Locked down within the comforts of my home, with a network, electricity and a laptop (yes, I am shamefully privileged) for the last 3 months almost, I often just end up reading random blogs and looking at interesting pictures. Recently some very interesting pictorial blogs caught my attention. Since then, it has been on my mind for a while and a photographer friend of mine urged me to do a post on the topic and very generously allowed me to use his captures. Walls!
No, I don’t mean Facebook walls! Trust me there is a bigger world out there beyond Facebook, Twitter, or Insta! No, I don’t mean Kwality Walls either, although I wouldn’t mind one right now, having been off it for almost 3 months now, thanks to the Corona scare and the following guidelines to ensure the “throat” is kept safe.
I mean real brick walls. Walls that make a home, a shelter, an institution, a boundary, for that matter, even a prison! Walls that become a canvas to reach out to millions, walls that speak a million words with just a few strokes, walls that are meant to give out messages, walls that bring out the artist in many or beautify a dull mesh of bricks and cement. Walls can be fascinating, no matter where they might be. Your brain can process images 60,000 times faster than it can process words. In an instant, an image can convey an idea or an emotion which will stick with you much longer than the words on a page.
And so, I am giving it a go… this is not comprehensive neither are all the captures mine. It does not cover the whole wide world, it just covers walls I have seen, I have come across on the web, or those that have caught my attention, with due credit to the photographers who have so beautifully captured the essence of these murals, graffities, slogans and moments.
Being a quintessential Bangali growing up through the 80’s and 90’s, I too like most of my generation, swear by these lines by Suman Chatterjee…
অবোধ্য কবিতায় ঠুংরি খেয়ালে
স্লোগানে স্লোগানে ঢাকা দেয়ালে দেয়ালে
…তোমাকে চাই, তোমাকে চাই, তোমাকে চাই, তোমাকে চাই…
স্লোগানে স্লোগানে ঢাকা দেয়াল … that is what we grew up seeing! Parties change, slogans do too, as do languages, but the medium remains the same…city walls. Houses, clubs, fencing borders…you name it there it is. Let’s travel through this maze of political slogans as they moved from one colour to another…
But walls have also served simply as a canvas for artists to pour out their hearts, brightening up drab, mundane looking walls. Be it Kumortuli in Kolkata, Soweto in Johannesburg, Gopalpur in Orissa, Bishwa Bangla Hat in Prantik, Dhanmandi in Dhaka, Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, Mauerpark in Berlin, Darjeeling in the hills of Bengal or Jamia Milia University in Delhi or Ahmedabad walls ahead of Mr. Trump’s visit to India …wall paintings have been found to cover the joys and challenges of life, the protests and struggles of mankind, and the traditions and cultures of races. Hell, even the Freedom Charter for South Africa was scribbled on a prison wall in the Palace of Justice in Pretoria. Can you get over these walls? Ever?
And then there are walls, used regularly or rarely for messages or simply as a backdrop for regular life…as if their messages get lost somewhere due to regular neglect and misuse…walls that had once meant a lot, now stand as mute backdrops… And yet, on stray glance at them is sure to make you think…even if for one fleeting moment.
A pictorial representation, a wall writing or mural can connect genuinely with the feelings of the viewer directly. It appeals cerebrally and stirs a passion, especially among the young and passionate. Walls, therefore, have been an integral part of student politics, especially in Bengal with political ideologies from around the world shaping our university level ideologies! We protest through walls…and in many other ways too, but walls being the most widely used medium.
Walls have not changed lives, but a strong graffiti or a meaningful mural has often been found to reach out sooner than a whole page of text, especially during this rather rare, once in a lifetime crisis the world is facing with Covid 19 rampaging the world irrespective of race, colour of the skin, or religion. Countries all over the world have used walls to pass on the message… by sharing the reasons, the effects, the dangers, the guidelines, or merely by thanking the warriors… irrespective of the language, this one time…walls from all over the world have merged together to form one huge canvas to shield humanity!
And so, as I end this story, I wanted to share these beautiful lines by Liorah Lappin.
What letters can tell what words are worthy, to hold the story
The melody that plays the heart softly, gently
Fluid lights strumming notes with broken vessels;
see it sounding, the silent utterance bursting full with sweet contentment
What letters can be faithful to this rhythm making life
A monochrome rhapsody of colors, splendors laced with glory wine
waters in motion, behind the echo, echoless, timeless.
Ever flowing drops into thirsting dust – natural, ineffable light and dark;
A breathing harmony in the eyes of children, in weathered faces filling up crying places
with hope, real and deeply present what words are worthy
to tell of these wondrous times.
- Nilanjan Ray
- Sanchari Sur