Art to rescue Delhi`s walls, flower marts

New Delhi: Two new community-based art projects are breathing life into the dead walls of the capital and save three of its oldest flower markets as Delhi races to deck up for the Commonwealth Games in October.

Smeared with betel stains, chipped plasterwork, fading graffiti, shreds of old posters and an array of human waste, the walls of the capital have been fighting the onslaught of human contempt for years.

"No one cares for the walls of the capital. Citizens fail to realise that the walls are the most accessible and free canvases to creatively express oneself through art, give the capital a colourful makeover and at the same time ensure that the concrete spaces remain physically protected," designer Kanika Seth, founder of the Delhi Wall Project, a public art project and urban landscaping campaign modelled on the Mumbai Wall Project, said.

Conceived two months ago by six young designers and artists, the project has reached out to the common people engaging them in wall art in pockets across the capital.

"The Wall Project has 600 members on Facebook. The idea behind the project is to make art more accessible, proactive, easily identifiable and functional. We hope to sustain it for a year," designer Inahita Singh, another founder-member of the project, told IANS.

Last Sunday, the Wall Project joined ranks with another ongoing project, the Genda Phool (Marigold) Project, to paint the walls of the Ladosarai village - dotted with boutique art galleries and furniture houses - in hues of marigold and themes woven around the flower that grows in abundance in India.

More than 50 residents of Ladosarai braved the lashing rain to clean stained expanses of walls in the dingy neighbourhood. They used the clean swathes to draw marigold bouquets, gardens full of bright yellow flowers and flower fights in oil paints, acrylic and wall pigments. Red Earth, a eco-conservation forum, has conceived and curated the marigold project.

"We started the Genda Phool in March on Holi to celebrate the glory of the marigold blossom through art, nursery walks and plantation projects. One of the objectives is to raise opinion against the relocation of the capital`s three oldest flower markets at Mehrauli, Connaught Place and Khari Baoli.

"A move is afoot to relocate them to Ghazipur on the outskirts of the capital," Himanshu Verma of Red Earth, project founder, said. "We might mount a legal campaign later to stave off the relocation."

Verma, a designer and curator by profession, has brought the project under the umbrella of the Red Earth Annual Monsoon Festival that began Aug 12 for greater impact.

"The project and the festival will culminate into an art exhibition at gallery Latitude 28 in Ladosarai themed on marigold Sep 2 to celebrate the birthday of Lord Krishna on Janmashtami," Verma said.

The exhibition will be accompanied by several events centred on the flower in venues across the capital. Verma and his group of six volunteers dress in shades of saffron, yellow and burgundy to represent the spirit of the marigold.

The leitmotif of their campaign is an eco-friendly "genda" art cart - a designer push

cart that hawks marigold merchandise, accessories, clothes, floral extracts, genda art, dry flowers and seeds.

"Marigold is the most popular floral variety sold in Delhi`s flower markets," Verma said. He said the project aims to accomplish the bulk of its objective before Oct 3, the day the Games begin.

The historic Khari Baoli and Mehrauli markets dating back to more than a century ago are essentially marigold and rose marts. They source flowers from the length and breadth of the country for commercial and domestic use.

Nearly 52 varieties of marigolds are grown in India. A rough estimate says marigold in India is cultivated on more than 65,000 hectares of land.


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