Looking out for local art on travels is something that excites me more often than not. Every time I visit a place, I try and search up for its local arts & crafts and more details about it. When I planned my trip to Delhi last year, I was looking forward to witness the on-road canvases at the Lodhi Art District.
More than the historical monuments, street food, chaos & pollution, Delhi has this one thing to offer that absolutely left me speechless. Thanks to Start India, in 2016, Lodhi Colony emerged as India's first open air art museum. The facades of the public housing showcase some amazing and elaborate murals with each artwork carrying a concept behind it.
The larger than life paintings left me awestruck. Moreover, it was like one grand exhibition of various art forms from Indian Tribal Gond Art, Shekhawati Paintings, Typographic Art and some international elements. A lot of the art works also have been inspired from the local places & people and then there were some that spoke about global issues like environment, genders etc.
In addition to all of the above, there's one more reason you don't want to miss this place – it makes for one the best backgrounds to be pictured, take my word.
Here are some of my favorites :
1. How is Global Warming by Gaia.
This juxtaposed representation of the inflated and the deflated globes touches upon the most pressuring issue of today , Global Warming. This is one topic that people have elaborate discussions about but somehow, sufficient efforts for the same are never taken. It kind of scares me to think that the glass dome showcased by the artist is going to be our only escape & if we could never really experience what fresh air feels like, smells like after a certain period of time!
2. From your strength, I weave beauty by Shilo Shiv Suleman with The Fearless Collective
In the soft pink corridors, the elderly woman who's just walked out of the mist, the lines of struggle showing every inch of her pain stands on one side while a woman from the next generation pulls out all of the mist (pain) from her and transforms it into gold. This piece is truly empowering in a lot of ways. It kind of reminded me of the Japanese technique - Kintsukuroi (the golden mend). Also, I think I'm inspired to work around the thought that says 'From your strength, I weave beauty'.
3. Lavanya by Hendrik
Lavanya meaning Grace is a portrait of a local woman spotted by the artist. Even after all the hardships & struggles that a woman has to go through in her daily life, she maintains a certain grace about her at the end of the day. This woman here is an ordinary aged woman with too many lines on her face. Sure, her hair must not be in place. I don't think she has done her eyebrows either. And I can easily say that she is carrying more grace than what meets the eyes! Also, I like that it's done in the old school sketch medium.
4. Colours of the soul by Senkoe
I would love to add this in my list of favourites for the thought behind this art work. The artist wanted people from around the world to get together and talk about their daily lives, make friends with each other and share happiness just like the birds would. Time to set aside all our inhibitions, eh?! Something that we don't do much often these days, me included. I personally love talking too much but at the same time hate the hush-hush that is a part of this society. I have always thought that may be I'd like to be friends with my neighbors if they stopped poking nose in my business and having judgements about it. I can pull off an easy conversations with them then. But then my friend reminded of something that I am consciously putting efforts into these days & that is trying to change my perspective towards things. I think this artwork is a great encouragement for me to keep my practice of 'Charity begins at home'.
5. We love Delhi by Lek & Sowat with Hanif Kureshi
This is such an interesting collaboration where the french artists Lek & Sowat decided to use Sanskrit, rains & Holi as their inspiration. The colorful Sanskrit words were half erased with water once painted. And to this solid background, Hanif Kureshi has hand painted the typo - 'We Love Delhi' above it. Now c'mon, everybody's is going to relate to it.
The other day I read a question that asked 'What am I most proud of about my culture?' & the instant answer was the diversity. The diversity of the colors shown here speaks so much of INDIA for me. Kudos to Hanif to choose the Devanagari font to state an English statement. #DESISWAG
Pro TIP : Walk through the streets.
Other walls in pictures.
When I was walking down the streets I noticed that the neighborhood was really really quiet compared to the Indian standards. I thought it must be because it was drizzling that day but later I found out that even otherwise the locality is very quiet. How I would love to stay in such a neighborhood, I mean just imagine - exceptionally brilliant art murals all over, quiet lanes, no honking, clean streets. This allowed me to spend a lot of time without having a track of it and a better understanding of the consequences of having the city lanes painted all over.
There was some sense of respect that was developing for the artists who have volunteered to transform these lanes. It's not your regular canvas paintings that can be auctioned in the grand art galleries to make tons of money. Somebody has to think beyond the regular norms so that we make a better place for tomorrow and these artists took it upon themselves. Suddenly, the dull residential areas in the center of the capital, with their typical box-shaped, whitewashed government housing, have come to life.
These and many many more artworks are on display at India's first open air museum. Artists from & outside India have come together as a collective under the non profit organization - StArt India to make the locality a very interestingly habitable space.
This project is in association with Urban Development Ministry and an initiative like this is going to promote quality lifestyle, clean cities & street art in India. Delhi has set a very high benchmark for the rest of India to take an inspiration from. While it has surely made art accessible to everybody, the subjects chosen are going to break the invisible socio-economical & religious lines that generally divides the society.
Some murals in the city are also painted along with prison inmates giving them a platform to tell their stories, I read somewhere.
Lodhi Art Distrcit | General Tips
- Take a walk through the lanes. I say this again, and again.
- There's a good chance that you might not be able to catch up with all the murals in one go. But you can always come back and see the rest of them.
- If you want to take good pictures, get upstairs on the building opposite. Wide angle could help capture the walls better.
- A little bit of research can help you understand the details about the artworks.
- Try and interact with the locals if possible, some of them have helped paint these walls. And as mentioned above, it's a quiet neighborhood and we should respect that!
Lodhi Art District | Getting there
- Lodhi Art District is located in the Lodhi Colony between Meherchand market and Khanna Market. Nearest Metro Station is Jor Bagh or INA Market.
- You also have good number of auto rickshaws and buses going this route.
Note : Not all pictures belong to me. Since I was there on a rainy day, some walls couldn't be captured the way I would have liked to. Nevertheless, I have picked up the best pictures from the mentioned sources.
This article was originally posted here.
Read about my other trips here.