Warli Art painted pillars spring up at Chowpatty leave authorities stumped!

May 17, 2018, 08:48 IST | Team mid-day

A memorial for constable Tukaram Omble, who lost his life in the terror attack, across the road, is fenced by similar pillars, but these stand bare

Chowpatty pillars

The stewards ferrying chilled mugs of beer at Chowpatty's Café Ideal have no clue how and when four pillars stationed on the footpath outside sprouted Warli art characters, and the message, Tribute to our Martyrs of 26/11. A memorial for constable Tukaram Omble, who lost his life in the terror attack, across the road, is fenced by similar pillars, but these stand bare. The cops stationed 24/7 nearby say, "It seems like someone must have come at night and done this."

Or perhaps the BMC decided to beautify them, they think aloud. VP Mote, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, D-Ward, denies responsibility. "It's not our work." A rep at PWD puts the ball back in BMC's court. "It falls in their jurisdiction," he says with certainty. Mid-day reporters Gaurav Sarkar and Benita Fernando are far from satisfied. They track down SO Kori, Chief Engineer-Bridges, who reveals that the pillars are in fact, remnants of Bombay's first-ever escalator bridge. The FOB was later demolished in 2013. With plans to build a new bridge, the foundation was left intact, but in the new tender, Kori says, they have authorised to "remove the foundation since it has become weak". In the midst of this ping pong, what's not lost on the city's artist community is the sorry state of public art.

Installation artist Smriti Dixit reacts to the quality of the painting, and says, "A day after the great Warli artist Jivya Soma Mashe passed away, this is an affront to the possibilities of art in a public space. It's creativity under threat." Leandre D'Souza, who co-founded and curates a collective that explores the role of contemporary art within the urban context of the city, says, "How uncanny to see four blank poles suddenly come to life. While the work uses a style that is so under-represented, I still need to see a work that is of merit in our public spaces, and this includes a lot of contemporary work that we see popping up on traffic islands. None of the works reflect the diversity of identities in the city, and the imagination of its many people." On the way back, the reporters find the same cop, who this time has a question for them — "Why are you looking for who did this; do you find the work offensive?" Well, yes, but not in the way you imagine.

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