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Art with an urban soul

Painters from India and abroad are putting pigeons and rag pickers on the canvas to depict India's urban inequality.

art and culture Updated: Nov 16, 2007 13:55 IST

Artists from India and abroad are here to use their paintbrushes to raise awareness about rising inequality in urban India, and at least one is driving home the point by comparing pigeons and rag pickers.

Stephan Prakash Eicher, one of the artists from Creative Conscience, has done a painting called "Finding a Foothold", drawing a contrast between the pigeons and the mass of young rag pickers who are a common sight in all towns.

He says that pigeons come to cities in search of food and do get a foothold. Rag pickers too migrate to cities in search of food but find they are less privileged that the birds.<b1>

"People of cities give food to pigeons, but they like to drive away rag pickers, who deserve respect as fellow human beings," Eicher told IANS.

Eicher is one of the artists who have come together in a workshop, "Disparity - Exploring Urban Growth and Urban Poverty", which began Monday and will conclude Friday.

Eicher asks several questions: "Do our cities only belong to the rich? Must development displace the poor? Can we develop our cities while still respecting and including the aspirations of the poor?"

Creative Conscience has been holding workshops and exhibitions on social themes since 2004.

Eicher said: "Delhi is trying to become a 'world class city'. In the process it is enacting laws that ban the shops of the poor and lower middle class in residential areas while granting land to build malls for the rich.

"In the name of 'beautification', our government makes laws to remove hawkers from the streets and has been on a slum-demolition drive to displace the poor to the city's edges where they find neither work nor the plots they are promised.

"Can't we 'modernise' our cities while still caring for and including the aspirations of the weakest?" he asked.

Starting with only five members, Creative Conscience has grown to 18 artists.The artists include Yasutaka Okuno from Japan, Janis Lindley from the US, Ilaisa Latu from Tonga Island, Rosier from Brazil, Shakuntala Patade from Pune, Susheila Williams and Daisy Collins from Mumbai, Pooja Gandhi, Tabassum and John K. John from New Delhi and Kim from Manipur.