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Hiding behind graffiti

Kusum Kanojia, Nov 29, 2012, DHNS:

Unknown artist

He can be credited with making your walk in the City a bit interesting and engrossing with his colourful graffiti on empty walls. A young graffiti artist active in Delhi, Zine - the name he tags to his work, has been colouring the City walls since 2008 without revealing his identity.

From ordinary walls and dilapidated buildings to Budh International Circuit, Zine, from Mizoram, uses the medium merely for beaut­i­f­ication. The first wall he painted graffiti on was on Nelson Mandela Marg. Since then, many walls in South Delhi areas such as Malviya Nagar and Shivalik bear his mark of creativity. His latest non-commercial work is at the Panchsheel taxi-stand with his one man crew, Sam.

“I have been painting for the last four years in Delhi. Since I bought my first colour spray can in 2006, I have painted streets, slums and abandoned areas. I am out there to beautify public spaces,” shares Zine with Metrolife.


He informs that there are around 15 graffiti artists in Delhi who paint together every now and then without disclosing their identities.

Zine, who has taken up various graffiti commissioned works in festivals like the SunBurn in Goa; NH7 Weekender in Pune and HornBill in Nagaland, largely uses English in his graffiti but has started experimenting with Urdu and South Indian scripts also. “I use English, since in India it appeals to a broader audience. Not everyone can read or write in devnagri. Off late, I have started experimenting with other scripts too.”

What attracted Zine to graffiti is that it connects directly with aam janta. “Graffiti speaks to the crowd, to people on the streets and to everyone, since the artwork is right there and nobo­dy can miss it. Plus, it is raw and you do not have to get into art galleries to appreciate it.”

For different artists, graffiti serves different purposes. For him, it is a source of thrill and something which can make an empty space lively and colourful. “Graffiti in some form was always in me. When I was a kid, probably 11, I wrote my name (not Zine) on an electric pole with a pencil. I remember getting a thrill out of it and the thought that someone might see my name there. When I got older I found myself attracted to Rap music but later graffiti gravitated to me.”

Zine, who uses loud colours and expressions in his work, learnt basics of graffiti on the internet. Meeting and painting with his counterparts from Germany and France also helped him improve his skills. “Graffiti is different for each and every individual artist. It can be a way of pro­t­e­st or social satire or even an outlet for some frustrated souls. Everyday I get inspired by different things. It could be a song; a thirst to outdo myself or sometimes even fellow artists.”

He has had his share of run-in with authorities for ‘defacing’ walls. “I think it is a matter of explaining yourself as an artist and graffiti as an art form rather than fearing persecution because mostly what I do is not politically motivated,” he sums up

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