Confluence of art and activism comes in handy to raise awareness

On a regular visit to the Lodhi Gardens in the past few months, if you have been pleasantly surprised to see bright paintings on dustbins, thank Flavour of Art for this. This unique group of Delhi College of Art alumni, along with some other artists in the city, has beautifully combined art with activism to spread awareness on various issues of social concern.

Making dustbins look pretty and usable, and keeping public parks clean, is only one
of them. They have made art their all-powerful weapon in several other
social campaigns.

Rajiv Kakria, founder-member of FOA, says, “It all started with four of my classmates from Delhi College of Art and I meeting at an alumni gathering. We fondly remembered how we used to go for live sketching sessions during college, travelling to Qutub Minar, the Aravalli hills, Okhla sanctuary, New Delhi railway station etc and just sketch whatever we see.”

“We were complaining how art students these days veer off into animation, photography etc but are losing touch with the pen, when we realised that we could still revive this bond.”

Thus began FOA and its free and open to all ‘Sunday sketching sessions’. What started as a hobby group including only a handful of family and friends soon grew to a large and unique creative endeavour accommodating professionals from all walks of life, homemakers and toddlers. Everyone wanted to go to a serene natural setting and make a painting.

“Our first foray into activism,” recalls Kakria, “was the India Against Corruption movement. All of us went to Jantar Mantar and painted scenes from the agitation. Then we got drawn into it even more and painted a banner for them.” Soon enough, when the Municipal Corporation elections arrived, FOA prepared posters for them.

Next, when it was time for the Delhi Assembly Elections, the State Election Commission themselves invited them to paint banners calling out to residents to vote. “When the voting percentage went up from 52 to a record 68 in that election, the then Delhi Election Commissioner Rakesh Mehta himself felicitated us at a function,” Kakria proudly informs.

Since then, the group has spread its wings further. They were the hands behind the gigantic paintings which adorned public walls during the anti-rape agitation following the December 16. Of late, they have been associated with the ‘Reclaim playgrounds for children movement. They also hold a number of workshops to train the young and old in painting.

Kakria says, “A painting made well stays in the mind for a lifetime. It is an extremely potent medium. We should exploit it to the fullest possible.”    

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