Wall Vandal: Daku
In graffiti, you need to be known by your alias”, that is what Daku opened our chat with when we sat down with the man who prowls at night leaving his art behind. He explained to us that it does add to the cool zing and creates an instant connection with your audiences. More so, it keeps you out of the reach of law enforcers as graffiti is illegal in our country. In fact, we were so intrigued by his chosen alias – Daku – that we had to ask him about the tale behind the name. With a mysterious expression, he exclaimed, “The perception and nuances people have attached to this name are that of an illegal character – a Daku, hence here I am a daku in my own sense”.
Daku, as he prefers to be called, has made graffiti in various cities across India, Thailand, Iceland, Sweden and Germany. Most of our club hopping friends have seen his work in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village, Mumbai’s Juhu and Mahalaxmi area, Bangalore’s lifeline M.G. Road and outside SET College in Ahmedabad. Amazed by the number of cities he has left a mark in and the speed at which he works, we quickly pose our next set of questions to him. Did he always want to paint walls, we wonder and he responds, “No one dreams of becoming a graffiti artist. It just comes to you”. So how did he actually become one? “I was keen on learning typography and sign painting. And it was after I completed my courses to do the same that I found myself more inclined towards this wall art form.” He made his first graffiti in 2006 in Mumbai and the next one in New Delhi in 2008, after which he discovered a deep connection with this form of art and from there on, there was no looking back.
The moment Daku steps out of his den, he sets his mind to finding his next wall canvas through his keen eye. He emphasises on looking out for walls that are of less importance to others and where he would not have interference from passersby. “You have to make sure that the art does not, in any form, hurt or demean any person or anyone’s religion or customs”, rants Daku. He mostly looks for walls that have the right kind of exposure for onlookers and also have the right kind of lighting in or around its vicinity. He tries to capture those walls which, according to him, showcase a contrast between cultures, something like what he painted in South Delhi’s Khirkee Extension, which is bang opposite the posh Select CityWalk mall.
The art brat says his ideas come from random and anonymous things around him. For instance, when there was a price hike in LPG prices, he heard a lot of pedestrians talk amongst themselves about how the prices have skyrocketed and bang, Daku got his next graffiti idea from there that led to him making one of his most cherished graffitis of a rocket with LPG written on it. He personally wants to make more art on socio-political issues as it connects with the common man and creates more ripples than a vague design. By this time, we were pretty impressed by the ideology of this social reformer in his own right, but there was one question still nagging us, so we finally asked him whether he had gotten into any legal trouble because of his work. He laughed and told us, “Not till now. I could get into trouble if I showcase my artform on a public institution’s property like the CPWD, PWD etc, but till now I’ve managed to make a sweet escape.” Before we wrapped up our interaction, Daku pointed out one more thing worth mentioning. He asked us, “When was the last time a wall made you think?” And we were convinced that we needed to watch out for his work and read the messages embedded in his art.