Clad in a paint-smattered apron, Columbian artist Vicky Fadul is standing in the middle of a slum right behind Delhi’s swish Hauz Khas village, painting the outer walls of the houses. It’s a hot and muggy afternoon, and Fadul is sweating profusely as she daubs bright orange paint on the moss-covered brick.
Around her are a group of children, mostly girls, who are similarly engaged their excitement and enthusiasm at this out-of-the-ordinary event is palpable. Fourteen-year-old Reshmi is painstakingly filling in a complicated design with a fine brush.
“No, I have never painted with a brush before,” she giggles, a little shy at having to answer questions. “But it looks nice, no?”
The girls have been organised into teams: some are standing on overturned buckets to paint the top half of the walls a pale green, a few others painting the lower half a vivid orange, while a third tram squats on the ground to layer stenciled rollers with paint from plastic trays, and some more then carefully apply the rollers on the wall.
There’s unusual bustle around Fadul; besides the children and their elders, many of her compatriots, including Ambassador Juan Alfredo Pinto, have dropped in to watch her. After all, Fadul’s project, La Casa Pintada or The Painted House, has been brought to the capital by the Colombian embassy in India.
As part of La Casa Pintada, Fadul has been painting facades of homes in rundown neighbourhoods for over 10 years now. She’s done it in 55 villages in her country, besides four villages in Indonesia and one site in London. “It’s a way of bringing people together to do something creative, and also to teach them a new skill which can later help them get employment,” says Fadul.
It is a joy to work with her young Indian assistants, she says, because they have a natural feel for colour: “this red and yellow”, she says pointing to a tie-and-dye kurta that someone is wearing, “that deep blue”, she says, pointing to a sari.
On day three of Fadul’s project three houses at the head of the lane are done, painted all over with stenciled patterns of flowers, birds and leaves in green, blue, red, and they’ve turned to the next three. There are around 10 more to go and Fadul says she’s decided to paint houses on an adjoining road as well. The world could always do with some colour after all.