Artists usually work in solitude. We spend hours by ourselves painting what we see as our next masterpiece. So it was a pleasant change for our team to work with groups of young volunteers for our graffiti pieces as part of the Oye Ambala campaign.
It was nearly a month ago that we got a call from Avinash, our friend from Waste Warriors to help them out with street art in Ambala to raise awareness about waste segregation. Waste Warriors is a Dehradun based NGO that is the education partner for the Oye Ambala campaign. The whole point of Wicked Broz is to help graffiti and street art help change the world, one wall at a time and so we were on board from the moment we put that call down.
The next step was to find out what Oye Ambala was of course. It is an initiative by the Ambala Municipal Corporation along with NGO’s like Waste Warriors and Recity to help Ambala be ranked among the top 100 cleanest cities in India.
We arrived in twin city Ambala with two artists, Rashmil Vaidya and Prateek Sharma. Rashmil has been painting the streets in Mumbai for the past two years and has a really good hand with portraits. He runs his own page called Insane Strokes. Prateek on the other hand had never tried street art and is a graphic designer with a Mumbai based creative agency UCID. We were very excited to have both of them on board with us.
We had initially planned the trip for 5 days since we were going to paint at two different sites. One piece at Gandhi ground in Ambala Cantt. and one at Kalka Chowk flyover in Ambala City.
The first mural was our first experience in engaging an audience into actual painting. We had to be careful that all arrangements were made, including drinking water and proper paints. However, the main challenge was that schools and colleges were shut due to Dussera vacations and Gandhi Jayanti. We were most probably not going to have volunteers work with us. But the Rotaract Club of SD college led by Kartik Singla showed up with 10 odd students on both the days and that was more help than we could have wanted. The enthusiasm of the students, their passion to help carry stuff around and learning attitude about how to use brushes in tricky parts of the mural was inspiring.
On Dussera day, we had so many hawkers surround our painting site. The influx of visitors wanting to watch the effigy of Ravana being burnt down was huge. We just hope all of them took a look at our piece and some if not all of them take the pledge to tackle the modern day Ravana of waste that faces us everyday.
The very next day on the 1st of Oct we moved to our next site under Kalka chowk flyover, opposite Pooja Sarees. 90ft by 30 ft wall. The first reaction on seeing the wall was – Oh shit! How will we ever complete this in two days? We din’t. But what we lost in time, we more than gained in the love and friendship of volunteers and passerby’s engaged in the painting.
The biggest challenge here was scaffolding. It’s not easy to paint if half your time is wasted in just putting up, dismantling and moving scaffolding equipment around. Add to that the fright of having to stand on tip toes at 25 feet height and having to paint an impossible section with just one hand and a roller attached to a long piece of wood.
The concept here was to use this prime space to celebrate the heroes of waste management. The waste collectors, the ‘Swacchta Sainiks’ (a term coined by Waste Warrior Aslam) who sweat and toil to keep our homes and cities clean. Rashmil the expert on portraits found this right up his alley. He spent 4 days on the centre section and made those iconic faces stand out.
The volunteers from Umeed Ki Kiran, an Ambala based NGO led by Shubham Negi along with a few from Rotaract Club of SD college helped us paint the rest of the sections and move the scaffolding around. Awesh Kumar Rathore, part of Umeed Ki Kiran said, “I learnt a lot from Rashmil bhaiya. I helped Wicked Broz paint and it was an amazing experience. I’m going to continue being part of the social work for Oye Ambala to keep our city clean”.
Everyday we learnt something new about all of them. Everyday we felt like Ambala had hope. And on that note, we finished the piece. The largest and hopefully the best piece of street art in Ambala yet.
Thank you Rashmil and Prateek for taking your valuable time out and committing to our cause. Our special thanks goes out to the team at Waste Warriors for making this all happen, specially Aslam for being there on the ground with us and Jodie for inspiring us. Deepshikha Jain and her team at Recity for providing us necessary support and making the event a success and last but not the least the people of Ambala for being so nice and encouraging us with their words of praise.
Oye Ambala! we hope our graffiti lives on in your memories as it does in ours and truly inspires us all to change the way we treat waste segregation in our homes and also the way we look at the ‘Swantantra Sainani’s’ who keep our cities clean.