To promote the teachings and philosophy of Guru Nanak through art, a group of voluntary artists have started a project called ‘Paint the Planet’ in connection with the Sikhism founder’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations, aiming to paint a hundred ‘peace villages’ across the globe in the next five years.
From a village in Punjab’s Sangrur to another in Serbia, work has already begun. Walls and other structures will be painted with symbols depicting Nanak’s philosophy of peace, oneness and universal acceptance. The local community is also being made a part of the process.
Barkat Singh, chairman (arts and culture) of the Chandigarh United Nations Association (CUNA), told The Indian Express, “The mission is to paint 100 peace villages in the next five years on the theme of Nanak’s teachings. The project was started ahead of his 550th birth anniversary. Art markets, exhibitions and community talks are being organised to promote local artists and their artworks based on Guru Nanak’s life and teachings.”
“The work to paint ‘Peace Villages’ has already started in Deh Kalan of Sangrur, Doom Cheri in Ropar and outside India we are reviving a sleepy, isolated village called Varvarin in Serbia, where symbols of Nanak’s teachings will be painted across the walls. We are also painting schools in Nashik of Maharashtra, Moga of Punjab and another 50 government schools will be painted in Fatehgarh Sahib in collaboration with an education volunteers group Sanjhi Sikhiya. The idea behind the ‘Paint the Planet’ project is to paint 100 peace villages in the spirit of oneness to celebrate and acknowledge teachings of first Sikh prophet Guru Nanak,” said Barkat, an artist himself.
“Our effort is also to unite and inspire villagers and help struggling communities. In a world still rampant with discrimination, inequality and division of all kinds, it is a duty to continue to spread the universal message of Guru Nanak through art. Apart from painting villages, we are also conducting a series of art exhibitions where teachings of Nanak will be seen by world in colourful stories re-imagined for present times,” he added.
Barkat said villagers too are involved in the process,which is has given them a “feeling of pride and motivation to invest more effort in their community”.
“We organize teams of artists, locals, organizers and fundraisers to choose and paint a series of large-scale images on walls of villages. To pay tribute to Nanak on his 550th birth anniversary, we are commemorating his life and teachings through artistic collaboration with these villages. Along with our artists, the children, elderly and everyone else in the village can also paint along and with that, there comes a sense of belonging and they feel connected to the artwork,” he added.
The larger vision is to “uplift impoverished communities by creating thought provoking art and engaging locals, promoting handicrafts of local craftsmen”.
Since the project has been started through crowdfunding, none of the artists are being paid as of now. “All of them are doing sewa to spread Nanak’s message via art. Funds are being used to buy paint, brushes and arrange travel, accommodation,” he said.
“Most importantly, we are not painting Nanak on the walls but the symbols related to his teachings so that people can connect with them in their daily lives. For example in Deh Kalan of Sangrur, we have painted a bus stop shelter with faces of people from different communities to give a message of peaceful co-existence. We are also planting saplings wherever we paint,” Barkat said.