CHENNAI: You may have heard about the group that paints walls every weekend. They call themselves The Paint Box. And almost a year and a 3-km stretch of walls later — the trio which started it all tells us it’s been one rainbow coloured ride. The irony, despite their diverse spectrum of volunteers that span age 5 to sometimes 65 — “We never know how many volunteers are going to show up until we get to the location,” says Namrata Ramaratnam. Big sister of the group (in this case literally) with 22-year-old brother Tejas on board and her graphic design expertise usually leading the way, the final member of the team is social worker Hari Haran B. Hari adds with a smile, “That’s the spirit of volunteering isn’t it, you come because you want to, not because we asked you to commit the previous day.”
What’s more, these youngsters have had inspired observers offer them funds on more than one occasion. “But we always say buy us paint instead,” says Tejas, the software professional in the group. “The idea is to get more people to feel responsible for their locality, rather than pay money and let someone else do the work,” Namrata elaborates.
And now that the word is out, the hope is that beyond volunteering for their regular Sunday painting sessions, more people will come forward with suggestions on which walls seem most in need of a makeover in their locality. Have they ever had any unusual requests though? Like the store owner on Richie Street who had Rajinikanth painted on his wall to prevent incessant urination there...as you can well imagine, it never happened again.
“People have asked us to paint slogans like ‘Do not Smoke’ but we prefer to just make the space beautiful, and hope that will be deterrent enough,” says Namrata. With The Paint Box gaining extensive popularity on social media, they have also been invited to collaborate with the Goethe Institut on the first ever Chennai Street Art festival which kicks off on Tuesday and the Prakriti Foundation’s ‘Poetry on Walls.’ “We’re pretty excited because in the future I think, the hope is that our painted walls can serve as a canvas for performing arts on pavements,” says Namrata giving us a glimpse into the future.
Poetry on Walls
If you’ve written a poem, and it’s one your open to share — it could well land up on one of Chennai’s many blank walls. The Prakriti Foundation which came up with the idea last December and had several enthusiasts attend the making of their first poetry wall on Race Course Road, is planning to make it a monthly affair. Meera Krishnan, programme coordinator-head at Prakriti recalls, “Last year, it was a Tamil poem by Salma called Eri (Lake).” She goes on, “Next Sunday, we plan to do a paint and poetry reading session of a poem by Sharanya Manivannan.” While which wall it will be on is still undecided, here’s something that’s exciting — every poem that makes it to a wall this year will be from a Chennai poet!
When: January 25
To register for the next Poetry on Walls event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
No Pain, no Paint!
If you see two guys on a bike whizzing past you at 6 am on Sunday, with one too many paint cans for comfort — it’s probably Tejas and Hari from The Paint Box. “We don’t have a car, so everything from our paint to metal scrubbers to sandpaper and brooms is usually juggled on the back of a bike or a few of them,” he admits with a laugh. “Use what have right?”
Chennai Street Art Festival Spread across a fortnight, five international artists invited from Germany, the US and Spain will collaborate with Indian street artists and cinema hoarding painters. The project aptly titled ‘Conquer the Concrete’ has been organised by the Goethe-Institut in collaboration with Chennai City Connect.When: January 20 - February 7