Getting Colour to the Gloom

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Buoyed by “beautification” drive, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) is presently applying brush of art on city walls to make feel a change. But will the colourful murals help people faint the shades of grey they lived for many decades now, reports Durdana Bhat

Murals on painting. Pic by Durdana Bhat

Murals on painting. Pics by Durdana Bhat

A piece of artwork painted directly onto the wall of the concrete structure at the busy Hyderpora flyover, depicts old Kashmiri tradition and village life. For the last many days, passers-by stop a bit and sniff the shift that brushes of the young are brooming away from the shady shelter.

The painting of these murals onto the walls is the idea of Tufail Mattoo, now the city father as head of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). By beautifying the city walls with paintings, they are keen to keep old Kashmiri tradition alive.

“These paintings portray traditional Kashmir,” said Marasat, SMC PRO. “It is a big project involving painting murals all over the city.” And we are in the process, she said, of identifying spots where we can do more work.

Kashmir’s well known artist Masood Hussain sits over the judgment of which mural suits which spot, SMC people say.

“We are just trying to beautify the road and the theme is Kashmir- culture and heritage. We will try to modify the barren space around the city and space it up with something that will not cost much,” Masood Hussain said on phone from Mumbai.

Our main focus, he said, is on the airport road. “And also,” he said, “we are not only painting walls but in this project we are going to beautify the river banks in and around downtown.” Airport road was apparently chosen because everybody flying in and out has to cross this spot.

It is not the first attempt that SMC and Masood are together working on “beautification” of Srinagar city. Earlier they came up with a few fountains in city. Though the fountains work during summers, the concrete monsters enclosing them got their bit of criticism.

Students painting murals.

Students painting murals.

For the mural project, Masood has hired students from Srinagar’s Institute of Music and Fine Arts. They are a group of seven students, both boys as well as girls, painting these murals on the walls NHAI-owned Hyderpora flyover walls.

“We are currently painting the second wall. It took us six days to paint the first wall. The people who come across ask us about the work we are doing. And they find it exciting,” said Saqib Bhat, a music and fine arts student.

As the painting on wall continued to turn heads around, many said the landscape housing the canvas should be clean and visitor friendly. “It is quite ironic,” said one passerby, “brushing out such a beautiful piece of art at shabby place like this is self-explanatory to the claims of city beautification drive.”

But then not everyone on the spot was sarcastic. Most of the people did appreciate what they were seeing, first time in Kashmir. “It is a good initiative,” said Salman Raza, a college student, “but shall I tell you something: this idea has been imported from places like Northern Ireland where art is political and cultural statement.” There are spots where people come, paint murals and graffiti’s to react to the situation they live within and outside their boundaries.

At the same time, however, the initiative has given the art students a chance to showcase themselves. They would enroll, study, sit in examinations, get the certificate and vanish in the oblivion. This effort could help people come out of the art-blindness and get them closer to the “elite” who “talk art and walk art”.

Many see it as an attempt to cash in on graffiti—that is gradually getting popular in the old city. “It might be an honest effort from SMC, but then underlying message can’t be denied,” Raza continued.

Efforts, however, take a longer duration to lead to a change. This wall housing the colourful mural has the other side too. On the rear of the same wall, a graffiti still exists: “Music can’t hide war crisis. Go Zubin, go back!”

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