Draping the walls of the quaint little town of Kochi in the southern tip of India in an eccentric styled stencil art graffiti is an anonymous artist going by the pseudonym ‘Guess Who’. The uniqueness of the graffiti lies in the juxtaposition of modern western icons with traditional Indian imagery.
Taking a walk down Kochi’s lanes one may come across pop cultural icons like Mr Bean, Marilyn Monroe, Mona Lisa Michael Jackson and, this being Communist-ruled Kerala, even Karl Marx in Indian avatars.
Wall art has often been used as a tool by ‘underground’ artists to protest against various forms of repressions during times of war. The English graffiti artist who works under the pseudonym ‘Banksy’ is known for a similar style of satirical street art, drawing inevitable comparisons; the Kochi artist is being referred to as the Indian ‘Banksy’.
The work of the artist spread through an online post on the website reddit.com.
In an interview with the New Indian Express the ‘Guess Who’ artist said, on condition of anonymity of course, “Our exposure to the various art practices is very limited. Even today most of the art that we see are meant to produce just decorative ornaments. A medium like graffiti can play a significant role in the cultural landscape and consciousness of a city. But at the same time there’s no point just painting pussy cats, rainbows, and pots with flowers on the walls…”
‘Guess Who’ is not the only contributor to street art in Kochi. Fort Kochi’s walls have actively played the role of a canvas for graffiti artists in the city who have infused its European heritage with Indian art and imagery. Whether it’s a lone artist or a group acting together, ‘Guess Who’s work is certainly being discussed for its eccentric brilliance and uniqueness.
“As long as there are advertising billboards, there will be graffiti, too. Even though there could be a difference in opinion about which is legal and which is not, there should not be no contest as to which is more true,” read the ‘About Me’ section of ‘Guess Who’s Facebook page.