In Bengal, street graffiti mostly have a political undertone. On pristine whitewashed walls, party symbols appear overnight, and most Kolkata dwellers know better than to paint their homes’ boundary walls with a fresh coat before the elections. Although, now and then, elaborate artworks also show up on the walls lining some non-descript lanes or the streets leading up to a metro station, but that’s not a very common sight in a city like Kolkata, where heated political debates happen at every street corner, and one can overhear philosophical discussions even at a grocery store, art although integral, is not always the primary focus.
This Independence day, however, an attempt is being made to make such art less sporadic on Kolkata’s streets. An art campaign called ‘Colours of Kolkata’ has been recently launched to highlight the diverse ethos of the city. The West Bengal Transport Corporation has started this art initiative to celebrate Kolkata and its famous people. Therefore, the central locations for the new artsy graffiti are WBTC depot walls.
Talking about the initiative, MD of WBTC Rajanvir Singh Kapur said, “Many times, people spit and deface our depot walls. It doesn’t look good. This would add an artsy touch to the art capital of India and also maybe discourage people from spoiling the walls."
“We are just starting out, but in future, we plan to invite eminent artists of Kolkata to help create such public art at prominent locations to make the city of joy even more beautiful," Kapur added.
The Colours of Kolkata campaign starts from Park Circus and will cover most of the depots’ walls until Durga Puja. New arts are expected to appear at Tollygunge, opposite Tolly Club and Gariahat, near Ballygunge Phari.
Graffiti will also be painted around the Tram World, which was launched in December 2020, commemorating the 140th anniversary of the foundation of Calcutta Tramways Company in London and is one of a kind tram Museum in the world.
The first two artworks which have been curated under this initiative by WBTC has been made city-based artist, Mudar Patherya.
“The objective of #coloursofkolkata is to utilise the public walls of the city to send out a special message - that Kolkata is artistically and aesthetically one of the most vibrant cities of the country. I am thankful to WBTC for giving me this opportunity, and the movement is intended to attract a variety of artists to help put the city’s best face forward," said Patherya.
Since this year marks the 100th birth anniversary of Satyajit Ray and the 160th of Rabindranath Tagore, the campaign has begun with graffiti of these two stalwarts at Park Circus and on the wall of a WBTC Tram Depot.
Once completed overall depot walls, this would be one of a kind initiative anywhere in an Indian city. Kolkata is known as the art capital of India, and this initiative will ensure that it has enough art around the city to deserve that name.