Winter Walls of India

“Power, Paint and Public Walls” was my six-day endeavour with Sprya Sharma and 25 students from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India. Taught online under an intensive “winter school” format, the course aimed to develop a multidisciplinary reading of contemporary cities by examining walls, surfaces, graffiti, street art, advertising and other types of wall writing.

The course focused on the role of these practices in the context of Indian cities, and I can honestly say I have learned more about wall paintings from the razor-sharp Sprya and the students in one week, than I have through my own research in a while 🙏🏼

During the six days, we went through 8 lectures, 2 seminars, 3 student debates, one film screening and discussion, 3 group and individual tutorial sessions, one invited artist workshop with Dr. D. ❤ and one full day of final presentations.

We even set up an instagram account for the course, Winter Walls of India, where students uploaded their work and can continue to do so. Have a look at the fascinating work!! 😀

The online format allowed for cross-learning and sharing about different wall writing traditions and practices from all over the country (see below map with student location pins, which still gives me goose bumps!).

Given the mixed backgrounds of students who came from Architecture, Interiors, Landscape, Engineering and History (mostly PGRs), we designed the assessment in an inclusive way so that it played to their strengths, while demonstrating engagement with the content of the course. The final output was therefore a multi-media submission, in which the students identified a theme related to surfaces and signs, wall writing, graffiti and street art, or other subjects discussed during the course; and presented an argument and a creative documentation of it.

Submissions had to articulate a clear argument in relation to their chosen themes, supported through visual material and references to scholarly literature. Each submission contained 500 words of text, as well TWO CHOICES from the following: 10 images, OR one collage, OR one map, OR 500 words, OR 2-3min film, OR one drawing/ illustration.

Some examples of submissions included a critique of slum painting in the Maqta Art District in Hyderabad (1000 words + one collage); a reading of urban branding through the concepts of simulacrum and authenticity (1000 words + 10 photos); urban regeneration through street art in Pune (500 words + one collage + 10 photos); biases against religious minorities in Bhopal street art (500 words + 10 photos + one illustration), the relationship between colour and urban identity in Jaipur (1000 words + 10 photos), and a critique of government beautification projects in Thane (500 words + map + illustration).

See examples below from the superstar students:

Collage covering desk research, in-situ observations and interviews with locals from the Maqta art district in Hyderabad, part of a project questioning the benefits of slum makeovers by Shreshta Waghray.
A collage of the “many Ghandis of Ahmedabad” by Apurva Pandey, part of a project reflecting on the changes in representations of the Indian leader on the walls of his home town
A critique of government beautification projects in slum areas in the city of Thane by Drishti Ghosh
GIF poster as part of an analysis of advertising and commercial signs typologies in Bhowali Market by Aishwarya Chauhan [painted vs added surfaces]
Collage of boundary wall typologies in government vs private housing in Gandhinagar by Drashti Nakrani
A palimpsest of government-commissioned civic messages in Nagpur by Yashshree Karandikar

Thank you dearly for a week of learning together Sprya Sharma 🤗 + Jayati Misra, Aishwarya Chauhan, Amruta Vungarala, Anusha Shetty, Archie Parakh, Ashwini Hemangi, H R Sunya, Ikshita Bhargava, Jayati Chopra, Meen Purohit, Nidhi Parasbhai, Nikita Khatri, Nishani Shaileshbhai, Reshma Thomas, Sejal Shanbhag, Shreshtha Waghray, Yashshree Karandikar, Apurva Pandey, Mayuri Jitendra, Chanakya Rajani, Drishti Suvarna, Drashti Nakrani, Miloni Modi, Shishir Tiwari and Ananya Manojkumar.

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