Summer 2020 co Authored by A Blower, A Gupta & K Shah.
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
It was an interesting summer, as we continue our partial transformation of this area of central Peterborough. These underpasses were previously stained by racially charged slogans and imagery, which we are now told possess a more welcoming feel... If you were to visit you will find folk, from all corners of the city, who have taken the time out of their day to come, view and enjoy having art in a public space, space which had previously been used to promote division has, in effect, become somewhere people go to feel quite the opposite.
Some of the comments and interactions we have had with the public include:
“Thank you so much”
“I can not believe how different it feels coming through here now, it actually puts a smile on my face knowing i am coming this way, thank you”.
A lady cyclist has visited us several times an enthusiast, of arts, she says “I travel through this place on my way to town for shopping and work. I have brought some friends with me today to watch you all painting, it is really beautiful to be here with these pieces and to watch them change and develop, there was a butterfly on that painting yesterday, now there are poppies.
A young man stated “This will never help!” he refers us to the people who deal illicitly, are homeless and says “This has been going on for years! You can’t change it!” rides further up the Taverners Rd underpass to view the art, turns to Nath’s piece and says “Ah! I love this piece!” turns to the Waterfall and says “So Peaceful!” shrugs his shoulders and with a sheepish smile, rides off. Glancing back throwing us one last smile as he continued on his way.
Over the last two weeks, four more pieces have been installed, these come together to change the experience for anyone using this as a route, or so we are told regularly, by the steady stream of passers-by (as we continue to change this urbanscape) this work has drastically changed the experience of commuters through this area of central Peterborough.
The culmination of Nath’s tryptic is included in these recent works. The first piece, commissioned and installed in November 2019, “Love”, gaining over 10k likes, but became particularly prominent on social media in the wake of the brutal killing of George Floyd, as it was taken up by the capmaign in Minnesota and was then being retweeted by the celebrities Jahari Evens, Ice cube, and with Ice T retweeting the original imagery and quoting “UNITY! That scares the s*** out of ‘em …” on 2nd June, this was retweeted by 3’716 users and liked by 18.7k...this in itself was retweeted by Chuck D (of the public enemy) who said“ that’s a DoPE use of a tunnel Berg…”, Jahari Evans (NFL Superstar) “FACTS!”, following the response from his giant BLM friends and on the following day ICE (you know I mean the “T”) retweeted his own original international grabbing tweet with the words “bring that tweet back”, and even implying that his original tweet, carrying our artwork, had attained him 4th place on that weeks top 10 #Social50, going as far as tweeting his exuberance at our imageries assistance..saying on twitter “#4 thats pretty good I guess, since I have WAY LESS followers than anyone on list”...placing what he personally perceives as an overreach, solidly in the interacting with the racial integrations engrained within in this work, and wich our projects aim to champion.
The second piece of the tryptic was installed on June 8th 2020, that week saw further amazing transformations take place in the form of work by local artists, Charron Pugsley-Hill and Tony Nero.
The area has become a beacon for walkers and art lovers, spend an hour of their time to visit the site.
We are raising funds for further works and have launched our fundraising site https://www.patreon.com/diasporacharity and we welcome people visiting us, in small groups (social distancing) to have a chat and to view works being done on-site.
EQUILIBRIUM (My Story)- By Akriti Gupta
January 20, 2009- “Barack Obama is the new black president of The United States of America”. Every news channel in India had the same headline. I asked my father what was so big about a person being elected as a president in some other country? And why does everyone keep saying- ‘The Black president’? My father then educated me about the concept of ‘Discrimination’, and he told me this man fought against all the odds and is going to change the history. And that is why the world is celebrating today. I was very young and only knew that the Indian society is divided into different classes and casts. I asked him, ‘Even to promote that he is the ‘First black president’, isn’t that discrimination too? My dad then explains that differentiation is one thing and discrimination is another thing. In our country, since years we have been celebrating the differentiation but now it has become discrimination and it was mostly because of the political party leaders making it a political agenda. The differences were always there, in terms of class or casts, but now the politicians politicize it and propagate it, which creates a feeling of insecurity in the general people who believe in their leaders, and this results into prejudiced or bigotry behavior. To collect votes, the political parties create this short-term plan but fail to realize that the outcome of it has a long-lasting impact on society. And they are still using the same strategy and we fall for it every time.
I wanted to pursue law because of these social atrocities, and I wanted to work for the society and bring a change. This dream eventually made me travel to the UK and join University of East Anglia for master’s in law. And here, I met Karima, my flatmate and one of my closest friends. We used to have long conversations about life and what comes with it. One day I was showing her my art collection and she told me that she is a founder of an organization- Diaspora Arts & Education. She asked me to visit Peterborough with her and see the work she and Nathan Nyce (Artist) did in November 2019, which is now an international symbol for unity and art against anti-racism. Luckil,y I visited Peterborough soon enough and she took me to the underpass where the graffiti was. When I and Karima were looking at the graffiti for a few seconds, she asked for an artist to artist opinion, and that she would like me to paint on one of the walls for her campaign. And I immediately said a ‘YES’ to her as I felt it was a great opportunity to express myself through art and like I have a responsibility now, as a human being, lawyer, social activist and an artist, to utilize the opportunity and tell the world what I think and feel about the Discrimination.
We started our work in June, where some artists, including me and Karima, decided to paint on the walls in the subway for our Anti- Racism project. Even though we were in the middle of a pandemic, the whole team was determined to work on the campaign, keeping in mind all the safety measures and rules for protecting ourselves during the pandemic.
Through this opportunity, I wanted to tell the world that we all should seek and work to maintain the balance in ourselves, love yourself, multiply the love in you and share it with the world. Love the process of nature, of being born, of dying, of success, of failure, of feeling all kinds of emotions, of loving someone from all your heart and soul, and loving yourself- your body, mind, heart, all the body parts, you character, your emotions, your nature and your feelings. And through this art which I call “EQUILIBRIUM’, I have tried to spread the message- of the sense of balance in life through yin and yang, the Lotus is a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self- regeneration, and rebirth. Even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the lotus produces the most beautiful flower, and rises high reaching out to stars and if you look closely, you might see a shooting star too! Daisy is a flower which gives me a sense of happiness and helps me find my peace, it symbolizes childbirth, motherhood, and new beginnings. And the hands of two people looking for love, when they find each other, they fill each other's sense of emptiness by giving and sharing the love in their hearts and the two weak and delicate wines when come together, become unbreakable.
When I was almost done with painting, tired, me and Karima were waiting for it to dry, one of the onlookers, a girl, approximately my age and a student, who is also exploring her life, told me that she loved my art and if it was complete? And I looked at her and replied ‘No, it’s not done yet. Do you like it though?’. Then she tells me ‘Oh I love it! But it looks complete! I can see the process of being born, love, hurdles, compassion, aspiration and the strive to explore life by reaching out to other people. It seems that these two people have finally met, with yin and yang. The black of it is full of hurdles, whereas the white is nothing but peaceful. What else can you possibly do in this piece now? I looked at her, smiled, and told her, ‘Oh! Just the varnishing!’ and we all had a good laugh.
It is amazing to listen to the perspectives of different people about the same art. People see according to the emotions they are dealing with at that time and at that moment, or their life. A lot of people said my work gave them inspiration, and I hope when they see our wall murals in the subway, they go home with a smile, peace and love at heart and happiness.
In times like this, where people are feeling outrageous due to the wave of Anti- racist behavior and the insensitivity towards people, I decided to look at the bigger picture. I wanted to look deep into the people who consciously or unconsciously discriminate while trying to differentiate between any kinds of life (human beings or animals). What could possibly be the reason? Is it Fear? Is it lack of compassion? Is it because there is not enough self-love in human beings anymore? What could possibly be the reason? Discrimination is everywhere, from a single person to a family, a family to a society, and from a society to the country and then the continent and eventually the whole world. And the roots of it are ‘insecurity’ which some people misuse for their political or personal agendas.
Even after gaining historical and scientific knowledge, why are we still facing the problem of Discrimination? Are we checking ourselves everyday of our lives, consciously, if we are being discriminatory towards someone? Are we trying enough? And if we are, why doesn’t it look like everything is fine? And if not, then when are we going to step? Did this pandemic teach us nothing? Why didn’t we learn that nature doesn’t discriminate, the virus didn’t discriminate, and that a lack of people died regardless of their colour and cultural background. If life doesn't discriminate, why do we? Are we bigger than the creator of the world? And if we are, why are we still discriminating based on small issues like colour or race? Shouldn’t we rise high above this issue now? Rather than appreciating the difference and celebrating it, and eliminating discrimination, we are running away from accepting each other.
My whole life I have studied in my school in India that ‘Unity lies in Diversity’. We are progressing every day. We are civilised today. We have all the advanced technology. We can connect with anyone from anywhere to any part of the world, but we are still fighting with each other because of discrimination. We are still not ready to accept another person just because he/she has a different colour or comes from a different cultural background. My country and my values have taught me to believe that all living things are sacred and accepting responsibility for the natural world will bring good karmic consequences for everyone. And that is how I have chosen to live my life. Now, the decision is yours.