India's first female graffiti artist is making her mark on the street art scene and challenging stereotypes, one spray-paint can at a time.
Graffiti and street art may be considered a nuisance by many but it has slowly made its way to being considered a legitimate art form around the world. One of the first female graffiti artists in India, 22-year old Kajal Singh, is making quite an impact with her striking work.
Singh,who goes by the moniker ‘Dizy’, is also a hip-hop dancer, an avid painter, and a fitness blogger.
Singh comes from a family where creativity is valued and nurtured. She believes art is in her blood because her mother, who encouraged her talents, is also a painter and her brother is a budding graffiti artist. While art classes and winning art competitions have been a part of her life since childhood, it is the interesting overlap of hip hop and graffiti that fascinates her.
Introduced to hip-hop as a young teen, Kajal fell in love with the culture and music of rap while she was still a student in Delhi. During her stint in Europe, she jammed with several hip-hop groups where she was introduced to graffiti as an element of this rhythmic form of music.
Her love for hip-hop and art eventually led her to graffiti, as she was attracted to the ‘no-rules’ factor and common elements in this music genre and graffiti.
Since graffiti was and still is illegal in some countries, many artists use pseudonyms to keep their identities secret. Talking about how she came up with her quirky artist moniker, she says:
“Actually dizzy means mad, and I thought being the first graffiti girl in India was crazy, so I just kept it Dizy with a single ‘z’!”
Singh is self-professedly crazy about her work but she is also a responsible artist. She doesn’t start work on a project without due permissions, even if that means delaying her work by a few weeks or months.
While most people are happy to give permission when they see photos of her work, some are sceptical about allowing her to paint on their walls. If she doesn’t get permission, she sticks to painting abandoned spaces, which then turn into interaction zones for fellow artists.
Singh finds people in rural areas more open towards getting graffiti done on their walls than residents of urban areas. She also believes people in India are more receptive to street art as it is still very new for India. According to her:
“Indians don’t think of graffiti as a menace the way some other countries do because it’s a novel experience for them to see a whole wall covered in bright colours and art. In Europe, it’s not new anymore and not many people see graffiti as art or appreciate it.”
Among her favourite spaces to do graffiti in India is Bandra in Mumbai, where she finds people more socially and culturally open than Delhi.
Unlike most of the other street art happening in India today, Singh’s forte is old-school graffiti. She uses blocky, bubbly letters in bright colours, along with shine and accents. Tiny caricatures often accompany her experiments with handwriting and styles.
Constantly reinvented, Singh’s tags are fresh, kitschy and charming, and make you want to take a closer look. She even teams up with her brother (who works under the pseudonym Komet) on some projects.
Singh was a part of the 2nd International Graffiti and Hip Hop Project team in 2014, jointly organised by the German consulate and Hip-Hop Stützpunkt of Berlin to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The team created the iconic graffiti showpiece depicting Conrad Schumann’s famous jump across the Berlin Wall from East to West Germany, on the walls of the German consulate in Calcutta.
Kajal Singh believes that hip hop and graffiti have made her more open, independent and mature. A shy girl once, today she is unafraid to take on the streets around the world with her work. She believes in creating art in as many areas as she can access, from the arches under railway bridges to the walls of abandoned buildings. Her striking street art has led to her moniker being stamped all over the walls of Berlin and she is a part of the underground graffiti scene in several European cities. Thanks to her graffiti, there’s definitely a lot more of India on the walls of these cities.