When the walls become canvases

Health is often found to be the one of the least discussed topics in many ways. Against this backdrop, silent walls are being used to spread awareness about health among masses. They start relaying important messages when decorated with colourful pictures that express untold emotions.

Pictures possess a greater ability to communicate than words, as they can leave a more profound impact on our minds. Visuals not only carry a message but also can reveal hidden emotions. Using pictures for more effective communication instead of words is something which is in practice since ancient times. They generally work on the principle of problems and their solutions.

While times have changed, the idea of conveying information through pictures still holds significance. The practice has become even wider. The pictures are no longer limited to just papers and the entire world has become their canvas since they are being put up everywhere, from walls to roads to by-lanes to raise public awareness on various issues. The pictures and the colours have given the walls a voice and they are carrying out an important duty of educating the society despite being mute.

Conversations in silence during COVID-19

Artwork on walls can be an effective medium to raise social awareness. Especially in rural areas, where the spread of education is still not up to the mark, using pictures to raise awareness about health among people can be a good step. During the Covid-19 pandemic, wall artwork was useful in spreading awareness about masks, hand sanitiser and social distancing as people avoided coming into close contact with each other.

wall painting

Rashi Raghunath had started working on spreading public awareness about health through wall artwork with cooperation from Mumbai District AIDS Control Society, Wadala, and MAD. She says, “In my first opportunity to work on wall artworks to raise health awareness, I made them related to HIV/AIDS. However, creating pictures on walls and conveying social messages through them is a challenging task. Often, people walk past the walls ignoring the artwork and it is challenging to make the pictures speak. Attractive pictures certainly make people turn their heads and make them understand the message that the artists have tried to convey.”

Broken Window Theory in action

“Observing cleanliness initiatives on walls in different cities like Bengaluru and other countries has been a source of inspiration for me. These places demonstrated effective maintenance of cleanliness in public areas such as roads. However, ‘The Ugly Indian’ had a significant impact on me, particularly when I began studying the ‘Broken Window THeory’ thereafter. According to the theory, when a place is kept clean and painted to give it a new look, people take extra care to keep that place clean and safe,” Rashi adds.

wall painting

The utilisation of wall artwork can catalyze initiating discussions on topics that often make people hesitant to speak openly. These topics may include HIV/AIDS, awareness about sex, loneliness, depression and others. In addition, wall artwork can address crucial health-related issues that people tend to disregard either knowingly or unknowingly. These issues include basic practices like hand hygiene before meals, maintaining cleanliness in our surroundings, wearing helmets while riding two-wheelers, and driving at a safe speed, among others. We see a lot of signboards on highways or in crowded areas with messages like ‘Drive slow, somebody is waiting for you at home’. Such messages can motivate them to adhere to regulations and prioritise their safety.

Hurdles in the journey

As with everything else, there are challenges in this work as well. “While there is a sense of satisfaction in creating artwork, there are some challenges. Sudden rain can hinder and ruin our entire work. Besides rain, there are a lot of anti-social elements who destroy the artwork by either spitting on them or erasing the art.

Artwork can reveal one’s mental health

wall painting

People passing by the Tihar jail in Delhi can easily notice poetry written on its boundary wall. The creators of these lines are none other than the women inmates of the prison who try to give wings to their thoughts. In a way, these lines engraved on the wall running nearly two kilometres can be called the country’s biggest wall artwork.

These lines express the idea that even when confined within the walls of a prison, your talent refuses to let your dreams and wants to die. Writing makes a person realise that penning down their thoughts can be a good option to keep themself mentally stable.

Conveying messages through wall art is not new. The archaeological department has unearthed inscriptions and remains of structures from past eras that have writings inscribed on them. In today’s times, spreading awareness about health through wall art can be a novel concept because of the colours. It can give an important message to the public at every step they take and educate them on key issues.

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AYUSH for Holistic Wellness

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