Drawing on history: Delhi’s heritage captured in black and white sketches

  • Zehra Kazmi, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Aug 06, 2016 10:33 IST
A sketch of the side view of the mosque in the Jamali Kamali tomb complex. Jamali is said to be a Sufi saint , while the identity of Kamali remains unknown. (Yajanekka)

Every corner you turn in Delhi brings you face to face with the city’s past, its ruins and monuments. While most of us just pass by, artist Yajanekka says these stones call out to her.

This connection to the city is reflected in ‘Shahr e Dilli’, a series of her sketches on display at the India Habitat Centre (IHC), which brings to life parts of these historical monuments. The mosque at Jamali Kamali, the steps of Rajaon ki Baoli, a dilapidated corner of the Qutub mosque, the arches at Purana Qila – each crack is traced lovingly, each crevice finds its way to the paper. “I don’t belong to Delhi, but the city always felt like home to me,” says Yajanekka. “I am a ‘Dilli passionate’, its
history, monuments and architecture
fascinate me.”

Read:Dilli 6: Sad state of wall and other monuments

A graduate of fine arts from Benaras Hindu University, Yajanekka recalls how they would sit for hours at famous landmarks or monuments, sketching people and places. Technology has made things a lot easier. She took photos of the monuments and then worked off the images.“When I go to a place, I don’t decide what I will sketch. The broken window decides it for me, a corner decides it for me,” she says. This is her second exhibition at IHC, the first was in 2013.

A wall amid the ruins of the Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque, that stands next to the Qutub Minar. It was the first mosque built in Delhi after the setting up of the Delhi Sultanate.

Made with glass marking pencil on paper, each sketch took her a few weeks. She worked for four to five hours every day, rendering each 1mm stroke on paper with painstaking care.

For the mother of two who works as a TV producer, the flurry of sketching was an important milestone in her recovery from a bout of sickness. In 2009, the artist suffered from meningitis and nerve palsy. She battled the sickness for the next three years. “There were eight months when I couldn’t see and I am a visual person,”
she recalls.

A view of the three levels at the Agrasen Ki Baoli. Located at Hailey Road, it was probably built in the 14th century (Yajanekka)

By 2011, she had recovered, but found herself in a “deep well of depression.” All through 2012, she immersed herself in sketching, which she found “therapeutic”.

“It helped in my healing process,” she says. “I didn’t use colour because at that time, I only saw life in black and white.”

Delhi proved to be the ideal muse. The city has risen like a phoenix from its ashes, which is how Yajanekka felt. “People ask me, why just Delhi? For me, it is just Delhi, the city is full of treasures.”

The Shisha Gumbad at the Lodhi garden, which houses a tomb.Most historians say the tomb belongs to Bahlul Lodhi, who was the sultan of the dynasty suring the Delhi Sultanate. (Yajanekka)

Yajanekka wants to get a like-minded band of citizens together to revive Old Delhi, its art and culture. Sketching takes a back seat, but still draws her like a demanding child, she says. “Every time I drive down from Vasant Kunj to Mahipalpur, I see these three broken, beautiful windows. One day I am going to stop the car and start sketching,” she says.

(Shahr-e-Dilli, a solo show of sketches on Delhi’s architectural ruins, is on at Delhi O Delhi, India Habitat Centre, from 10 am to 8 pm,till August 30)

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