Modern life in a metro, with its constant rush and inevitable routine, can have its moments of dullness and despair. The black, white and grey hues of the concrete that surround most city-dwellers, does little to uplift this mood. Perhaps that’s why the recent revival of public art and murals is turning more than just a few heads. While a splash of colour to brighten up your Monday blues is a welcome treat, public art has the potential to be far more powerful – and a tool for breaking and initiating conversations around social taboos that have existed in society for far too.
To further this point, St+Art India and the Aravani Art Project have collaborated on a project and have just finished painting a mural in Sonagachi; Kolkata – the biggest red light district in Asia. The Aravani Art Project - an artistic collective that creates spaces for people from the transgender community through public art interventions - gave life to this vibrant mural which blends a lifelike portrait with colourful, local patterns. The portrait, painted on the building of a clinic providing healthcare to the sex workers of the area, represents the many faces of these workers including those of the transgender community, some of whom also participated in the realisation of the artwork.
With their labour of love in the city of joy, this is another in a long stream of projects by Aravani in cities like Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore where they endeavour to put forward a message of empowerment for the sex workers – and are pushing for them to be respected for the work they do. Moreover the aesthetic gender fluidity of the mural was a way to acknowledge the trans community, which faces discrimination even within the sex workers community. Amongst Kolkata’s many murals , the one in Sonagachi, is unique in that it celebrates the diversity of its people and the dignity due to them.
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