Move over Berlin, there’s a new cat on the street art scene that might just surprise you…
New Delhi’s street art might not have the reputation of London’s Brick Lane, or the in-your-face ubiquitousness of Berlin, but it’s growing slowly but surely, and arguably with a much more radical approach at its heart.
The rise and rise of the Indian capital’s burgeoning scene is largely down to the efforts of groups like St+art India who have been organising huge, often weeks long, urban-arts festivals, with the aim to bring arts culture to citizens who would otherwise find themselves excluded from it, since 2014. This year’s event was their biggest yet: a two-month extravaganza of installations, performances and interactive workshops, with a radical mission to “change the visual landscape of the city”.
It’s hard to imagine the municipal bodies in, say, London or New York, being so forward thinking as to allow such direct public access to the built environment. But in the more fluid city-scapes of the developing world – with rapid growth often displacing entire communities almost overnight – this kind of democratised approach to public spaces is being used to rebuild a sense of community out of dispossessed or transient populations.
In Rio de Janeiro, another city with a rapidly changing physical landscape, graffiti is actively encouraged by city officials, and has been for almost 20 years. The city’s famous 1999 project, “Não pixe, grafite” (“Don’t tag, graffiti”), aimed to discourage tagging (considered mindless vandalism and long-associated with drug gangs) and encourage street art in an attempt to build community pride in the otherwise neglected favelas.
The effect for Rio has been immense. The city’s street art scene is now internationally famous, and a graffiti-tourism industry has developed out of it in much the same way as in London’s Brick Lane. These tourist dollars offer a lifeline to the favelas’ youth, who could otherwise be drawn into gangs or drug-dealing: Graffiti-writing workshops have sprung up across the city where, as well as learning the techniques of graffiti and street art, they also get to experience art , culture, and language more broadly. Local artist and workshop facilitator, Anouk Piket, claimed that studying the typographic art form has helped many of his young students actually improve their literacy levels.
It seems like the lessons from Rio are being learned by St+art India and others in the developing world – and here’s hoping authorities in the UK and the developed world start waking up to them too. In the meantime, check out some of the amazing murals from the 2016 ‘St+art Festival’ below.