KADAPA: A picture is worth a thousand words. Believing this, 25-year-old Gudipalli Somasekhar produced about 250 wall paintings in 16 days in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to encourage people to wear masks and practice physical distancing.
He used locals of the village in which he was painting as models for his artwork, and this helped spread the message faster. His efforts won him praise from Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju, and an award from the Hyderabad-based Viswaguru World Records.
A native of Vepulaparthi village in Brahmasamudram mandal of Anantapur district, Somasekhar joined Yogi Vemana University in 2016 to pursue a four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and completed the course this year. Over the past few years, he won awards for his work, and returned to his hometown when the university was shut due to the Covid-19 crisis.
“When I reached my village, I noticed there was a lack of awareness regarding Covid-19 safety norms, particularly the use of masks. I decided to raise awareness through art, and started painting images of people wearing masks in and around 100 villages in Anantapur district, and a few villages along the Highway in Karnataka,” he told TNIE.
Somasekhar first discussed his idea with the local sub inspector and village elders, and they agreed to help him. The police official told him to take all safety precautions and call him if he faced any problems.
Spending from his pocket, Somasekhar first painted on the walls images of locals wearing masks, and this garnered the attention of many. Later, residents of different villages donated money to support his campaign. He bought a second-hand motorcycle and visited 52 villages in Brahmasamudram, Gummagatta and Settur mandals of Anantapur district, and later went to 48 villages in Kudligi Taluk of Bellary district and Chitradurg district in Karnataka. He made these trips from April to July 12, and took breaks in between due to the Covid-19 outbreak. At each village he visited, Somasekhar sought permission from the police and village elders. In all, he visited 100 villages and drew 250 wall paintings in 16 days.
Besides the paintings, he wrote catchy slogans in Telugu in Andhra Pradesh and in Kannada in Karnataka. As people heard about his work, they began inviting him to their villages to paint and raise awareness. His efforts went viral on social media, and officials of the Hyderabad- based Viswaguru World Records collected information about him and presented him the Corona Warriors International Honour Award on July 17. The NGO Rural Development Trust (RDT) in Anantapur also recognised his work and displayed his paintings in Spain to raise awareness there.
Union Minister of State Kiren Rijiju praised him on social media. Yogi Vemana University vice-chancellor M Suryakalavathi, NSS programme coordination A Madhusudhan Reddy and his teachers heaped praises on him for his work to raise awareness about Covid-19 through art.