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  • Mareena Francis

Walking with Art

What does art on the streets look like?

Reincarnation. A splash of blue across the brown bricked wall. It sweeps and dips, circling with a flourish. The green comes next and it is deep like the colour grass is when it looks happy. The hand holding the brush drops it and dips fingers in bright red. The red dances across the colours, in dots and dashes, swirls and splashes. The artist steps back and a quick moment later is gone. But those hands have now revived a dying wall on a street.

Companion. I walk down a narrow street and it is almost empty. The moon casts a glow but in the absence of the sun, I find loneliness in pockets of the street. There are still people but on this street tonight, it is not a community but a solitary path. I cast a glance at the walls on either side. There is so much colour, simmering in the quiet night. There are guardian angels and faces, loud words and poetry. The paint is dry and the colours have seeped far into the bricks and cement. This street does not need the community to stay alive. The artists have marked the walls and loneliness is bearable in this street.

Community. The street is a stage tonight. I am surrounded by a fragmented crowd, all our eyes on the same thing. Some of us sit, others jump, some are dancing and some just sway. I watch what everyone is watching and it is magic. The artists stand in a huddle and it is not mere music that fills the air. We are all under a spell, and the street vibrates below our feet. It is a concert, it is intimacy and I am convinced for a moment that the street is dancing with the music too.

Ally. The words are bright and bold on the wall as it stands high. They proclaim in fierce solidarity that our pain is real. There are words telling me that my mind is not broken and I am no alien. I walk through that street and with every step, my eyes are trained on the words. Once I am past it, I look back to see the others. I see the people who stop to look the way I did and I see the colour flush their cheeks. I then see the others who walk past with only a glance. I see that I am alone but I am also not. The art gives me my allies.

Motion. I sit at the edge of the footpath, watching the cobblestones in front of me. The street is lined with them and every coloured foot that walks across them is a piece. One more piece in the mosaic of the street. I fix my eyes on a spot near the middle and it is funny. I watch most of the feet slow down at that point. They all stop to look at the painter across the street, with his canvas set up. They are giggling children, both the faces on the paper and the people on the street. I imagine that as we look and point, so do the painted faces look over at us. And somehow, the artist lets us slow down.

Confidante. The street is a diary today. That is what I think. I cross it to take a closer look at the funny pillars and walls. There are names carved in. There are declarations of love scratched into the cement and paint. Some of them have dates mentioned and it is a memoir. Some of them lie unidentified and I wonder what the anonymity means. I look at the secrets they have left behind, trusting them to the street.

I trace a hand across the names. I pick up the paintbrush the artist left behind. I repeat the words of solidarity in my head. I listen to the musicians sing and I look at the mic. For a moment, I am tempted too. I am tempted to leave my art on this street, so I can live there a little longer. Even if I am gone, I want the street to remember I was here. I suppose that is what all the art looks like.

Faces and voices, telling us they were once here. They walked these streets too.

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