Kajal Singh, India’s first female graffiti artist, believes in breaking stereotypes and going beyond the norm!
What does graffiti mean to you?
Graffiti is the ‘voice of freedom’ for me. Being a shy person, graffiti becomes my voice of expression. It’s an expression of my style. It really requires mental and physical strength, strong will, and stamina. It requires me to go beyond the stereotypes set for women by society for ages – it’s about breaking the norms and doing something different.
When were you first introduced to it?
I had seen some graffiti on the streets of Delhi done by foreign graffiti artists. I had also seen it on a music video on the Internet. I hadn’t seen a girl doing graffiti in India and it seemed so fascinating and tempting to do! As a child I was always painting with different mediums so it was like fun new challenge to attempt. I love challenges. And it seemed an easier way to express myself than through dance. I had trained in Bharatnatyam for a few years in school. I got introduced to breaking or b-boying in standard nine and I started learning it.
What is the connection between breaking and graffiti?
Hip-hop is an art movement that began in the Bronx in New York during the early 1970s. Though the term ‘hip-hop’ is often used to refer exclusively to hip-hop music (also called rap), it is characterized by several elements, of which only four are considered essential to understand hip-hop musically. Afrika Bambaataa of the hip-hop collective Zulu Nation outlined the pillars of hip-hop culture as breaking or b-boying, graffiti writing, rapping/MCing, and Djing.
How did you learn the art of graffiti?
I think it was personal seeking. There is always someone who goes against the norms. We were lucky to have the internet – everything about graffiti was on the net so it was not difficult to understand. My brother and I started learning from the Internet and practicing on paper and terrace walls. Through some international connections we were able to find our graffiti teacher who is an old school New York graffiti artist and Zulu Nation member. He used to give us classes on the basics through Skype. It’s not necessary to have a teacher to do graffiti but a teacher can make the path easier.
What tools do you require?
You need spray paints and specifically graffiti spray paints which are available in several brands now. In our initial days we used wall paints and industrial spray paints. The world is your canvas – you can paint anywhere! It’s an outdoor artistic adventure. You also sketch or make a colorful piece of graffiti in a drawing book called a Blackbook.
What’s the story behind your pseudonym ‘Dizy’?
In graffiti, you should have a writing name or artist name. Since graffiti was illegal in the beginning, people used different names to sign their work. One day I came up with ‘Dizzy’, which means crazy or mad in urban slang and fits me perfectly! It defines me – someone crazy who always tried to break stereotypes. I refined it to ‘Dizy’, which is more suited to writing.
What sort of work does a freelance graffiti artist get to do?
I’m open to any kind of opportunities, graffiti related or not. I get commercial work from different brands, workshops, hip-hop events, and opportunities to do graffiti for private people or organizations. I am the face of my own brand ‘Dizy’ – so the way I dress, look and talk, and my overall style also attracts work from those who want to collaborate with me, employ me or utilize my story.
Which interesting projects have you been a part of recently?
Last year on India’s first street festival by Homegrown India I conducted the AirMax graffiti Workshop in addition to painting Nike’s workshop lab space outside. And I shot with Under Armour, USA for their UA HOVR Berlin episode, which is on YouTube.
What are the challenges of being a graffiti artist in India?
In the beginning, we had no one to look up to and no proper tools to paint. People were not aware of this art form. And, being a girl in this society, I had to face some problems. But I was determined and most importantly I didn’t stop. I don’t let anything affect me in my life. I like to change something rather get changed.
What took you to Germany?
This journey started in Delhi. Later, my brother (‘Komet’) and I started making connections with other artists or graffiti writers around the world. We joined the Indo-German Hip-Hop project in 2011 and 2012, held in Delhi and Mumbai, where we met European graffiti legends. I decided to travel to other countries such as USA, Russia, China and Germany to learn and grow more. I attended several international events. Now I divide my time between Berlin and Delhi and travel to other countries. I always wanted to travel around the world – there are no borders in my mind. I am free as a bird in nature. I love to be on the run all the time, and this is the life I want to live.
How does hip-hop culture in India differ from the West?
The Indian hip-hop culture is on the rise. In the West the culture is already developed and recognized. What emerged in the West in the ’70s and ’80s has now started making its way to India – hip-hop is the verge of being as a recognized culture here.
What’s next? Please share your aspirations.
I like to get a surprise so I don’t plan. Just living it. I have a vision which is pretty big but just to answer your question I want to use graffiti as a tool to make changes in the people’s lives in some way for their betterment.
This article was originally published in POOL 106.
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