Which sounds are disappearing in your city?
The identity of a city is drawn from multiple corners: its public spaces, buildings, the activities of its inhabitants, its food, its vernacular, among other factors, and among which sounds are one of the most endearing. The sounds of a city are, in part, like a person’s voice, their words, complaints, exclamations of joy and their mutterings. In the same way that when we meet somebody we pay attention to what they say, to get to know a city it is also necessary to pay attention to its sounds.
In her desire to preserve the identity of Delhi, one of India’s most emblematic cities, the artist Rashmi Kaleka has spent the last 10 years recording the proclamations of the pheriwallas, itinerant vendors who trawl the streets of Delhi by bicycle offering all kinds of merchandise, fruits, vegetables, locks and compost. Kaleka began the project partly as an attempt to reclaim the local practices of commerce in the face of the imposition by large malls and department stores that threaten the continuity of that tradition.
Kaleka therefore distances herself from mere preservation to implement rebellion. It is less a nostalgic exercise than a way of singularly opposing the desire for uniformity: where the shopping mall is built and which contains stores that are the same everywhere, the artist evokes the vendor that was once there, that was known and above all identified by their own community.
In a way the artist invites us to pay attention in our own surroundings and to ask ourselves about the collective identity that we have perhaps relinquished without realizing it.
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