Published: 21st September 2018
You'll never believe what these graffiti girls from St Teresa's College have done to Cochin Port
Have you been by the Ernakulam Wharf Gate and seen some really crazy colours and unusual designs there? These are the girls from St Teresa's College who are to blame
The Ernakulam Wharf Gate at the Cochin Port stood doused with the glaring Kochi sun in all its militaristic glory. Everything seemed camouflaged by official business except for four walls that seemed to have come straight out of an artist's fever dream. A set of students stood on a set of ladders, their faces scrunched up in intense concentration and covered with cotton shawls of just as many colours as the wall they were busy filling up.
Armed with paint cans, spray, art supplies and lots of vigour, the 26 students had been handpicked as a part of the Swachhata Hi Seva campaign of the Swachh Bharat Mission, by the St Teresa's College Union. Since September 18, the students have been gathered around the Port Trust under the watchful eye of Dean and Assistant Professor, Preethi Kumar to beautify the walls at the Wharf Gate's entrance with graffiti based on the theme of cleanliness and Indian heritage. The students are part of a rally to spread awareness on the importance of cleanliness which will culminate on October 2 as a celebration of Gandhi Jayanthi.
Almost there: Students making the graffiti
We sidestep the paint cans, and catch up with Chaayam, a team of students who were responsible for the graffiti work in their college that mesmerised teachers and students alike. "We are third-year students," explains Sandra Anilkumar, a core member who explains their story, "We are the first graffiti team from the college. That was the first bit of work we had done together, you can still find it outside our college. We have an Instagram page are asked to do a lot of work people now on commission. We learn from this every day."
The students have unleashed their creativity on the four anointed walls. The first one has a half-completed painting of Mahatma Gandhi himself. The second wall is dedicated to a paintbrush which signifies the one that they wield to clean the city. The other two walls will feature an outline of the city and a painting of a Kathakali artist. With over 4 days to prepare for it, they incorporated their own themes and put it all together. "The paintbrush signifies a beautification of all that is dirty with this set of colours," explains Naveena Francis. "They wanted us to focus on cleanliness and we added this extra element of heritage to it because this is a place that people from all around the world come to visit. We wanted to take the beauty of Kochi that we see every day and present it to them in a nutshell."
Art start: Here are a few shots of the graffiti right from the inception stage
The project fell in their laps courtesy the killer graffiti work they've done outside their college. "It was the Cochin Port Trust contacted the college," explains Preethi Kumar. "People had seen the work that our students had done on the walls of our college. And when the students got involved, their main aim was beautifying the city. We are making it beautiful with these paintbrushes. The very first thing we want out of this is to send out a message: to keep the city clean. When these different walls with these different concepts are put together, I think we will be able to communicate this very important message with people very easily."
Back to the hot wharf. One wall is almost done now. Between mopping seat off their brows and cleaning splotches off paint, we wonder how they find the time to get this much painting done, "We are people who always work on some form of art or the other whenever we have the time," adds Sandra as her teammates paint away in the background. "We sketch and paint to communicate. But more than anything we've done on a piece of paper, it is our wall art that has really captured people's attention. She points towards the other girls busy at work. Look at them, just through seeing us work they have been inspired to do so much. These are our juniors. The most endearing aspect of all this is that we were able to inspire so many girls to follow suit. "
Another team member, Nisa Kaladharan chimes in, "All of us are going to pass out soon. We'll come up with a way to make sure that art is always a part of our lives or even better, find a way to do this for a living!" They join their friends on their rickety ladders and grab dripping paintbrushes that seem to glisten under the sun. They have only embarked on their mission to clean the city with a burst of colours.
Let's hope that they leave a ton of colour on their trail to the top!