The Maachis Project is an ode to vintage Indian matchbox art, and to reinterpret it using graphic designs
On the left is a tattered matchbox. It’s a vintage find — featuring a bronze tap on the cover, against a black background. A strap of green plastered on top gives it a dull feel.
To the right is the same artwork, created in 2016. It’s funky — a neon pink tap has replaced the brown one. The background is deep purple. The poster also features ‘nalka’ (tap), written in Hindi. It’s an ode to the original matchbox cover, with a peppy twist.
It’s one of the many works by The Maachis Project, a social media initiative. It’s run by two 24-year-old Mumbai-based artists — Aakansha Kukreja, a graphic designer, and Aakash Doshi, a film-maker. The duo launched The Maachis Project on Facebook in 2014, and on Instagram in September. The project has gained 1,500 likes on Facebook and 180 followers on Instagram, in three weeks.
“The idea for the Maachis Project struck us in 2014, when we were in college [Kukreja and Doshi are students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru]. The intention was to remember Indian matchbox art for its bizarre content, and to reinterpret it using newer graphic designs,” says Kukreja.
Back to the beginning
As students of fine arts, the duo has always been observant of typography and quirky artwork. Naturally, the vintage art on matchboxes caught their eye. “What drew us to matchbox labels was that they use a random object, which still has significance in our everyday lives,” says Dhoshi.
That explains the tap — an object of daily use we can’t possibly imagine life without. Other matchboxes feature the Royal Enfield Bullet 500, an iconic motorcycle, and the lotus, India’s national flower.
The first matchbox, the duo transformed into a graphic poster, was that of freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad. “We acquired the matchbox from Chikmagalur, Karnataka. We felt the significance of him being the subject of a matchbox label spoke of the memories the revolutionary left behind,” says Kukreja.
The duo is also curating a matchbox collection through this project. Over the last year, they have collected 60 matchboxes that have inspired the 13 artworks that they have currently posted online.
The end game
Beyond social media viewership, the duo hopes to shed light on how original matchbox art in India has changed over the years. Doshi believes the variety of designs used has diminished, courtesy new-age printing methods. “The more recent labels reflect digital creation and printing techniques. A lot of them are photographs as well,” he says.
It is the matchbox collections of Shreya Katuri, a Delhi-based artist (who runs Art on a Box, an Instagram page that features her label collection), and Matt Lee, a professor who taught the duo at Shrishti, that continue to inspire Kukreja and Doshi to focus on vintage artwork.
However, they are unsure if they are ready to define this project as a conservation of vintage art. Their current goal is to get more people interested in the content — a new-age language the younger viewers are likely to relate to.