A life-sized image of a child peeps from the side of a building, as if hiding from someone. A few metres away, on the side of a three-storey building, there is a large mural of a grey cat playing with a ball of wool.
For the past fortnight, the sprawling urban village of Shahpur Jat has been transformed into a massive canvas where Indian and international artists and graffiti writers have been using acrylic wall paints, distempers, spray cans and stainers on empty walls and spaces. “I ran around for two days looking for the perfect spot,” says German street artist Tona, pointing to his mural of a boy playing hide-and-seek. “I wanted to show what children do when not in school. They like playing hide-and-seek and the mural is right beside a park,” he says. Tona has been part of the street art scene in Hamburg since the early 2000s and is among the 15-20 artists who are part of “St.ART Delhi”, the street art festival.
Though in 2012, there was a similar festival held at Khirki Extension, “the scale and capacity was much smaller,” says Hanif Kureshi, a Delhi-based graphic designer who has organised the festival, “When it comes to street art in India, we don’t have that culture. But there is a lot happening now and the whole scene needed a push.” Leading a team of 30-40 people, Kureshi has partnered with Max Mueller Bhavan, Italian Cultural Centre and Polish Cultural Institute. Some of the participating international street artists include Bond, Tona, Tofu, Tones, Alias, Sergio and Mattiah Lullini. None of them are charging a fee; they have been given raw materials such as paints, brushes, and scaffolds for their art works. The festival is the largest gathering of artists in the genre of street art in the city. While the organisers have got clearance from the Delhi Police and the MCD, the artists are on their own to search for walls to do their murals.
Perched upon a scaffolding on the roof of a two-storey building, artist Amitabh Kumar applies layers of distemper to his 20 ft x 40 ft wide mural of a cloud. “I still have 17 layers left,” says Kumar, as he steps down. “When people open their window they should see more than just somebody’s door or an empty wall. A cloud is never just a cloud, it allows us to see different things in it. The image is not formed by the artist, it is made by the viewer,” says Kumar, who exhibits at galleries and illustrates for the Delhi-based Pao Collective. A take on women’s empowerment, Brazilian street artist Sergio’s mural shows a woman in a pink sari holding a voodoo accessory in one hand and a nail continued…