AS A CHILD, Delhi-based street artist Hanif Kureishi used to spend his vacations working with local street artists in Delhi. All he ever wanted to do was become a painter, to transform ordinary colonies and streets in the city into something beautiful and memorable. The founder of HandPaintedType.com (a project that documents typefaces of roadside painters in India as a resource for future generations), Kureishi has since worked to design the interiors of Social in Hauz Khas Village and several other restaurants in the capital. Last year, Kureishi launched St+Art, a public street art festival which took to painting giant murals with French, Danish, Japanese and Spanish themes across Lodhi Colony. Over 25 artists from around the world worked to convert the area between Khanna Market and Meherchand Market into the country’s first ‘public art district’, with the permission of residents and shop owners, of course. “Design can do something magical for public areas,” says Kureishi, who has now teamed up with The Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID), an all-India association of architects, designers, trade members and students, as part of their year-long ‘Design for the Masses’ campaign.
Launched in February this year at IIID, Indore, the campaign focuses on fostering a dialogue between craftsmen and students and professionals in 30 centres across India. The institute has invested in four Nano cars, which will travel from city to city over the course of one year, spreading the message of public art and design to the public. In each city, the arrival of the cars will be supplemented with a series of events and talks focusing on the role of design in everyday lives. “Fifty years ago, even an ordinary utensil would be a thing of beauty and aesthetic [value]. Things were not so mass produced, and the little things, the little imperfections that go with handcrafted items, were actually appreciated and revered. One would look at a handmade cooking vessel and appreciate how it was designed to [make] frying, boiling or steaming easier. Average people, not just the wealthy, would take pride in handcrafted over mass-market,” says Radhika Viswanathan, chairperson of IIID, Delhi. She adds that design in general was respected and most people had a certain sensitivity towards artists—they were viewed as people of innovation and wisdom. “Now things are very different. Most people are not aware of the role design plays in their lives. At the convention in Indore this year, we had in depth discussions about a need for the general public to interact, understand and be more sensitive towards design,” says Viswanathan.
The campaign’s cars are currently in Delhi and will be here till 23 July. “We chose Nano… because it is a people’s car and that is what our message is also about—design for the people, by the people. It is also about numbers, so when the four cars move in a convoy with a message, they are bound to make an impact,” explains Viswanathan. The cars, which arrived in Delhi from Jaipur last week, were met with a film screening at the studio of architect Pradeep Sachdeva at Aya Nagar. The film showed how a 300-year-old house was dismantled in Kerala and resurrected in Delhi. The next day, Kureishi gave a talk on street art at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium.
There was also an event held at the JD Institute of Fashion Technology in Hauz Khas Village which included a heritage walk in the area led by conservation architect and visiting faculty member of School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) Architectural Conservation Department, Smita Makhija, and a talk on waste management by Chintan. The Voice for Waste programme, run by Chintan, functions at the grassroot levels and aims to remind the world that waste is as much about people and their mindset as it is about materials. In India, it is also about the millions of people who handle waste, saving public money and reducing greenhouse gases. For waste management to be successful, it is essential to include ragpickers and kabadiwaalas in programmes and not just focus on disposal systems and material segregation.
Other upcoming events include an exhibition of street art and furniture at various Delhi Metro stations, demonstration of rug weaving at Jaipur Rugs and a visit to Kadarpur village in Haryana where public health engineer MK Gupta is due to give a talk on sanitation and rain water harvesting, followed by a charpai weaving session. There will also be a talk at Dilli Haat on craft and design thinking alongside an exhibition of works done by students of industrial design at SPA.
“Like Kadarpur and Jaipur Rugs, we hope to be able to encourage more such interactions with craftsmen, taking not just art but also artists to the masses,” says Viswanathan, adding that the ultimate goal of the campaign is to influence government and public perceptions of design. “We want to bring an awareness of well-designed spaces, places and artefacts to ordinary people. Instead of art being the prerogative of a small elite group of people, it should reach the masses.”