Street art need not always be associated with social messages and contemporary art. That, it may also help in the revival of traditional art forms is what I realised on my recent trip to Hyderabad. Come with me as I discover the bohemian side of this Deccan capital.
A city of contrasting shades
While the 427-year-old Hyderabad is a rhapsody of Nizam vintage, divine flavours, mazy lanes, mixed bygones and a syncretic blend of varied beliefs and faiths, its 200-year-old twin city, Secunderabad, is relatively modern with a colonial past and has the unmissable shades of the erstwhile British cantonment. However, the street art across the twin cities is interestingly antithetical of their respective historical past.
Old-timers of Hyderabad are sure to agree that the ‘City of Pearls’ has grown beyond the Charminar, Golconda and the Cyber City. And, the induction of the metro is changing the landscape as well as the diaspora of the twin cities like never before. In such a scenario of constant development, there is more concrete than greenery. Yet, amidst this fast-paced urban space, vibrant street art jostles to carve its identity across the twin cities.
Interestingly, the concrete milieu has re-kindled the creative juices of the Hyderabadis and ensued heightened display of both contemporary and ancient art forms across the twin cities in the form of street art. The best thing about street art in the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad is that it not just reflects abstract modern art on public canvas but embeds with ease the elements of traditional art forms too.
Cheriyal finds a bigger canvas
The pillars that bear the burden of the metro tracks across Secunderabad have been sensibly adorned with traditional art. Street art in this part of the state capital is in contrast to the street art that beautifies the other side of the old city. The metro pillars in and around Sangeet Theatre and St Ann’s School near Marredpally have been embellished with Cheriyal paintings.
Cheriyal paintings are ancient miniature scroll paintings originating from a place named Cheriyal near Hyderabad and are endowed with a GI tag. Cheriyal paintings are often compared with the Patachitra of Odisha and Bengal. However, these paintings have their own ethos with themes being earthy and not mystical. They are rooted in everyday traditions, happenings and in the beauty of the presumably ‘unfanciful professions’ in the minds of the modern world!
For example, one of the popular Cheriyal painting depicts an art form called ‘Haridasu’, which is an outcome of the Bhakti movement in India. Usually, these artists dress in a unique colourful attire with an akshaya patra (a vessel for collection of grains/cereals) on the head, a tambura and chidatalu (cymbals), and sing praises to god and walk along various streets.
They do not voluntarily seek alms from each home, instead, people themselves come out on hearing the songs, during the festive season of Sankranti. This beautiful tradition was on the decline in the last decade but it is seeing a revival in the last couple of years, thanks to today’s youth. These art forms should not be just considered as a mere symbol of our culture and tradition but should be preserved and protected to pass onto the next generation. Else, we would be just celebrating every festival with a cupcake and a WhatsApp message!
Another painting termed ‘Govula Kapari’ was a treat when I discovered it. I stopped to stare at every expression depicted in the exquisite strokes of the brush — the mutual love of the cowherd and cows that have been beautifully manifested on this metro pillar. There are no celestial beings involved in this pastoral painting and yet it looks divine!
I was excited to see the miniature scroll painting getting a bigger canvas through the street art in Secunderabad which in a way debunks the notion associated with street art.
Varied hues of the IT city
Cheriyal paintings on a bigger canvas are just another facet of this IT capital. The modern spaces of Hyderabad have widely been adorned with graffiti as well as contemporary art that also at some places depict the lifestyle of the Telugu people.
There is street art with strong social messages that have semiotic meanings around the prevailing societal mindset that ought to change. These adorn the Necklace road walls with varied hues and mimesis. I particularly loved the one with a Super-woman who resonates and reflects every woman in this world, irrespective of her race, class and religion — as a Super-Woman without a cape!
Street art in any city is transitory, changing with the times and moods of the public. While the fruitfulness and beauty of street art lie in the freedom to perceive, it ultimately flourishes in the endless imagination of the perceiver.
(The writer is a travel and lifestyle blogger at polkajunction.com)