Over 100 houses in a slum in Hyderabad's Filmnagar have got a complete makeover with brightly coloured paint and various artworks adorning the exterior walls, much to the joy of the local residents. This, after the intervention of Rouble Nagi Art Foundation, which is well-known for its work in Mumbai's slums, partnered with Phoenix Group, to use art as a tool for social change. The social welfare initiative has been dubbed Misaal Hyderabad.
The art works include a large film camera and a clapboard that adorns one side of a building, besides giant portraits of Dr BR Ambedkar and former President Abdul Kalam on the premises of a local high school.
Several slogans have also been painted on the walls like 'Education above all', 'Education is knowledge' and 'Equality, not charity'.
Speaking to TNM, Kapil Aswani, a Project Coordinator with the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation says that the concept started off in Mumbai a few years ago by artist Rouble Nagi. "Via painting, we can address community development as well. In slums, you have people of all religions living together. Once you have everyone on board with an activity like painting, it gives them a sense of ownership of what they have created. They will try to preserve it even after we are gone," he says.
However, this is only the first step. The foundation also works in the areas of hygiene, sanitation, employment, women’s empowerment and education.
"Every time we start painting work, we organise cleanliness drives by and for the people who live in that area. We talk to them about things like waste management and we try to make sure that the community is a part of it. We have volunteers that we choose from that community itself. They become representatives of Misaal and try to keep taking the work forward," Kapil says.
The foundation also sets up vocational centres where they register women who want to work from their homes, as mobility is an issue for them, and train them in skills like stitching and tailoring.
"One of our trustees is fashion designer Neeta Lulla, who gives work to them. They become entrepreneurs in their own sense after that and earn a livelihood," Kapil says.
The foundation also hosts an art camp for the children of the slum.
"Art is something that unites people and it is also something that is fun. Children love it. We have lots of registrations. Based on that, we start a balwadi (an informal school for economically weaker sections)," Kapil says.
The balwadis are run in the neighbourhood itself and work on ensuring that a child understands what they learn in school. This is done free of cost.
"We are now working on a skill centre and balwadi now in Hyderabad and once they are finished, it will cater to filmnagar and the entire vicinity," Kapil says.
"The first phase of painting work is over now and the second phase begins in March 4. We have currently finished painting around 105 houses and our target is to complete 500, which will be done in the next few months," he adds.