Art to salute the front-line workers

Elsie Nanji and Sameer Kulavoor collaborate to create large portraits of essential workers in Mumbai

The global fight against coronavirus pandemic has witnessed an almost superhuman resilience and grit of the front-line warriors and the essential workers that kept going when everything else halted—the medical staff, support staff, sanitation workers, delivery staff, policemen and so on. If anything, this pandemic has shown us what duty looks like. Many nations across the world, including India, expressed their gratitude for the frontline workers by clapping, lighting candles or diyas, ringing bells and banging utensils collectively at a designated hour.

Sameer Kulavoor (in bandana) planning the execution of the project with his team

Chairman of RPG Enterprises, Harsh Goenka, is celebrating the frontline professionals through an art project which was executed by interior designer Elsie Nanji and visual artist Sameer Kulavoor. Kulavoor is well recognized in the country, and more so in Mumbai, for his illustrations that immediately strike a chord with Indians. The project was visualized and managed by Nanji, who has also designed RPG offices. The two creatives had formed a team for another project but the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that had to be stalled when the coronavirus crises hit the city.

When Goenka expressed his intention to Nanji to recognise the essential workers who have been assiduously performing their duties, Kulavoor was brought on the project to create giant illustrations of the front-line essential workers on the walls of CEAT Mahal building in Worli. A few weeks ago, the artist collaborated with an NGO to raise money for migrant workers through his art. (Read all about the project here.) The project #wallofgratitude was launched a few minutes ago by Goenka through his twitter handle.

I salute the courage and energy of our #CoronaWarriors. It’s immense to see the service that you have provided. We are safe, credit goes to all you frontline workers. Thank you so much! Art by #sameerkulavoor at #RPGHouse,” Goenka said through  his twitter account.

Executing an art project during a strict lockdown comes with severe logistical challenges, and this project was no different. RPG Enterprises worked to manage the logistical challenges—permissions from BMC were cleared, two cranes were brought on site to reach the walls and create artworks of the scale, transportation with valid permits was arranged. In fact, with all the shops closed down, even the art materials were not available. Nanji wrote to the chairman of Asian Paints and the materials that Kulavoor needed were made available in no time. The entire project took a week, and was completed yesterday.

Work in progress

“The idea is that the warriors are outside performing their duties, while we, the people, are inside the windows, at our homes, thanking the warriors,” said Nanji, explaining the concept behind portraits. Nanji is also planning to take the project ahead on a micro site and raise money for the essential staffs. The icons of the microsite will be the portraits created by Kulavoor on the wall. Hopefully, there will be more funding or projects to protect the frontline workers, to compensate them fairly, but first to provide them with necessary protective gear.



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