Sunday, July 21, 2019

Wall art to create awareness in Spiti tourists


PUNE: The bone-chilling cold that hangs in the air can’t take away the beauty of Spiti, the middle land, some 12,500 ft above sea level. Neither can it freeze a graffiti artist’s fingers.
Pune-based Nilesh Kharade took his street art high up to Kaza, Spiti’s headquarter, for a reason. “The valley is stunning in its rugged beauty. Ever since the government eased travel restrictions, Spiti has become a hotspot, a travel hotspot. But pollution, especially plastic, is the clear collateral damage and it is ruining Spiti,” he said.

In his talks with Kaza’s villagers, he could sense their despondency. “Many would say tourism is good for them but an overdose of tourists, bikers and adventure seekers is also spoiling their valley. They said their pristine lakes and mountainsides are now marred by plastic. They wanted me to create messages so that the littering will stop,” he added. Nilesh Kharade, an artist, as is known professionally, and four others from Delhi, decided to paint messages on rocks and walls with keep Spiti plastic-free images. Together with the other graffiti artistes who go by the names Khatra and Hiren Trivedi, Pranav Gohil, he completed four works by the first week of July.

“We also participated in artists tagging. It is a graffiti writer’s tag is his or her personalized signature. We painted warning signs,” he said. The Buddha was made entirely from broomsticks mixed with lime. They also named the set of murals, Navodaya, a new beginning. It was not easy. There was snowfall for three days and when they began with a mural outside a famous café wall, it needed twice the effort. “I had a nosebleed and breathing was laborious. The paint would freeze on the brush,” he said. Their mural on the café’s wall was a 15 ft high and 45 ft wide depiction of the creatures in Spiti River taking to the skies because of the pollution.

They had help from the villagers who mixed the lime and helped where they could. “They are kind and gentle people. We could only paint a few hours a day. The Buddhist monks from the nearby monasteries came down to see what we were up to,” Kharade said. The local royal also felicitated the group. This was Nileshartist’s first such attempt in Himachal Pradesh. “We did it for free in the hope that our murals will tell off visitors about ruining Spiti’s appeal.”


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