I have never come back from any place so excited. An otherwise deserted place in a ‘blink and you miss it’ turn in Taratala Road is hosting the The Kolkata Festival. Under this banner, several activities are taking place across Kolkata and this is one of them. Using a locality as a canvas, using the local kids as chief ideators behind all the paintings and an accomplished team comes together.
We went there a day before the exhibition was about to start. One can hardly figure out what’s going on inside this almost century old Calcutta Port Trust colony, other than the lone girl and boy drawn on the wall at the entrance. Few steps ahead, one sees a building which has a sports graffiti in bright green colour. Up ahead is a right turn, where a paint cut out mimics at a famous dialogue from the cult film Sholay. As my fellow photographers and I moved around, we entered a large ground which was like a courtyard and temporarily converted into a workshop. There were painters involved in giving final touches, electricians moving around and carpentry work going on. The local association of youth called Jungle Crows founded by Paul Walsh comes together in this initiative.
The story behind Sunny De Wall at The Kolkata Festival
Its called Sunny De Wall (no, not Deol but De wall which means wall) – The creative director and eminent painter, Sumantra Mukherjee, introduced his team. It’s the penultimate day before the exhibiton and we were lucky enough to get out 7 minutes of his time. He was almost pulled from all the sides, involved in troubleshooting of lights, logistics and many more as it happens before any big show. This is a community art project which automatically includes the people around. There were worskhops being held and the kids around this place have also painted as per their free will. “We have used cyanotype painting”, said Sumatra. I didn’t know what’s cyanotype painting and he was kind enough to explain it to me. It’s one of the oldest forms of painting where potassium ferricyanide and Ferric ammonium citrate is mixed and spread over a cloth or paper and left to dry in darkness. Once the solution dries in darkness, it’s taken out and the object is placed on the surface (cloth in this case) under the sunlight. After 7 – 10 minutes, these clothes are washed off to get the particular shades of blue. Incidentally, Cyanotype was invented by Sir John Herschel in 1843. The local kids were made to lie down in different postures and we could see some interesting art forms being put up and as well as left to dry. As Sumantra goes on explaining – it’s lucid form of expression through painting by him and his entire team. The team is a collective of artists, painters, hip hoppers, rappers, self taught artists, documentary makers, to name a few. The stories are taken from the kids around and interpreted and expressed on the walls. There are installations which are a confluence between paintings on the wall as well as cardboard paintings.
Paul Walsh, Jungle Crows and The Kolkata festival
This could have been the place where there could have been buildings and might have been bombed during Second world War. Paul Walsh tells us, while we sipped into the tea offered by Jungle Crows. Walsh has been a British diplomat in Kolkata, who quit his promising career and fell in love and stayed back in Kolkata. He fell in love with Kolkata. He teaches Rugby to underprivileged children and has been involved with CPT for some 3 years now. He feels a unique connection between art and sports. Paul confirms, these are not permanent installations but it can keep on changing. Paul agreed with us that the buildings, are the most intriguing part of this once upon a time largest labour colony of Asia, for the then roaring port business. The structured and planned settlement is almost empty now and few people associated are the people from CISF. However, the large buildings adorn a deserted look and seems like a neighborhood which has undergone a holocaust. It’s a city within a city and a witness of changing times and industrial revolution too. He received the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) from the Prime Minister.
There is only one thing which is needed now. It is for people to come and visit this place for the next 7 days. It’s one of these initiatives in Kolkata which changes the face of the city. This is one experience of Kolkata which you won’t like to miss.
Initials of some of the artists