I took an unforgettable, curated afternoon walk through Delhi’s first open air art gallery in Lodhi Colony organised by the St+art India Foundation. There’s just something wonderful about Street Art. It goes worlds beyond popular perceptions of blind graffiti or vandalism. It is inclusive, accessible storytelling. Art that stays true to the city and its people, while also shaking things up – as art should.
This was my first time venturing inside the lanes of Lodhi Colony. My adventures (if you could call them that) in this part of the city have always revolved around the glitzy cultural centres, auditoriums, and restaurants located on the main roads. I was surprised and happy to discover how ordinary and familiar the neighbourhood inside was – a regular colony in Delhi with rows of government housing facilities. Grandmothers and mothers basking in the sunlight. Families from all parts of the country sharing the same spaces. Laughter and delight in different languages echoing through the buildings. The aroma of specific regional dishes wafting in and out of each kitchen – a touch of coconut-based curry here and a dash of garam masala there. Children peeking out of colony gates or playing in the street. They watched us intently as we made our way through all the murals in their neighbourhood.
Fusion Art by Rakesh Kumar
The artwork is based on native Indian Gond art with special emphasis on trees, birds and animals, and an elephant as a symbol of new beginnings. It speaks of the issue of receding natural habitat for animals which is causing and adverse impact on the animals that reside in it.
Colours of the soul by Senkoe
Inspired by the beauty of nature, Senkoe painted these birds in Lodhi colony to represent the colourful diversity of the people who live there and also to encourage them to communicate with each other and share stories, just like the birds would.
The Lotus by Suiko
In this piece Suiko takes the national flower of India – the lotus and re-imagines it with his signature of curved lines and Japanese characters to create this mural for the Lodhi Art District. A statement also on the rigidity and structure in Japanese society. The Lotus is Suiko’s name etched in a typography familiar only to him. He also carefully chose the name Suiko, which loosely translated means ‘drunk’ or ‘crazy’, since that is what he was called by fellow Japanese when he first started the graffiti movement in Japan.
The Origin of the World by Borondo
Borondo’s fabulous take on the highly controversial painting by Courbet in the 1800s. This mural is situated strategically across the Palika Maternity Hospital in Lodhi Colony.
Calli-Graffiti and poetry. Forgetting who it’s by!
“san serif no letters
and no words to read
sans words no signs
no names in the streets
just rows of buildings
and gardens sans weeds”
See Through, See Beyond by NeverCrew
Lovely take on taking a step back and gaining a new perspective. The Astronaut is in a perfect situation to assess how we can send people to the moon and also destroy the earth at the same time. He sits on top, ruminating.
Vishwaroopa by InkBrushMe
A reminder that cities contain mythology and were built around it. Not many of us remember or understand this. This is a play therefore on Mytholo-City and if one looks closely, there will be icons of popular culture hidden in there too!
We Love Dilli by Lek & Sowat and Hanif Kureshi
Super piece by India’s very own ‘Daku’ (Bandit)! You need to visit this at the right time of the day to see the words forming shadows on the wall – capturing both the impermanence of street art and the nature of all the carefully chosen words.
From your Strength I weave beauty by Shilo
This piece was made by an artist called Shilo, along with women from the ‘Sewing New Futures’ community and a team of highly charged volunteers, who made the whole process a celebration of femininity and womanhood.
By one of my favourites – the fantastic work of DALeast! The work captures the familiar, commonplace flight of birds all around the city of Delhi, bringing sudden life and movement to this dreary wall.
Don’t Let This Symbolism Kill Your Heart by Nafir
This piece by Iranian artist NAFIR is about women’s rights in the eastern part of world. Living in Iran, he feels that Iran and India are places where culture or traditional thought can cast a shadow on women.
Original Aboriginal by Reko Renie
Reko Rennie is an interdisciplinary artist who explores his Aboriginal identity through contemporary mediums.
Lavanya by Hendrik
“Lavanya” (grace), is the portrait of Vimla, a lady that works at Old Khanna Market in Lodhi Colony/New Delhi, where she sells paranthas/Indian bread on the streets; something which is rare for a woman of her social class. Inspired by her sense of independence and dedication, Hendrik wanted to pay tribute to women who do so much in their lives balancing multiple things and running families and business, yet are mostly anonymous heroes through their lifetimes.
The Tourist by Avinash and Kanesh
When the mural seems to be taking a picture of you.
Katha-Crazy Twins: Chiller Champa & Boom Bhaijaan
Harsh Raman attempts to merge the ancient Indian art of Kathakali, a storytelling dance-form from the south of India which uses gestures and no words, with today’s medium of no words – street art. The two heads together represent the duality of human nature. The artwork was purposely chosen for the location so as to bridge the gap between the older migrant parents who hold on to their culture, and the younger generation – slowly letting go of their heritage.
I’m no connoiseur of art but it’s safe to say that the street art movement across the world finds its genesis in political struggle and activism. On challenging the status quo and sparking revolutionary thought. The street art in Delhi does not seem to conform to this trope in its true sense, but manages to achieve the same goals in its own way. The murals are painted in collaboration with government agencies. Some murals in the city are also painted along with prison inmates giving them a platform to tell their stories.
Thought-provoking, contextual social messages are often depicted in murals. These stories are discussed with the people in the neighbourhood who then come together to help paint, organise, or support the process with cups of chai and plates of snacks. In a space such as Lodhi Colony – your regular colony in an Indian city divided by invisible but stringent socio-economic and religious lines – street art seemed to bring everyone together for a common cause : taking pride in and celebrating their neighbourhood, their homes, their own narratives.