Graffiti, street art, cartooning pack visual punch

DH Photo by S K Dinesh

Narratives on graffiti, cartooning and art's role in transforming public spaces sparked a visual twist to the Bangalore Litfest on Saturday.

Rouble Nagi articulated this creative dimension, tracing how her initiative, Misaal Mumbai transformed the Jaffer Baba slum in Bandra. “By painting the walls of the slum houses in bright colours, our artists creatively engaged with the dwellers there,” she recalled.

But the initial connect was not easy. “We went beyond art, talking about sanitation, need to send their children to schools. Eventually, we helped the talented women there get skill development courses so that they could both work and learn from home.”

Read more: Lit fest opens, sparks fly at some sessions

For Bengaluru-based graphic novelist and artist Appuppen, painting in a public space like the Majestic Metro Station was about evolving a distinct style, a language that was the city's own. “I wanted to get our own distinct language of street art. We have our own tradition of interesting typography,” he said.

In 2012, as part of a creative project in Malleswaram, Appuppen had worked with European artists. “But when they painted in the flower market, their works could not stand out. The flower space itself was colourful.”

Beyond individual styles, the political cartoonists on the Litfest dais had another pressing matter to talk about: Cartooning in trying times. For political cartoonist Ravishankar, the occasion was apt to recall how Abu Abraham, 'one of India's finest cartoonists' as he put it, stood up to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency period.

Abraham was a celebrated artist, “the only political cartoonist to earn a Rajya Sabha seat”. But that did not stop him from sketching that famous bathtub scene, where the then president was on a signing spree on the dotted line. “Will there be anything else to sign?” was his question to Gandhi's outstretched hands.

Moderating the session, columnist Bachi Karkaria remarked: “Being too close to the establishment sounds the death knell of the political cartoonist.” Cartoonist Ponnappa knew it too well to remain a freelancer throughout.

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