The Gandhian virtue of the dignity of work and the high-tech future of green jobs, meld their messages on a six-storey high mural commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN. The mural, looking up from the vista that opens to the iconic glass-fronted UN building a block away, was inaugurated on 9 April.
The other themes on the mural, a joint effort of the ILO and the Indian mission, include the concept of “green”, environmentally sustainable jobs and the greening of the world by planting trees.
India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said at the inauguration that the mural addresses global concerns of decent jobs and the environment. He said the mural effort goes beyond the diplomatic work at the UN of dealing with resolutions to a new diplomatic area of reaching out to people to create broader awareness of issues.
Victor Ash, the artist who painted it while perched high on a cherry-picker, told IANS, “I mixed different ideas and came up with this ‘green astronaut’ that is also the worker – the worker from the future who would be working in space.”
And to commemorate the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, he said he added Gandhi’s image as a logo on the arm of the astronaut.
Ash said that one of his inspirations was India’s record in 2017 of planting 66 million trees on a single day.
The mission building with a red-stone facade was designed by the internationally acclaimed Indian architect Charles Correa, but one of its sides was bared to the bricks after the neighbouring building was torn down and a hotel was built on the site with a deep setback. The mural now decorates the exposed brick side without impinging on the building’s Correa design.
The mural was one of several sponsored across the city by ILO to commemorate its centenary with a project called ‘Street Art for Mankind’ which aims to spread the message of decent work for all with sustainable development and social justice.
Portugal-born Ash said that he had painted a mural at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai during its Summerfest. He started as a street-artist in Paris where he had studied, and later went into doing paintings for galleries. But the lure of the street was too strong to resist. “Murals have a much bigger impact: you can actually transmit messages much better than just exhibiting in galleries for a few specific people.”