The 2nd edition of Ladies First street art festival happened in March 2021 and as I sit here writing this, I can literally feel its vibes. Like a beautiful flower that brought with it a short lived eruption of joy and positivity in these uncertain times.
It is our aim to get as many women out on the streets painting as possible. This year we hosted LFSA in 3 cities – Mumbai, Gurugram and Dehradun.
It seems like a lifetime ago that we first gathered in Mumbai to celebrate Ladies First. Corona has made its impact felt on the arts and culture scene in India. It was even more important therefore, that we did edition II. We were limited due to corona restrictions and budget crunch. Yet, thanks to our communities led by senior artists, we made it happen.
Before we move further, the main question many asked, and you might also be thinking, is, why these 3 cities?
Simple, we got our backbones there. Like seriously!
The aim was to create a community platform for artists to get together and collaborate, paint and learn from each other. Mumbai because Wicked Broz is headquartered there, Doon because we visited there once and did workshops and Delhi because Zain was there and thought it a good idea to bring artists in the capital city together. LFSA in these 3 cities is like a tribute to our large family we have there.
Come, let’s see what each of the community heads has experienced during the event.
Ladies First in its home city of Mumbai
If you follow Wicked Broz, then I am sure I don’t need to introduce this guy. But in case you don’t, let me tell you who is the community head of Mumbai or say Marol Art Village – Omkar Dhareshwar (Also, the co-founder of Wicked Broz)
When I asked about LFSA to Omkar, here is what he said:
“For us, Marol, Mumbai is the birthplace and home of Ladies First.
So let me give you a quick recap of 2019, the first time when we hosted Ladies First.
The LFSA 2019 event had set the bar high as we invited foreign artists and got major participation from locals. We also did a mini-exhibition, movie screening and a Hip-hop jam.
Back due to some trouble, we had to shelve the first wall donated for the event by the New Hill View Society, which was supposed to be painted by Anpu Varkey.
But this time, we got things arranged and went again for this wall to make the event big. It is a massive wall right in the Military Road junction with amazing visibility.
Once the wall was sorted, we then started looking for someone to help in designing the artwork. That is where Ashwini Hiremath Aka Krantinaari Aka boldstroke.pdf comes into the picture.
She had created a fabulous wall-art on women empowerment in Bharat Van a couple of months ago and is loved by everybody ever since. So we reached out to her to get our big picture done. By the way, this lady is also the founder of Wild Wild Women, an all-female hip hop collective. And what’s more amazing is, that before Krantinaari became Krantinaari, she was Ashwini – a volunteer for Ladies First 2019.
So with the help of two brothers Himesh Sharma Aka Chapograffiti and Ritik Sharma Aka Skyritik, who are associated with Wicked Broz for a long time now and rapper Demyth, she started sketching the art on the wall – her first big wall.
The sketching was completed overnight, and by morning, the Marol Art Village community, female artists and volunteers were on the field to rock the event and paint the mural.
We were also helped by my childhood mountaineering instructor with the safety equipment to climb the scaffold with harnesses and ropes.
If you have seen the Ladies First Instagram story, you would have noticed how all these wonderful female artists, along with other volunteers were slaying on the scaffold and climbing as high as 50 feet. Also, the kids from the society helped out, and they too climbed as high as 30 feet on the scaffold.
It was amazing to see women setting the record straight for anyone who thought girls can’t climb scaffolds and do major walls.
Apart from mural painting, our community of slackliners and rappers also pitched in the latter part of the day. It felt like a breeze of hip-hop around us. We celebrated Women’s Day with all these people and did a little cake cutting party.”
And as you can see here in the picture below, all of it turned out quite nicely in the end. Didn’t it!
I also spoke to Krantinaari on her artwork. This is what she had to say, “It’s the 21st century, but we hear and face so many disastrous situations where women are helpless. All the suppression according to me, will start reducing if we have more presence be it the street or the surrounding. The ratio of men and women is so drastic is why we are here facing patriarchy and misogyny. To make women’s presence a natural part of the surrounding is the attempt of this artwork.
The formation of nature, the fact of creation, The process of birth-giving on our planet is given a symbolized with a female. Genesis is about the morphosis of the same. The beautiful merger of nature and female is what is depicted here. The energy and power are expressed through the colours. Togetherness is brought out through the details in the mural. Women in multiple forms shown here help to make it relatable to every female possible.
The act of coming together through art for the community makes it more powerful because its not just brushes and paints we connect through, but also the large force and energies. Which is the major intention of the painting. Let’s increase the presence of women to smash the patriarchy, let them get used to more powerful women.”
Special thanks to Molshree and all the volunteers, who helped in painting this massive wall – Devi, Anne, Paragi Manjrekar, Afsha, Preeti Sutar, Mahima Jana, Sarah, Lynette Naik, Mikhail Miranda, Shejal Sharma, Gaurish, Himanshu Panchal, Munnazza
The flowers of Dehradun
Talking about Dehradun, the community head here is Mukesh Negi. Let’s see what was his version of LFSA and how it went in Doon.
“I was lucky to lead the city of love – Dehradun, and pretty excited too.
Initially, things started tough here, as we couldn’t find a good wall to paint on, and most of the community members who could help in it were students and were stuck with exam schedules. Finally, when we got two walls to paint, we couldn’t pass for its permission.
Then, after loads of struggle and search, at last, we got a wall approved to paint on the 6th eve (6th March), with the help of Gautam and Baskar at the Survey Chowk.
As the event started on 7th March, we couldn’t work in the daytime due to the harsh climate of Dehradun and invited artists in the noon when it was shady and worked till late evening.
We had shortlisted 6 female artists out of which one’s mother was unwell, so she couldn’t attend the event. With Yatagiri Bhavya, Monaal, Shreya and Shravya, we painted 3 different artworks inspired by Muhammed Sajid.
‘The artwork shows beautiful rural women of India. Women of color. Women of different ages. Women who have played far reaching extensive roles. Women who are the warriors yet no one talks about them. Women who continue to exist and be their empathetic selves.’
The visit by Beenu was something that we didn’t know would bring us something exciting later – an illustration of the event. In a visit of just 20 minutes, she enjoyed it so much that she penned down her imagination into an amazing illustration portrait. This is the reason we love the people because of the way they love us back.
The video shooting was done by Prerna. Special thanks to her.
Things went smooth, and the artists and all the people around enjoyed it a lot. Artists and volunteers worked till 9th March to complete the artwork and give them the final touch ups.”
A big thank you to Mukesh and his willingness to lead this pack of creatives. We sure hope to do more in Doon in the future.
The girls of Gurugram at the Mahila Police Thana
The Gurugram event was led by Himanshu Aka Buzzinka, and this was the second time he collaborated with Wicked Broz. Let us see what his experience says and what unique happened there.
“The scene at Gurugram was all smooth thanks to the support of Shikha from Kalagram.
Kalagram were our sponsor partners. They helped us get permission for the wall outside the Mahila Thana (Women’s Police Station Sec 52), which became the cherry of the event.
It was like, what could be a better choice than painting the Ladies First event on Women’s Day outside the Women’s Police Station? Like a blast!
These lady-polices were more excited than we were. We started receiving calls from them pre-event for checking the status of the event and whether things are falling right.
Plus, from Gurugram, we got a huge entry of talented artists, out of which 6 were selected by Molshree.
Talking about the funds, Molshree and Omkar made sure that it was available on time to us. But thanks to Kalagram, we were excess on it and could help Dehradun and Mumbai with what surplus we had.
We got our paints and all purchased the night before.
What motivated me to lead the event best was the support from the artists. 3 of them arrived sharp at 9 am on the first day of the event, and others mostly by 11:30 am. It was like an event cum party and celebration for us.
Abhishek Aka Musafir.o joined us with his camera and took many wonderful and amazing shots of the artists and things in action.
What made Gurugram stand out was this incident that happened on Day 1 – A Man comes out of the car and asks us what we were doing. Then we told us that his 12 yrs old daughter is fighting blood cancer, and she stepped out for the first time after 4 months in her ongoing treatment. She sketches and paintings and would like to join the event for a while.
The girl, Dhwani, showed us what she made in the hospital and during her treatment. She was super happy to be there, and our hearts were full of love and blessings for her life and for her speedy recovery. She also promised that will join us for the next addition of ‘Ladies First’.
Then next that blew me was my parents’ entry into the event on day 2. Moreover, I was excited as my mom volunteered and painted a small mural with the artwork around ‘Raat ki Rani’.
Oh! There is so much to talk about each artist and how and what they did at the event. But on a short note – Things happened automatically, and we enjoyed it to the fullest.”
Here are the artworks from Gurugram:
‘Find me, Find happiness’
I feel a dog can bring happiness to one’s life. I am myself a dog lover, and no matter how rough the day goes, a dog can uplift the mood and bring positivity to life. No judgements passed, no discrimination, only good vibes. It’s surprising how someone who can’t speak a human language can bring joy.
– Anchal Gupta
Perched and placid
Into, away, sometimes far,
out in the wild,
calmed by the nights,
on the new heights,
I am perched, placid,
and oh! so escalated
for the next flight.
‘Women are innately more connected to their inner self, more aware and empathetic. The shringaar of the bindi on the third eye, the fragrance of flowers in the hair and skies and star in their eyes. They are the creators, the lovers, the homemakers and the artists! They build their empires and their tribes. They are powerful yet calm and loving. They create the balance! The energy they carry inside form the whole world.’ – Shivanika Raghav
‘Tragedy of Leisure’
Women of any class, caste, religion are involved in some level of invisible, unpaid homemaking throughout their life; The intensity of this work might differ drastically given one’s privilege. This visual representation is contrary to that hustle and struggle from heteronormative constructs within the households. An imagery that is a dream for many women i.e Leisure/Fursat. Here an act of not doing anything at all, becomes an act of rebellion and self-care. The symbols such as hunter, flower, text show multiplicity of power that women hold as a 24×7 hustler. – Kiran Dayal
moon waxing and waning
Now you ebb
Now you rise
To protect and nurture
The multi handed
The multi thinking
O Pragmatic harmony
of natural intelligence
and ground wisdom
Keeper of Natures Secrets
Guide us Back to Balance
Kaali delivering the archetype of the new woman, from the womb of the cosmos.
The artwork speaks about reclamation. It speaks about nurturing, sometimes falling off but ultimately letting the sunlight, the air, the water, and the embrace in. A part of the visual talks about waking up in my apartment by myself, not caring about my skin or my hair or my clothes, watering my houseplants, looking at each other as we reflect on our past selves. Another part of the artwork depicts coming back from work on any other day, when one look from a stranger makes me feel so weak in the knees I come crashing down. The sun falls over the city, and I will still wake up and pack it my corners of abundance. After all, the greatest form of happiness in the world is growth. The greater known to mankind is celebrating yours. – Saumya Shukla
If I have to sum it all up in one word, it would be surreal. I am based in Kuwait here, working away remotely for Ladies First but I so wish I was on ground helping these guys, painting with them and experiencing with my own eyes what all of them did. The satisfaction I get though is to write this piece and getting to know all these stories and presenting them to you.
I hope you enjoyed this read about Ladies First street art 2021.
Are we going to do this again next year? For sure. Bigger, better and with more people and more smiles spread across more cities.
Get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can help by donations or through CSR or just volunteer in the organization team or be an artist. Always happy to connect.
Until then, Machao!