Art on Homeless Shelters: Making the Invisible Visible

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New Delhi:  A 24-year-old artist’s mural outside a temporary shelter in North Delhi is giving visibility to the concentration of the largest of homeless people in the city.

“There are all kinds of people here, from daily wage labour to others. They don’t have any way to entertain themselves. My art work expresses love from the outside. There are people who come to stay here from different places. It’s a place of meeting people so that’s why I drew a heart here,” said the artist Ashwini.

Ashwini’s  piece of art which he says is “an expression of love for the people who live in the shelter” is a part of the Street Art Festival which as returned to the capital with its third edition. A newly built complex by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) near the shelter is also providing services to the homeless.

Amar Nath, CEO of DUSIB  said, “A homeless person is dejected and not in the best of spirits. When the ambience is good, our intervention is more effective. We continuously make efforts to improve the surroundings.”

Throughout February and March, street artists from India and around the world are creating iconic landmarks.  In the festival’s first edition, a large mural of Mahatma Gandhi was created for the Delhi police headquarters. This year varied parts of the city are being covered.

A mural of Rani Lakshmibai, a statement on the strength of a woman, has been made by Japanese street artist Lady Aiko near the Meher Chand Market in South Delhi.

Samina, a street artist from Lisbon, said, “The thing I like the most is to paint where everyone can see. We give something to the street, to the neighbourhood. Lots of people are going to see it and are going to talk about it.  Most of the people don’t go to galleries and museums. This is free art and it is for everyone.”

The street art is creating awareness of public spaces. A mural is coming up near a wall used as a urinal in Connaught Place and hopefully by bringing colour to the drab surroundings, the wall will no longer be used as a urinal.

“It is great to see Delhi changing,” says a Delhi resident Vikas Chaddha, adding that the important thing for the people is keep it clean and maintain it”.

The festival is giving recognition to art with a purpose – and for the artist, it is a deeply satisfying experience.

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