Graffiti artists take war against Games to walls | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Graffiti artists take war against Games to walls

A heady mix of social awareness groups, anti-establishment urban art aficionados, ex-pat neo-radicals and revolutionary student groups are taking the city's nascent graffiti movement beyond freestyle frescoes in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games.

delhi Updated: Aug 08, 2010 23:46 IST
Jatin Anand

A heady mix of social awareness groups, anti-establishment urban art aficionados, ex-pat neo-radicals and revolutionary student groups are taking the city's nascent graffiti movement beyond freestyle frescoes in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games.

The city's landscape is their canvas as these groups—united by their discontent at the corruption, massive delays and the general ‘ugliness' of Games preparations—spray-paint cryptic one-liners and statements questioning the event's relevance.

"This year is the highlight as far as the movement in the whole country is concerned with anti-CWG graffiti coming-up in Delhi. There are around 300 such pieces of art at various locations ranging from south Delhi flyovers to affluent central Delhi neighbourhoods and even on road signages," said a promoter of the underground graffiti movement who wishes to be identified only as M.

Those behind some of the anti-games graffiti that has cropped-up dangerously close to the stadia — including the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, say their objective is to expose the government's "anti-poor agenda" veiled in patriotism.

"Slum-dwellers are being evicted left, right and centre to create broader roads on which the athletes can be ferried. Tens of people die during slum-fires and here we have palatial apartments coming up in the Games Village. I, as a Delhiite, was angry and chose stencil graffiti to spread awareness about this injustice," says a DU north campus student who does not wish to be identified.

She said she was part of a students' group and social awareness outfits behind the anti-Games graffiti that aims to expose the Games ‘for the sham they really are'.

"The government doesn't have enough money to feed its people — but there's enough to rent useless provisions for crores of rupees in the name of the Games. Innumerable labourers have died in the inhuman conditions they work in by the private contractors who make all the money. Our aim is to expose all this, to tell the people of the city that it is high time that they stood up for what's right instead of turning away their heads for a change," said a south campus graffiti artist.

"The articulation of dissent in this way can only be perceived as a form of cultural guerrilla warfare in a swiftly shrinking urban space," said Dunu Roy, director of the Hazard Centre, a Delhi-based NGO.

"The city is in a state of flux. The sharp polarisation that is taking place due to the inaccessibility of public organisations means that dissent can only be expressed in this way," Roy added.

According to non-participating connoisseurs, graffiti 'stencilism' and the 'sticker culture' of the urban art form is going to take over the city by the end of 2011, one wall at a time.

"Such movements don't just make it big overnight. It takes talent and vision that these kids are not yet exposed to. I would say that Delhi is way behind in this movement compared to Mumbai and its massive 30-metre graffiti spreads. But things are changing," added DJ MoCity, a hip-hop DJ who stays and plays in the capital.