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It is around 7.30 am, and Somashekhar Gudipalli from Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur is all set to seize the day.
Armed with a mask, paintbrushes, and paint, the 25-year-old leaves for a 90-km journey to Kadiri village. His mother makes sure he carries a lunch box as it’s going to be a long day for the final year student of Fine Arts at the Yogi Vemana University.
Since Somashekar has already taken permission from the police and local panchayat, no one stops him from entering the village despite a strict lockdown.
Over the next few hours, Somashekar paints a gorgeous picture of an old lady sporting a mask on the wall of a house.
He comes home by evening and begins prepping for another piece of street art in another village.
This has been Somashekar’s schedule ever since the nationwide lockdown was imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.
As his college is shut, for the time being, Somashekar has turned towards spreading awareness about coronavirus in his district through his artworks. He has made around 90 COVID-19-related paintings across 50 villages so far.
“Everyone in the village may not have access to a television, newspaper or internet to receive information about the ongoing pandemic. However, street painting can be seen by everyone and also works as a reminder. I aim to spread awareness about social distancing and other preventive measures among as many villagers as possible,” Somashekar tells The Better India.
Along with some of his paintings, Somashekar also writes informative messages in his regional language.
“Tummina daggina cheti rumalu vada di (Use handkerchief while coughing and sneezing). Corona mahamari ni nirmoolinchandi (Eradicate coronavirus pandemic),” reads one of his wall paintings.
Somashekar’s art pieces have got a positive response from people, “People often come up to me to inquire about the paintings while I am in the process. This way, I try to initiate a conversation around safety protocols they should follow.”
Meanwhile, his parents, who are farm labourers, have also been supporting him in purchasing paints and meeting travel expenses.
Somashekar’s talent was identified by his teachers when he was in the second grade. On their encouragement, he would participate in annual art festivals organised by the Rural Development Trust (RDT).
His artwork on violence against women gained immense recognition and even a prize at the RDT festival. Since then, his work mostly revolves around contemporary societal issues, the latest one being COVID-19.
“Painting is an expression of my thoughts and ideas. It transcends through all cultural, and social barriers, and everyone can relate to it,” he concludes.
Check out Somashekar’s simple, innovative, and informative artworks:
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)