Srinagar- In a bustling street here, artists are busy painting bright pink flowers on an abandoned building with effortless brush strokes as awestruck passersby stop and admire their work.
These artists are part of an initiative by Fearless Collective, a group of South Asian women artists, to paint beautiful murals, engage with local communities and depict the work of artisans, especially women.
“The mural being painted here is our 56th mural. Our idea is not only to make beautiful murals but we also engage with these (local) communities,” Zoya Khan, an architect and urban planner who is part of the collective, told PTI.
The idea behind this initiative is to become a medium through which the artists can portray themselves the way they want to be shown, she said.
“We act as a creative medium. The purpose is to activate a public space, creativity and talk about these communities and to encourage people with these artworks,” she added.
Zoya said she fails to understand why murals were not painted before in Kashmir.
“We have the perfect environment for this as we see so much beauty around us all the time, including unique architecture. So, I think this is something that the cityscape was missing,” she said.
The project is being executed with the help of the director of the Handicrafts Department of Jammu and Kashmir, who facilitated various permissions for it.
Zoya’s mural in the midst of the busy Jehangir Chowk intersection here depicts three hijab-clad women.
The mural shows a woman who is a ‘taleem (design)’ writer for carpets and another is busy with ‘namda’ making or weaving a woollen carpet, she said.
“We have also talked to women who make copper utensils. There is a lot of beauty in what these people do. It is a generational practice that is about carrying something forward and not about making money. This belongs to all of us and is a common heritage,” she said.
“In our eyes, they are the true stars of the city and deserve recognition,” she said.
Though incomplete, Zoya’s work is already a hit.
Muzaffar Ahmad Malik, a passerby, said beautiful murals like this should be painted across the city.
“This mural is extremely beautiful. I congratulate the artist who is painting it. The artist has made a dilapidated building so attractive,” Malik said.
There are many such buildings in the city that need attention and should be made part of this project, he said.
Rizwan Khan of Jammu, a volunteer part of Zoya’s team, is proud of their work so far.
“This mural is one of its kind in Kashmir. As an artist, I am very proud of this art and it is our responsibility to decorate and renovate every corner of the city,” he said.
This is very significant. Women mostly remain in the background but this initiative seeks to bring them to the front, he said.
Srinagar has been designated as a creative city by UNESCO and it should look like that, Rizwan said.
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