“Street art is decorative, contextual, layered and artists aren’t afraid of giving their name. Graffiti is more underground, more rebel.”- Daku, Wall Street Journal, 2013.
The Dacoit Appears
When Daku’s work started appearing on dilapidated walls of Delhi around 2008, no one quite knew what to think. There wasn’t much in the name of street art, and certainly not of the kind he was offering.
“The wall is a powerful medium,” says the artist who prefers to go anonymous. And boy does he skillfully use it to get his message across. His work, like all good graffiti, is miles ahead of decorative.
The artist picked up a spray can, laying claim to walls in Mumbai, with French artiste JonOne, as member of the global graffiti group Crew 156. He also collaborated with two other graffiti artist, Bond and Zine in Delhi in 2008.
Leaving a Mark
For Daku, his name, or artwork, on a wall is a symbol. A symbol of dissent, of a self-titled dacoit marking unclaimed canvases and calling them his. “When I am Daku, it is a very different feeling. Here I am not answerable to anyone, I do whatever I want to, but well within my limits… the Daku in me is also responsible,” he says in an interview with the Asian age.
The curiosity behind his identity is huge. “I never grew up dreaming of becoming this anonymous artist. But when one does graffiti they go with a tag name and Daku was something that struck me and so I stuck with it. Also, being anonymous gives me great freedom and even lets me work in peace,” explains the dacoit of the art world.
A Warrior armed with a Spray Paints
In 2011, the then-ACP of Mumbai, Vasant Dhoble attempted to implement archaic laws in the city, and took upon the role of moral police for all our benefits. Bars were shut down early in the nights, women with friends were arrested for ‘prostitution’, and all in the apparent name of Indian culture. Daku expressed his disgust by spraying fuck in Devnagari across streets of Mumbai. Can’t silence the mobs, especially when they’re quiet and on a wall, can you now?
A giant middle finger with the discernible black mark with ‘Mat Do’ (which had dual meaning, don’t give vote or vote) written underneath in Devnagari, appeared in popular spots of Delhi a few days before the elections in 2013. ‘Mat Do’ was a jab, a literal finger to the system of democracy wherein the only choice, if any, the public gets is the lesser evil.
Over the Years
Daku’s work has moved from dilapidated walls to contemporary art events, like the Kochi Biennale and the India Art Fair. His works have been showcased at venues of global artistic repute.
However, dismissing the politics of the art world, the masked artist prefers to stick to the streets, under the shadows of the night, laying claim to cities which often swallow their people whole.
Source for all Images: DAKU