Aftab Ahmed – Manmauji, Opens Up About His Journey

Aftab painting a mural in Noida

  Aftab painting a mural in Noida

I have known Aftab Ahmed now for almost 2 years. When I first met him, he was under the able guidance of the master artist, Bhuppi. As a part of our collaboration with Art India Company, he has worked on a few projects with Wicked Broz.

Aftab is from that breed of old school street artists who paint for the joy of painting. Hailing from a small town in Haryana, he has lived almost all his life in Delhi except for a short stint in Mumbai. His charming smile and simplicity make him a wonderful person to work with.

The lockdown provided me with an opportunity to sit with him and understand his perspective on art.

Here is his opinion on life and art in his own simple words.

1.  How long have you been painting? Did you have a formal art education?

I have been painting for the past 8 years. I am a self-taught artist, and haven’t had any formal education in art.

2. How and when did you realize that you wanted to be a professional artist?

After practicing on my own for 3 years I moved in with a few senior artists and I would observe them having discussion about art and artists.

That is when I started to read about more artists and a new world opened up for me. I realized that this is the only way I can paint, draw, sketch or simply give shape to my thoughts and feelings. This is how I can express to the world and show them what I see. That is when I decided to become a professional artist.

Aftab painting a portrait in New Delhi
Aftab painting a portrait in New Delhi

3. What is your favorite medium to work on?

Acrylic colour, water colour, oil colour and digital.

4. How would you define your style? How did you realise your style?

I don’t like to bind myself with one particular style, it’s the expression that decides the style.

5. Which are your top 5 favorite international artists?

RembrandtMichelangeloVincent van goghPicasso and the portugues street artist Bordalo.

6. Which Indian artist would you say you truly got inspired by?

M F Husain is a major inspiration.

Portrait by Aftab Ahmed
Portrait by Aftab Ahmed

7. Between street art and gallery, what do you prefer more and why ?

For me, street is about true freedom, because it’s available to all. Caste, creed, colour, culture no bar. So, it brings a true sense of equality. Gallery is a little restricted not in terms of display but in terms of visibility, people who already have some amount of understanding regarding art visit galleries. However, I feel art should be available to all.

8. Do you travel a lot living as an artist? Which have been your favorite places?

I travel as much as I can. So far, Dalhousie has my heart.

9. Apart from painting and drawing, what other forms of art do you like?

When I’m not painting or drawing, I love to dabble in music. Especially, playing the guitar is like meditation for me.

Aftab painting a mural with Inderjeet
Aftab painting a mural with Inderjeet

10. What are the biggest issues faced by you, working as a freelance artist?

Freedom to express, permissions, restriction and the missing respect. The majority of our nation doesn’t understand what is art. Families don’t allow their kids to become artists because they think their kid is going to end up poor, painting walls.

Freelance does not mean free of cost it means that the artist is not defined by any labels.

11. What message would you like to give all the upcoming artists in d Indian art scene?

  • Don’t ever think what you are going to get from art. Think about what you can give to art, to the people.

  • Don’t ever give up.
  • Know that you are different than most, you have been chosen as an artist by god, because you have the power to look at the world with a new perspective and you can show the new world to people with the same power. For a line artist the whole world is a big canvas, now color it with your thoughts “Kyunki kalakar ho tum, Chitrakar ho tum”

Manmauji means someone who enjoys with his heart. These simple words and philosophy of his, reflect the same.

Aftab Ahmed is currently working on the HCL Foundation project in Noida with Wicked Broz. You can expect to see more of him working with us in the coming years. You can follow Aftab Ahmed on Instagram on his channel here –

More to explorer

The story of Ladies First street art festival 2021 in Mumbai, Dehradun and Gurugram. How the Wicked Broz community came together and celebrated womens day.