BENGALURU: Rustic eateries serving steaming cups of filter coffee; the age-old Sampige Road, reminiscent of the Sampige trees that once dotted the lane, flower markets, the smiling faces of residents and conservancy workers and centuries-old temples including the 17th century Kaadu Malleswara Temple. Malleswaram, a suburb in Bengaluru, means different things to different people. In an attempt to weave the elements that maketh Malleswaram and to reclaim the otherwise worn-out walls of the residential area, a group of artists from artist collective Geechu Galu, have been in the process of employing street art to achieve this vision. Eventually, the artists hope to not only reclaim the streets but also make the footpaths a safer space for the local community, especially the women.
The campaign, titled Malleswaram Hogona (Let’s go to Malleswaram) has been rolled out in collaboration with Bengaluru Moving. The campaign comprises 40 volunteers, including 13 artists, who are currently working on beautifying 12 walls of Malleswaram.
Yash Bhandari, creative lead of Geechu Galu says, “The graphic art highlights the existing beauty around each corner. Hopefully, this exercise encourages the residents to reclaim the lost charm by simply slowing down, reconnecting with one’s neighbourhood and reviving the lanes lost to vehicular parking.” The idea of the campaign is to advocate sustainable mobility across the city through pedestrian-friendly measures.
The team is currently working on decking the walls with art which will not merely be a treat to sore eyes but also provide a wholesome sensory experience to its residents. For instance, an artwork by Anpu Varkey, titled ‘Within her stride’, showcases the feet of a woman and of the locals wandering around Malleshwaram as part of their daily routine.
This, the volunteers of Geechu Galu emphasise, portray the people who’ve made Malleswaram their home. Other artworks on the walls include imageries depicting the significance of the famous Sampige trees (after which the Sampige Road in Malleswaram is named) by Chandana BV, the disappearing biodiversity of the locality, paintings of pourakarmikas, and popular food joints, which have turned the neighbourhood into a thriving art museum.
“Painting on the streets is a learning that comes from being street active, whether you are watching a wall or imagining a great spot, all factors influence the making of an artwork,” says Varkey. Mallika Arya, who heads the Bengaluru Moving campaign, shares that Geechu Galu’s artworks will become a part of Malleswaram’s identity. “Working in public places demands not just the artistic vision and temperament, but also the intuition of when to turn it on and off,” says artist Amitabh.
The health crisis has pressed pause on their work. “A few of our artists have tested positive and we have halted our work for now. Irrespective of the challenges we are sticking together until we finish the work and hand the baton back to the community,” says Bhandari.