is now on a tour of India, comprises Fitz (aka, Florencia Duran); THEIC (Camilo Nuñez); and Nicolas Sanchez, who goes by the pseudonym AlfAlfa.
Their murals here were inspired by several elements that interested them — the surroundings, the people — within Delhi. Camilo says, “We start with an investigation of the context. It takes some days to think about the concept and composition for the image. After we are done crystallising the idea, we start to work on the sketch, pictures and references. So in Delhi, we saw this dumpster, and from the very beginning our idea was to use light in our murals somehow. That’s why we chose to draw two Indian children facing a fire. The fire symbolises the city itself, with its traditional elements of architecture, culture and simplicity of life in Delhi.”
The trio arrived in the capital a few weeks ago, and the experience of their stay here was both ditressing and rich. Coming from Uruguay, they found the Indian capital overbearing in many way: the dust and noise, for instance, which they found annoying at first. But once they began painting the earmarked wall — taking ten days to complete the murals — they got to experience the love and enthusiasm of the denizens of Delhi.
Camilo says, “They were so kind, respectful and grateful when we were painting there. That really changed our perception of the city; the people made us feel special and comfortable.” There’s a small tea stall adjacent to the wall which belongs to a man named Chhote Lal. The artists left behind a small tribute to him by painting his name on the cart which reads “Yeh Gadi Chhote Lal Ki Hai” [This cart belongs to Chhote Lal].
According to Camilo, there is a major contrast between the street art pieces done in the cities of Uruguay and in Delhi — both in terms of style and the set of ideas used. “In Delhi,” he says, “you find very few local artists painting in the street and making a real scene on the streets.”
Still, Camilo is all praises for the evolving street art scene of Delhi. “We saw mostly the murals painted in the last editions of the St+Art festival and I found the level of art very impressive.”
The city is once again gearing up for the St+Art fest, slated to be held in mid-December this year in both Delhi and Mumbai. The organisers, though, are looking to up the ante for this third edition of the event. “This year, we are planning to set up a unique public exhibition at an unconventional place. We are still in the process of finalising the details but you can expect this edition to be much bigger and more colourful,” says Hanif Kureshi, who organises St+Art.