Bangalore's street artists walk the talk

A street art project by Bengaluru artists aims to reclaim walking spaces to create sustainable zones for the local community. 
A mural by Geechu Galu.
A mural by Geechu Galu.

A group of 13 young Bengaluru artistes had a woke inspiration one day. Why not brighten up walking spaces, remove encroachments on the footpath and create a safe space for women? The result is a walking strip that challenges the imagination with art and nostalgia. Says Shivu Mahesh, one of the group members, “When I was a child, the ‘methai gadiyara’ was a common sight in Malleshwaram, a vendor who made watches and toys out of candy.

Mural by Parmeshwar Waran
Mural by Parmeshwar Waran

This is my favourite memory of childhood market visits with my parents. He would make a candy watch on my wrist” Mahesh’s artwork ‘Sakkare Kaddi’ is an ode to this memory. Chandana BV recalls the sampige flowers her father would get for her mother when he returned home on his work visits to Bangalore from Mangalore. “This flower is integral to Malleshwaram. Sampige Road is named after it. After my mural came up, a small boy called it a ‘banana’. His grandfather corrected him saying it was ‘sampige’. The work is a conversation starter,” she admits.

Both artworks are part of the Malleshwaram Hogona (Let’s go to Malleshwaram) project that involved 13 artists, 12 walls and one purpose—to make walking the new normal. Put together by Geechu Galu (a collective of Bengaluru artists) and the Bengaluru Moving campaign, their objective is to address the city’s traffic and pollution problems. They are focusing on spreading awareness around the use of public transport or non-vehicular mode of transport as an alternative. Bengaluru Moving, a citizens’ collective, is in its second edition and in the first phase a campaign for the implementation of priority bus lanes in the garden city. The initiative has struck a chord with the locals.

The murals decorating the walls of conservancy lanes (small narrow lanes that run parallel to the main road) form a graphic art trail that takes you back in time and inspires you to take a walk. “Our desire is to create a sensorial graphic experience on a select stretch and the Bengaluru Moving team collaborated with us. We have set out a narrative trail that combines all our goals in a single experience,” says Yash Bhandari, Creative Lead, Geechu Galu.

Their purpose is to inspire the authorities and citizens to decongest vehicular traffic in Bengaluru by making the city and its neighbourhoods more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly. “Our intention has been to push public opinion to urge solve vehicular congestion by allocating more road space for motor vehicles. To decongest the city effectively, we must encourage alternate modes of transport and improve last mile connectivity. What better way to draw attention to potential walking routes than eye-catching public art?” asks Gowri Omanakuttan, Campaigner, Bengaluru Moving. The project also highlights the efforts of the Malleshwaram RWA. Social and urban planning experts are looking to make roads congestion-free under the ‘Walkable Malleshwaram’ project.

According to Vinay Parameswarappa, Founder, Gully Tours, an experiential travel company that conducts walks, the project will pave the way for organised art walks in the future. “For now the intention of the virtual walks is to raise funds to support waste pickers,” he says. Tanisha Arora from Bengaluru Moving adds, “Our hope is that this activity becomes a benchmark and inspiration for communities, government, artists, organisations and other stakeholders to use art as a medium to uplift streets and make them more pedestrian friendly.” They seem to have perfected the art of walking the talk. 

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The New Indian Express