A collaboration bringing marginalised communities to the forefront has resulted in a public art initiative celebrating the efforts of waste picker communities, also essential workers in Delhi’s Lodhi Colony.
Over the past two weeks, the public art mural project was created with the help of communities from Street art NGO St+Art, The Fearless Collective, which focuses on creating space to move from fear to love using participative public art, Chintan, an environmental NGO that works for environmental sustainability and social justice, and Engendered Art Gallery.
The mural depicts images from waste pickers’ daily lives. There are visually appealing portraits and landscape views featuring women working across the backdrop of Delhi’s monuments—both styles juxtaposed with graffiti on walls including texts like ‘Fearless’ and ‘My Life Matters’ among others.
Yesterday, as the project concluded, a small dinner was held around a mural to thank them in appreciation.
According to St+Art’s co-founder, Guilio Vesprini, the artists spoke to many essential workers and understood their lives more closely before celebrating their work on the wall. Vesprini said, “The essential workers are really the ones who take care of our health, safety, happiness, hygiene, which are our primary needs, and this was a small gesture to thank them.”
It was artist Shilo Shiv Suleman, Founder, The Fearless Collective, who brought the entire project together. “Throughout the span of this mural, Fearless Collective worked with women from the waste picker community to articulate: ‘How are you essential?’ and create a public mural to affirm their lived experiences, dignity of life and labour, and their essential role in regenerating urban spaces,” said Suleman, adding that there is little attention paid on the livelihood of waste-picker’s communities, which during Covid-19 took a backseat.
Suleman says, “In Delhi, waste pickers mostly belong to Dalit and Muslim minorities. And so, women waste pickers face intersectional discriminations along the lines of gender, caste, religion, and occupation. With no relief support from the state, many waste pickers have been treated as if they themselves were disposable.”