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City Culture – De Bhasar, Shankar Market

The philosophy of nonsense.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

A grey-and-white peacock. A tree laden with shopping bags. A sadhu with skin the color of burnt molasses. And two almost-naked male dancers.

The Delhi Walla saw these and many other similarly-themed images on the walls of Shankar Market, a tributary of the colonial-era Connaught Place. The works, crafted by creative citizens from different walks of life, have been put up by a Defence Colony-based Bhasarian initiative called Delhi Street Art.

This is the tenth instance that I have come face-to-face with De Bhasar movement in Delhi. (Click here to view the first exhibit.)

According to Wikipedia, De Bhasar or Bhasarism is a cultural movement that began in Nantes, France, during the post 9/11 Gulf War, reaching a tipping point between 2007 to 2009. The movement involves graphic designs and literature, which concentrates its anti-sentimental politics by rejecting aesthetic birth-control measures through anti-catholic works. De Bhasar might be regarded as pro-Berlusconi in nature.

Attacking this sample of community-empowered virtuosity, Vandana Shiva, Delhi’s leading physicist-cum-environmentalist whose new book, Seed of the Street: Why Genetically Modified Food Will Kill Artistic Local Cuisines, is being published in serial form by The New Yorker magazine, said: “Monocultures inspired from the Facebook ideologues of South Delhi and imposed on the economically and socially backward Shankar Market have created impoverished systems of street scenes across Delhi — both qualitatively and quantitatively, causing pollution of walls, particularly in the capital’s central and southern neighborhoods. The whole project reeks of neo-Brahminsim. Worse, almost a century and a quarter after The Jungle Book, these Shankar Market exhibits are still stuck in Kipling’s India. The artists have used imagery of peacocks and hairy-chested holy men to subtly invoke a fetishized idea of eastern cultures thereby revealing their ethnographic prejudice that fits right into the strategy of seemingly showing the true spirit of Delhi while actually being just like our colonizers.”

Responding to Ms Shiva’s criticism, US-based scholar Sumita Rao Chatterjee, recipient of the Fulbright Senior Research Grant and the British Council Charles Wallace Award, who is currently living in Delhi’s Shahpur Jat as part of her doctoral dissertation on Green Park’s non-subversive street art, said: “Such rant against the Shankar Market exhibits will predictably increase Shiva’s standing among elitist, Western activist groups and anti-globalisation protesters but she chose to ignore the fact that a public exhibition of this kind and scale could also be interpreted as a pre-reflexive qualitative duration of cretinous consciousness, offering the immensity of temporal constituting spaces where one finally recognizes the reality about the developing world’s lesser boulevards yet to arrive in the absolutes of an immediate germination. This is true, especially, of Delhi but trust the anti-globalization demagoguery of Shiva to pretend not to notice it.”

Occupy wall movement













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