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tClockwise From Left: Quintessential India,

tClockwise From Left: Quintessential India,

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Published by: api-25886439 on Oct 29, 2009
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A couple o spray cans and a streak o madness can go a long way. Follow the journey o grati across India.
 Text Simar Preet KaurPhotographs Parikshit Rao
ou can see it splashed on a massive wall in one of the world’s highest markets, in the medieval-lookingLeh Bazaar, set in the barren mountains of Ladakh.
Ubiquitous prayer ags, shops selling traditional Ladakhi
boots, Kashmiri vendors barbecuing mutton kebabs, and
lo and behold, European-style grafti in bright shades of 
yellow basking in simple anonymity. How do you explain it?
In a country that has one of the oldest arttraditions dating back to the frescoes of the Ajanta Caves, it was only a matter of time until this modern art form made itsway into our country. Call it Aerosol Art
if you want, but the story of grafti is a
complex and colourful one.
Kilroy was here
Grafti seems to have begun in 1943, when the famous phrase ‘Kilroy Was Here’ rstmade its appearance in the USA. In the 1970s, the young NYC writers took to the city’s
outdoors and soon, entire masterpieces were running across the subway system. Most
experts regard it to be the inception of ‘modern grafti’. Movies such as
Wild Style
 Style Wars
, which showcased hip-hop culture in association with grafti, introduced the
world to the possibility of streets dabbed with bright dashes of colour. Political stencils,
July 200937
July 200936
Clockwise rom let: Quintessential India,as portrayed inside a tunnel at BandraReclamation; Peek-a-boo in Mumbai’scoolest suburb; Grafti artists involved inThe Wall Project leave their mark on anancestral wall in Bandra village.
June 200923
July 200938
self-indulgent tags, ’80s-style
scrawling, sponsored commercial art– the streets of the world capitalstoday are abuzz with psychedelic artspawned by mixed intentions.Closer home, the only form of 
grafti we previously chanced
upon included incomprehensiblescribbling outside public loos,or at best, downright uproariousmessages on trains that broughtto mind images of Katrina Kaif look-alikes awaiting phone callsfrom daily commuters. Then thereis the vandal advertising for beanbags in Mumbai, not to forgetthe rare smattering of restaurants
with grafti-covered walls, suchas Ghetto in Mahalaxmi. Grafti
though is not a mere indoorsindulgence; we’re talking about artthat is more of a subculture.
What began as a little message
on the wall, today involves morecreativity, spontaneity, a youngerfeel and a lot more adventure. Awriter rides on adrenaline, strivingto be original and earn appreciationfrom other writers for his work andthe risk undertaken. There are writers
who can do wild style grafti in 15
minutes, but usually a mural, dependingupon the size of the wall and safetyof the spot, takes several hours. Anelaborate mural on a large wall can takeup to a month.
Introducing grati
Popular perception says grafti isrestricted to the progressive Western
metropolises. However, there are plenty
of walls in far-ung locales around India
that are living art exhibitions (unknownones at that) created by namelesswanderers. During my several years of vagabonding I came across enough wall
art for India to look New York squarely
in the eye and say, “This is how it’sdone mate; a heady cocktail of the
art of the West on the antique walls
of the East.”A walk down the ghats
of Varanasi willreveal many artworks on the ancientwalls, from a reclining Shiva and worldpeace messages to quirky Frenchcatchphrases. Eco-awareness across
Above: Varanasi’s travellers have letbehind a legacy o grafti inused withHindu sensibilities.Let: A portion o a painted house onBazaar Road, in Bandra.

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