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Captivating murals reflect community spirit at Nochikuppam now

Nochi Art District emerges as the 7th of its kind in the country and the state’s third open-air and open-to-all public art gallery

Captivating murals reflect community spirit at Nochikuppam now

At Nochikuppam Art District

CHENNAI: Expanding from the success of the Kannagi Art District, St+art India Foundation has recently concluded the development of the Nochi Art District within the TNUHDB tenements along Marina Loop Road in Chennai. This milestone cements Chennai’s status as the first Indian city to host two thriving art districts. The collaborative effort involving Asian Paints and the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board underscores St+art India Foundation’s commitment to infusing urban landscapes with artistic vibrancy, thereby reinvigorating cityscapes.

The murals adorning this space resonate with the spirit of the local community. Nochikuppam, a habitat for more than 800 fishing families, has been imbued with an inspiring panorama along the Foreshore Estate promenade, situated just opposite the Foreshore Estate beach. Central to the murals’ theme was Letters for the City, an exploration that delved into narratives resonating with the sea, environmental concerns, social issues, and the lives of those connected to the ocean. These artworks engaged with notions of home, migration, and indigenous livelihoods, fostering a profound sense of hope and belonging in the community. The Nochi Art District showcases the works of four contributors - H11235 from Nepal, Paola Delfin from Mexico, A-Kill from Chennai, and the Kerala-based artist collective known as Trespassers.

Paola Delfin, the talented Mexican artist, shared her encounter, underlining the immense significance of Nochikuppam and its enchanting diversity. “Nochikuppam is a profoundly unique place – with its ocean, bustling fish markets, and the joyful spectacle of children flying kites in the afternoon. Upon my arrival at Nochi, I was genuinely taken aback by the sheer beauty that unfolded before me. Vishnu, a local from Nochi, shared numerous stories about Nochikuppam with me – its developmental trajectory, the community’s dreams, and aspirations across time. This experience underscored the profound value of collaborating with the community and creating art within such a context, despite the inherent challenges,” Paola told DT Next.

The artist emphasises the uniqueness of this experience and her happiness in being part of the initiative. “It’s a beautiful and simple feeling of just being alive. The place was covered with life, reminding us of the significance of finding joy in even the smallest things, highlighting the importance of every aspect of life,” she added.

The Trespassers, a collective of seven artists hailing from diverse corners of Kerala, also shared their exhilarating experience working on the Nochi art project. Reflecting on the Nochi experience, one of the artists from Trespassers, said, “Working in Nochi was an amazing experience for the team. The vantage point from the boom lift offered a breathtaking view of the ocean. It allowed us to observe the ocean’s dynamic activity, fostering a stronger connection with it. The residents of Nochikuppam already have an ancestral bond with the ocean, and this connection influenced our mural work as well.”

For the Trespassers, the ocean is not merely a backdrop but a community endeavour. “Going to the ocean, fishing, and selling are always collective actions. In our mural, we sought to merge these aspects of community life with the living structure. Our portrayal of the essence of Nochikuppam revolves around the iconic image of people supporting the Kattumaram – the traditional Tamil watercraft made from intertwined tree trunks. Our mural depicted both creatures and people, threading a narrative that bridges various sequences. We approach our art as a performance, wherein everyday metaphors and images seamlessly become part of the mural. Nochikuppam’s vibrant essence, characterised by its people and all the elements – clouds, boats, ocean, and wind – has inspired our ideas and images each day, creating a dynamic tapestry that we strive to interconnect,” the team shared with us.

Giulia Ambrogi, the festival curator of St+art India Foundation, stated that the team was excited to initiate the Nochi Art District, which has now become an iconic landmark of the city. “The realisation of Nochi Art District has been a long-cherished vision for us, driven by its exceptional location, vibrant communities, and the rich ethnic narrative that surrounds it. The warm welcome and enthusiastic participation from the people and communities in Nochikuppam have been truly heartening. For us, Nochi Art District is not just about creating murals; it’s about involving the people in a transformative and inspiring initiative. Nochi Art District stands as a celebration of art, culture, and community, and we are excited to witness its lasting impact on the city’s artistic landscape.”

Merin James
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