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This article is more than 1 year old.

Angry Artists: Protesting Jamia students turn street into canvas of political expression

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Graffiti has sprung up on the street in front of Jamia in a new form of anti-CAA protests, which have entered the fourth week. More than 50 students have used paints and pigments to create a series of graffiti on the street in front of the Jamia campus.

Angry Artists: Protesting Jamia students turn street into canvas of political expression
Tear gas shells are raining down on a statue of Mirza Ghalib. Mahatma Gandhi is missing from his famous Dandi March depicted on the currency note and replaced by a group of blindfolded men. Chandra Shekhar Azad stands side by side an injured student.
These are the images from graffiti painted by art students of Jamia Millia Islamia, the Ground Zero of the continuing countrywide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Graffiti has sprung up on the street in front of Jamia in a new form of anti-CAA protests, which have entered the fourth week. More than 50 students have used paints and pigments to create a series of graffiti on the street in front of the Jamia campus.
Occupy Jamia Street
Occupied by protesters from December 13, when the anti-CAA protests by students first began, the road in front of the central university has became an open studio for art students from Jamia and Delhi University. "Twenty groups of artists and art students responded to our call for artists to participate in the peaceful protests," says Kauser Jahan, a Jamia first year Master of Fine Arts student, who is one of coordinators of the street art programme.
Jamia anti-CAA protests street art graffiti Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar and Chandra Shekhar Azad are among the leaders appearing in the street art.
A 100-metre stretch of the road in front of Jamia has been filled with street art by the 20 groups, which have used a floor guard to make the paint stick. " We provided paint, pigment and brush to the participants through donations from students, our families and friends," says Kauser, who was the first to start the street art programme with a graffiti showing a girl holding a gold medal in one hand and a 'No NPR' placard in another representing protests by gold medal winners in Pondicherry University and Kolkata's Jadavpur University.
"At Jamia, the protests have been led by female students," says artist Kajal Kashyap, a Jamia alumna and coordinator of the graffiti event.  A majority of the artists and art students who have joined Jamia's street art are also women. There is also a lone school girl from Delhi, who teamed up with her art student sister to create a graffiti.
Jamia anti-CAA protests street art graffiti Artist Farheen Shafat combines poetry and painting to question divisive politics.
Frescos on the Floor
Laiba Ahsan, a Class XII student, joined her sister Binish Ahsan, an architecture undergraduate student at Jamia, and Alisha Hussain, a BFA student, also at Jamia, to paint Marvel Comics supervillain Thanos, who destroys life in the universe with a simple snap of his fingers. "In India, our government similarly wants its people to disappear and become non-citizens through the National Register of Citizens," says Laiba.
There are also superheroes in the street art. Three Jamia BFA students have painted a graffiti that shows Aysha Renna and Ladeeda Farzana, the Jamia students who became the face of the student protests after they saved their male friend from police baton charge. "Aysha and Ladeeda are our superheroes," says graffiti coordinator Kashyap. The painting also has freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad along with Minajuddin, the Jamia law student who lost an eye in police lathicharge on students in the university library.
Jamia anti-CAA protests street art graffiti Poet Mirza Ghalib is "teargassed" in a graffiti that uses a 500-rupee replica in a reference to the teargassing of the Jamia library.
Dinu Mondal, a third-year BFA studet at the Jamia and his three classmates have recreated a Rs 500 note on the street, which shows tear gas shells lobbed on a statue of poet Mirza Ghalib. The picture of Mahatma Gandhi is missing from the currency note that instead has a clutch of blindfolded men. "There is a statue of Ghalib on our campus near the library teargassed by police during the protests," says Mondal, who is from 24 South Parganas district of West Bengal.
Jamia anti-CAA protests street art graffiti More than 50 students have used paints and pigments to create a series of graffiti on the street in front of Jamia university.
Art for Political Expression
Graffiti, used in India from the 1960s for political propaganda and election campaign, has come handy for anti-CAA protesters. "Art is a democratic and an important revolutionary tool of protest," says artist Bose Krishnamachari, the founder of Kochi-Muziris Biennale. "Street art is vital in taking ideas to public spaces. Everybody should have the freedom to do so," adds Krishnamachari. "It is an instant political and cultural statement."
Artist Farheen Shafat, an MFA graduate in printmaking from Jamia, combined poetry and painting to question "division of the country" through class, caste, creed and religion. "Nothing can divide us/No one can bend us/We will stand together/Until the end," says Shafat's poetry on the street. Another graffiti in chalk uses the image of two people making a 'kolam' (rangoli) to talk about the detention of eight people in Chennai last week for drawing 'kolam' for anti-CAA protests.
Jamia anti-CAA protests street art graffiti Marvel Comics supervillain Thanos is depicted in a graffiti that shows peace evaporating at the snap of his fingers.
The graffiti also has a text message between two people painted on the street. The message in Hindi reads: "Ek ne kahaa 'Tum badey chhoton ka lihaaz bhool gayi ho'--- 1:43 am." "To which I said 'Aap insaaniyat bhool gaye hain' ---1:43 am." (One said you have forgotten how to respect the elders. To which I said you have forgotten your humanity). Another graffiti in Bengali says, "Emperor, where are your clothes?" in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comment that protesters indulging in violence could be identified by their clothes. Yet another graffiti has Delhi's Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College undergraduate student Mohamed Abdullah using the 'Get well soon' message from popular Bollywood movie 'Lage Raho Munna Bhai'. Says Abdullah: "We can win our fights only with love."