“Dancing in Unison” by Sam Lo and Bhajju Shyam on Broadway Hotel, Singapore
Street art can make a city feel like an open-air gallery, presenting passersby with a wonderful opportunity to interact with the conversations and communities that make up the fabric of a neighbourhood. Singapore’s latest–and one of its tallest–murals is “Dancing in Unison”, which was just unveiled at the seven-storey Broadway Hotel in Little India.
Sam Lo, a Singaporean artist known for the sociopolitical commentary in her art, and Bhajju Shyam, a Gond artist from Madhya Pradesh who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2018, had both created murals at 2019’s Lodhi Art Festival in Delhi. This year, St+Art India Foundation and the Singapore Tourism Board collaborated for the third time to bring the two artists together on a shared canvas for “Dancing in Unison”—no easy task with coronavirus-induced restrictions.
The artists planned the mural over months of virtual meetings, with Sam Lo eventually painting the facade of the Broadway Hotel. Their cross-border process echoes the theme “In Spite Of”—artists overcoming limitations and boundaries to create—at Artwalk 2021, a public arts project that brings out the traditions and history of Singapore’s Little India cultural precinct.
“Dancing in Unison” highlights the importance of living and moving in harmony with nature, especially in a city. The work fuses traditional and contemporary elements; viewers may recognise the sparrows and ribbons from Sam Lo’s “Cause and Effect” at the Lodhi Art Festival, as well as the Gond theme of celebrating the interconnectedness of life through the synergy of trees and animals.
“The tree,” the press release notes, “an iconic element from Gond art designed by Bhajju, engulfs the urban environment of human dwelling (personified by the windows of the building), becomes a metaphor for the universe where everything is interconnected from the land to the air. Its branches host vibrantly coloured sparrows, an element which re-occurs in Sam’s work, as a symbol of freedom, being one of the most common birds in India and Singapore. Sam’s deer, a revered animal in India, serves as a tribute to Gond art, another common element from it, which in this gentle appropriation, manifests our contemporary interconnection where elements from different cultures are seen blending together in our globalised and accessible world. Sam further reinforces this idea by designing a red ribbon, another common element in their work, as a reminder of an omnipresent energy that connects us all, and one which connects her beliefs with those at the core of Gond art.”