By Nikhil Borker:
Street Art has always been an intrinsic part of Indian society.Â The early man used it as a form of remembering or mapping. The Harappans, Mauryans, Cholas, Guptas, Pallavas etc. used it either to portray human interaction with landscape or for preaching purposes. It is presently being used as a medium for social awareness, advertising, beautification and personal recreation. However it has gone unnoticed for centuries due to lack of just one ingredient i.e. ‘a definite purpose’. The awareness created among the highly educated youth has been vital in the resurfacing of street art as a revolutionary phenomenon in the 21st century.
There are various forms of street art that are currently flourishing in India. Firstly there is a traditional form which involves painting on private or public property with a paintbrush. Typical examples are advertisements of consumer goods on walls of towns and cities and scenes from mythology painted on walls. Next comes stencil art in which a homemade stencil with desired design is used for printing magnificent patterns. This form is practiced primarily in rural areas for embellishing the walls of the ‘kuccha’ houses. Next in line are stickers. Posters are pasted on walls for dissemination of information or propagation of important messages. These are used for promotion of election candidates by political parties or for informing citizens about events such as pulse polio day, strikes etc. Mosaic art involves creation of large images on walls or ceilings by assembling smaller pieces just as in a puzzle. Many public places in Delhi were decorated in this manner before the CWG 2010. Graffiti is more of a western concept which has entered the Indian scene with the advent of globalisation. Urban youth, armed with airbrushes spray out their emotions on walls. Haus Khaz and the subways of Connaught Place are the hubs of this art form in the capital. One recently emerging form is 3D art. Such images appear different when viewed from different angles. These images are being increasingly used to spread awareness among the rural folk as the latter are easily fascinated by this unique art form .
In Indian culture, the good and the bad operate synchronously. Street art is no different. There is a very thin line that separates artisanship and vandalism. Street art has lent an inner voice to the public to express their anger and frustration against the government and the social evils. Many unskilled artists have got a platform to nurture their hidden talent, some have even got employment. It has added a fresh vibrance to the dull and dingy streets of many villages, towns and cities. Moreover it has become the fastest mode of public communication. Trust me, it’s even faster than facebook because your internet connection can desert you but the street will remain as it is! However we must realise that there are people who are misusing this freedom of expression to the maximum degree. Inside monuments, lovers inscribe their names on walls. Piers of flyovers and walls of subways are seen adorned with abuses or other derogatory statements. Politicians are never far behind when it comes to malpractice. The spaces which could have been used for noble causes are full of portraits of their smiling faces. Such acts of uncivility and barbarism dilute the essence of street art. This the reason why Indian street art is far from the pinnacle. Nevertheless there is always scope for improvement. The day when every citizen realizes that street art is all about being ‘meaningful’ and not ‘beautiful’ India will have won gold in this field as well.