HYDERABAD: Enter MS Maqta locality in Khairatabad and a splash of colours will greet you. The walls are bathed in hues of green, blue and a mix of other shades. Courtesy: St+art India Foundation, a public art movement, which decided to make MS Maqta public art district given it is a busy settlement and centrally located neighbourhood close to Hussain Sagar lake. Several artists from abroad and the country have come together to make art an integral part of the neighbourhood and make it stand out as an art landmark.
The idea behind the project is that art is for everyone and giants like Asian Paints, Krishnakriti Foundation, Art@Telangana, Govt of Telangana, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and Bonjour India, St+art India Foundation have come together to give it shape. What is interesting is that they are involving the locals, interacting with them and even keeping the artworks according to what they don’t want. At the same time, for several residents in the area earning their daily bread is a tough call which poses questions if art is more important than the basic needs of impoverished life.
Artists in the area have been painting walls sitting on scaffoldings that reach to the top floor of the buildings. One can see bright green walls painted with bouquets, birds flying and even some geometrical patterns. The colours are vivid and as the artists paint, groups of curious school children look on and even interact with them. Says Chandni Mathur Sakurikar of city-based Hoozinc!, “We just painted a yellow wall with hands holding paper boats which looks more like a sketch on a bright yellow sheet. It’s fun interacting with children as their school is nearby.” Kids are always curious if anything interesting happens in their area, but are the adults showing similar response.
Chandni adds, “The other day one of the neighbours prepared kheer for us. They greet us with smiles and we consult some of them if they want living beings to be painted on their walls. We respect their religious sentiments when they say no. We choose flowers or any other drawing then.” The St+art festival also planned workshops with children on colour, shapes and its association with emotions and the orientation sessions with the locals. Shares the festival director Giulia Ambrogi, “We shared open flyers in Telugu, Urdu and English, interacting with the locals across the course of the festival. Some members from the community also make up our team. We have also taken in the opinions and have had consultations with locals on the designs of the art works, ensuring that all suggestions are addressed.”
They have similar plans in other cities especially in areas of metro cities like Dharavi (Mumbai) Mahim, Shahpurjat (Delhi) and Khirki Extension (Delhi) as public art projects have been in urban villages. Adds Giulia, “Art activates new dynamics in areas by gathering people from different sectors of society which doesn’t really happen in the streets. In this sense we are breaking boundaries through the medium of art.” But then how the connection of art will be established in areas where people think about basic amenities first and art later? She responds, “It is a very valid point.
Across all our past projects, whether the have been in Dharavai, Shahpur Jat or Khirki Extension and even Sassoon Dock – we try activating a dialogue about the spaces with the community. We focus on uplifting the area by cleaning up the spaces, putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls and involve the authorities and community members. Children have been our most active participants.”
So can artworks actually provide a colourful map for the people to identify the area with? MS Makta doesn’t have proper directions to navigate the area. Shares Amit Syngle, COO, Asian Paints Ltd., “We hope to create new navigation routes for the place by artistically refurbishing some of its lanes. That’s how there are 17 artworks being painted in the area and the project will be on till December 23.
They also have an ongoing festival in Mumbai titled St+art Mumbai 2017 Urban Arts Festival and have started work in Goa as part of the Serendipity Arts Festival which is on till the end of the month. And interestingly, people have began identifying their area as the art district. “Some of them are so excited that they have even asked us to paint their homes the next year as well with different
artworks and colours,” signs out the city-based artist Chandni along with her team-member Nikhil Kapoor.