Meet the Chennai artist who created the viral ‘coronavirus’ helmet

Artist B Gowtham’s work grabbed the attention of the international media with his coronavirus-themed props used by the Chennai police.
Meet the Chennai artist who created the viral ‘coronavirus’ helmet
Meet the Chennai artist who created the viral ‘coronavirus’ helmet

Earlier this week, a peculiar sight in Chennai caught the attention of the national and international media. Amidst a nationwide lockdown, where Indians are encouraged to stay indoors and keep off the roads, a police inspector is seen stopping two people on a two-wheeler. On his head is a helmet covered in protruding spikes — in other words, a coronavirus helmet.

The man behind that helmet, and other coronavirus-themed props used by the Chennai police, is B Gowtham, a 27-year-old artist who wanted to find a way to grab people’s attention while warning them of the dangers of the rapidly moving infection. “Only the police could actually engage with the public for the lockdown period. So I wanted to help them out,” said Gowtham, who is the founder of the organisation Art Kingdom as well as Walk for Plastic.

In the initial days of the lockdown, he visited the Villivakkam police station in Chennai and spoke to the inspector about how he could help. He first started with coronavirus placards that showed a caricature of the disease holding various messages, like “if you come out, I’ll come in.”   

But he didn’t just want to create a fun, cartoonish depiction of the coronavirus. He wanted an image that would force people to come face-to-face with the virus and understand the need to be fearful — enter the “coronavirus warrior.”

Gowtham’s warrior features the now-famous helmet, as well as a mace and a shield, all made to resemble the microscopic image of the coronavirus. Each prop was made with newspaper, discarded wood pieces, an old plastic food delivery bowl and other recycled or refurbished items.

“We need a corona warrior now to protect our people, to protect our nation," he said.

While images of the helmet and 'protective' gear have gone viral, Gowtham doesn’t plan to make any more just yet. Instead, he is thinking of other ways to help spread the message on the gravity of the situation around the COVID-19 pandemic.

India currently has over 2,000 COVID-19 cases across the country, with a growing number of patients in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Delhi. 

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