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An art project explores the association between colours and violence

256 Million Colours of Violence is an ongoing project that asks participants to choose a colour that denotes violence.

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Mar 24, 2017 15:42 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
256 Million Colours of Violence,HT48Hours,Ali Akbar Mehta
256 Million Colours of Violence is an ongoing project that asks participants to choose a colour that denotes violence (Photos courtesy: Harkat Studios)

In September 2008, a bomb blast rocked the predominantly Muslim town of Malegaon, in the Nashik district of Maharashtra. The police went on to arrest members of a Hindu terrorist cell in connection with the blasts. In 2010, former home minister P Chidambaram warned Indians to be vigilant of ‘saffron terror’. He was criticised for this comment by his own party — the Congress. General secretary Janardan Dwivedi retorted with the statement: “Terrorism does not have any colour other than black...”

This verbal duel inspired multimedia artist Ali Akbar Mehta (33), an alumnus of Sir JJ School of Art, Fort, and grandson of artist Tyeb Mehta, to think about the association of terror and colour. In 2016, he started 256 Million Colours of Violence, an ongoing interactive project that asks participants to choose a colour that denotes violence.

Mehta has posted a survey on various platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on his website ( where he urges people to think of different kinds of violence, be it verbal, physical or emotional. Around 190 people, from different walks of life, and various corners of the world, have taken part in this survey so far. And among the colours that have been chosen, reds, blacks and whites are dominant.

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Artist Ali Akbar Mehta with the exhibit (Photos courtesy: Harkat Studios)

Based on the responses, Mehta compiles 6x4-inch colour cards listing the name of the person, and the colour code chosen by the participant. Subsequently, he publishes the stories behind each colour on Facebook.

Mehta, currently studying visual culture in contemporary art in Helsinski, Finland, first exhibited the project there in December 2016. This weekend, he is bringing 256 Million Colours of Violence to Mumbai. Apart from the exhibit, the event will also feature film screenings.

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“Interestingly, while a particular colour is often selected, the shades chosen by each participant are varied. It makes one realise that it is futile to generalise and that each one’s sense of colour is different from the other,” he says.

The title of the project is inspired by the 256 million colour options available on Photoshop. “I wanted to map colours, to show how there is no particular colour associated with violence. The choice of colour is a subconscious choice, unique to each individual, based on their experiences in life,” says Mehta. Mehta, who envisages the project as a travelling one, now plans to take it to schools, colleges and offices across the world

Be there: 256 Million Colours of Violence is on from March 25 to 28, 10am onwards (film screening); 6pm onward (for project preview)
Where: Harkat Studios, Aram Nagar II, Andheri (W)

First Published: Mar 24, 2017 00:00 IST