By Dharamveer Singh Chouhan
The relationship between travel and art is profoundly philosophical and perhaps even spiritual – A traveller who does not appreciate art will remain bereft of the beauty that the bylanes of an unexplored town offer, and an artist who does not explore will remain restricted in their vision. To truly become a means of self-exploration and expression, the two must go hand in hand. Here is an analysis of the intricate link between the two – how art can enrich travellers’ experience and how travelling holds an emancipatory potential for local artists.
The evolution of street art in India
Every adult today remembers crossing through busy street lanes with hand-painted posters of Bollywood movies adorning every accompanying wall or reading social messages painted in the brightest colours on the walls of railway stations. These are modern forms of street art. However, contrary to popular belief, this art form in India is perhaps as old as the country itself.
For thousands of years, local artists have showcased their talent on various crossroads, festive occasions or even the parapets of their cities. We live in a nation with a history of homemakers frequently decorating the walls of their houses with murals comprising primarily of flowers, animals or stick figures. In addition to being a valuable art form, these paintings are important historical artefacts as they reflected the various aspects of the predominant culture at that time. One cannot peek into the soul of any city without being open to and witnessing the stories these street artists have to tell through their art form.
How can murals hope to bring art and the public together?
Murals are an integral part of the cultural life of communities. They reflect the artists’ aspirations and the ritualistic practices characterising the culture.
Additionally, they beautify the city spaces and are a reflection of home for many. Travellers can get glimpses of what the values the place holds dear by carefully analysing the murals on the town’s walls. In many ways, they represent the beautiful union between an artist’s vision and the people living in the city.
Most of these murals showcase stories of love, passion and, in some cases, revolution.
They bring colour to forlorn afternoons, hope amid helplessness and carry the message of togetherness when the shards of the divide are at their height. These murals have the potential to brighten up ruins and create art in rumbles, thus reflecting the message that “all is never lost”.
Therefore, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that a traveller’s journey cannot be complete in the true sense without traversing through the city’s murals.
Travel and culture go hand-in-hand
In recognition of the tight-knit relationship between travel, culture and art, Zostel has championed the cause of providing a platform for local artists and helping travellers get in touch with the artistic and musical side of the city. The emphasis is on contributing towards reviving old and dying art forms in India while simultaneously helping travellers experience the place’s cultural heritage.
How do travel and art come together?
As is evident, travelling is, at best superficial, if one does not attempt to access the vibrant art forms of the city. For example, a trip to Manali or Pushkar is complete with witnessing the talent of macrame artists as they knot together strands of culture to create intricate wall hangings and showpieces.
In order to experience the vibrant festivals and fairs in Mysore, you can visit this stunning city during Ugadi or Dasara that happens every year in Mysore. One can witness the legacy of culture and traditions in these festivals; where individuals participate with total devotion and faith.
Not just that you can enjoy the dance which is characterised by elaborate masks (somas) painted in a variety of colours, with each mask’s colour indicating the god’s nature. A benevolent deity is represented by a red mask, while a yellow or black mask suggests the opposite. A trip to Maharashtra can go beyond traffic and cliches if one has the palette to appreciate the nuances of Paithani sarees and Warli paintings.
Every city has its own art form, and true travellers cannot conclude their journey without getting lost in these offerings. The untold tale of cities is captured in music, pottery, painting, weaving and poetry, waiting for the appreciative witness. Zostel aspires to be the link between these stories and their listeners by bringing local artists into the spotlight.
The author is Co-Founder & CEO of Zostel.
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