Today’s musings take us to a place 15 minutes away by car from our HQ in Delhi. Yo, it is time to hit Lodhi Street. But we are not here to talk about the place’s history. It is what is on the walls that we can’t stop thinking about.
You must have seen it (and admired it) with your own eyes, too – not just in here but across swathes of urban India. Pondicherry, Panjim, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata...it is hard to separate the magnificent murals, paintings and art (or anti-art, as many label it) in a zillion colours from similarly evocative communities splashed across the country.
But it is not just art. Graffiti is a message that channels the voice of the voiceless, the hustle of the restless, and the spirit of those who believe in #DoWhatFloatsYourboAt. And by perpetuating such messages artistically, graffiti contributes to the community in more ways than we can imagine.
Graffiti is the act of breaking down walls by painting them.
One need only Google pictures of the demolished Berlin Wall – once upon a time touted to be the largest canvasses in the world. Filled with scribblings and paintings of global artists under anonymity, the Wall carried messages of hope, sorrow, misery, faith, satire, love and more – all spray painted into existence. Above all, the Wall’s graffiti became a message board for all things political and social – echoing what the community felt and wanted.
Then, the Berlin Wall came down in 1990, and all the expressions of everyone who etched its surface found liberation. Such is the power of graffiti as an art form that brings to surface the hidden desires of the public, giving it a platform to advertise, spread awareness and inspire action.
Just like the rest of the world, in India, it is not uncommon to see wall art on issues like poverty, hunger, women empowerment, abuse, environment, etc. And when you ponder at the message behind the graffiti, you know a fire has been stoked in your heart. Praise be to the artists with a cause!
Graffiti is a force for transformation for communities.
Beyond the social and political commentary through which graffiti has become a modern-day weapon for truth, it is also a tool to spark back life into communities.
With a stroke of genius, artists transform dilapidated houses, shanty streets and obscure urban corners into happening spots. All it takes is imagination, talent and the will to mark public walls with expressions of self, of the society, of culture and of local identity. And lo and behold we have a landmark that infuses new life into a community and brings them a lot of opportunities and limelight to earn a better livelihood.
Know that urge to take a selfie or drop an Instagram story while posing beside graffiti art? That is what we are talking about. That is what you love and the community that you are promoting loves.
Graffiti inspires revolutionaries.
Spray cans can start revolutions – and the first one often begins at home for those who hold them. To pursue graffiti can often be termed as breaking the norm. It is a hustle that is infused with meaning and madcap passion. And those who dare to float their own boat – India’s bustling community of graffiti artists – are like modern-day Robinhoods, taking art from the galleries and museums and into the arms of public streets.
They look up to names like UK’s legendary Banksy or our very own Tyler from Mumbai and continue to start kickass conversations through art. And while their art-adorning walls might get whitewashed in many instances, the art lives on forever – some in our hearts, some on digital.
In the words of Tyler, “Graffiti is often looked upon as vandalism, but I don’t destroy. I create. I take a neglected wall and give it meaning.” This devotion to creating change is what continues to inspire others to pick up their own tools of revolution and dare to go beyond the mainstream – all in the pursuit of the greater good.
To all those who leave their mark on the world quite emphatically, we at boAt say, keep at it and do what floats your boAt!