Human Interest
The Colours of Chennai project wants people to feel connected to public spaces around them, by beautifying and taking care of public walls.

While people often complain of how public spaces in their city are dirty and badly maintained, it’s not every day that they come together to do something about it.

This past Sunday, however, close to 70 people came together to give the RBI bypass in Broadway a makeover, by painting one wall of the bypass. From 7am to 11am, scores of people painted joyous expressions of public spirit, as part of the Colours of Chennai project kickstarted by the Chennai Tricolour Initiative (CTI).

The whole idea behind CTI is to bring people together for common causes that affect every member of the public, says Mridulya Narasimhan, Managing Trustee of the Chennai Tricolour Initiative. And so, it made sense to gather people for the public spaces that they share in common.

“We see a lot of public spaces in a bad condition. So, we took it upon us to identify Chennai corporation walls or public walls and we took permission from Chennai corporation to paint them,” says Mridulya.

At the RBI Bypass, the theme guiding the artwork was old and new Chennai. Mridulya says that the theme resonates strongly with the place the bypass occupies in the city’s geography. “It is a significant wall because one side leads towards old Chennai and the other side towards new Chennai.”

Within the theme, Mridulya says, members of the public are given wide room to paint whatever the city represents to them. “The only thing that we make sure is that there is nothing religious or political, and that it is a completely secular artwork,” says Mridulya.

So, Mridulya says, at Sunday’s event, 20 to 25 children aged between five and 10 years participated from various learning centres in the city. “We wanted them to draw what Chennai means to them, and one child ended up drawing a church, a temple, a masjid and a gurudwara. This is exactly what we are aiming at, that all of us should see each other equally,” she narrates.

The RBI bypass is the second wall that’s been painted under the Colours of Chennai project. In August, nearly 300 people had painted a wall in the Nageswara Rao Park in Mylapore. That event had focused on neighbourhood of Mylapore and the emotions it evokes for residents there.

For each wall, the project ties up with one architecture firm and an artist. “The architecture firm knows the landscape of the area, and the artist comes up with the new concept for each wall. For this wall, the architecture firm is Triple O, and the artist is Arjun. We were also sponsored by Nippon Paints and Spectrum Decors,” says Mridulya.

Mridulya says that they aim to have at least one wall painted by the public and taken care of by local residents in every single ward of the city. “We want the people to have a sense of belonging to a wall, we want people to come together as a community and start taking care of the walls,” she says.