A few years back, Anika Somaia, founder of Open Canvas, was tasked with painting a mural on the front wall of a government school. A little hesitant with her strokes initially, it wasn't long before Somaia lost herself in a kingdom of pastel colours, ultimately transforming the brick wall into an explosion of colours.
Founded in 2019, Open Canvas aims to bring art into public places, i.e. it is created and viewed collaboratively. The project creates murals in residential communities and school campuses while shedding light on women empowerment, freedom of expression, education for all, and environmental degradation. In doing so, it celebrates the progress India's communities have made in upholding civil rights and initiates more comprehensive discussions on how they can change for the better.
In the last three years, Open Canvas has painted murals at 50 sites across Delhi by engaging over 200 volunteers. It has also hosted 15 artist-led mural painting workshops to attract young talent. The project has also collaborated with organizations like Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation (KSCF), Each One Teach One (EOTO) and Nature Morte Gallery to bring about a positive change in the community.
If you are in Delhi and interested in getting the essence of Somaia's murals, head to these five locations.
Atal Adarsh Vidyalaya, Sarojini Nagar
Open Canvas' first project, this mural was painted at the Atal Adarsh Vidyalaya government school in Sarojini Nagar in partnership with EOTO. Pariksha Shah, the principal, wrapping up her last year working at this school, had been eager to leave behind something beautiful. It wasn't long before the forgotten brick wall had been transformed into an explosion of colour and started grabbing the attention of passers-by.
Rangpuri Pahari’s Nala Camp, Vasant Kunj
The KSCF recently began working in Rangpuri Pahari's Nala Camp. The foundation supported Somaia's team by bringing their vision of using public art as a form of community engagement to life through the "Rang Badlav Ke" initiative. The mural here features a young girl protecting the Earth from various forms of plastic pollution. It seeks to create an experience for viewers that heightens their awareness surrounding the urgency of environmental action, expressing environmental wellbeing as fundamental to the human experience.
Okhla Slum Community, Okhla
As part of the "Rang Badlav Ke" initiative, a series of 20 murals were created in the Okhla Slum Community. The artworks here communicate the importance of civil rights, hope, and freedom. As per Somaia, this message is vital in the Okhla Community context, given the prominence of children in the area who mobilize residents and local authorities to catalyze positive change in the community.
Indira Kalyan Vihar Camp, Okhla Phase 1
The Indira Kalyan Vihar Camp in Okhla Phase 1 is one of the most congested slums in Delhi. It buzzes with activity as its residents provide labour to the businesses in the Okhla Industrial Area. Colourful and engaging, the murals here are a celebration of the energy and resilience of the community.
Sanjay Camp, Chanakyapuri
The mural wall is outside Sanjay Camp, where KSCF runs its Bal Mitra Mandal (BMM) programme. The BMM programme envisions an innovative approach to child protection, empowering children as leaders within their communities through 'Bal Panchayats' (child parliaments). Through the artwork here, Somaia's team explores universal themes of justice, political participation, rights and empowerment and celebrates the manifestation of these principles in Sanjay Camp.