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Cult of the Streets

A man gets his ear cleaned by a kaan saaf wallah in Mumbai.

“I began documenting while still studying; I would travel by train and notice this strange business on the street. I initially thought it came from the need to survive in a city like Bombay, but I began noticing similar ‘professions’ in Goa, Bhopal and other cities as well, where very private activity is carried about in public.”

Cult of the Streets

Artist Niyati Upadhya found herself drawn to the ‘professional underbelly’ of the Indian city. From the scrap dealers of Bangalore to the kaan saaf wallahs, bone-setters and barber shops of Mumbai, it seemed to her that these strange vocations were at odds to the day and age we live in. “Moving about the city, I noticed these old-fashioned practices and observed the interactions between people and their ways of making a living, itself an art as old as time.”

As a sculptor and photographer, she found herself consumed with capturing and documenting these old, somewhat dubious vocations that lie at the fringes of Indian cities. Cult of the Streets is a culmination of her work. A three-part visual diary of Bone setters, Barber shops and Ear cleaners, Niyati uses mixed media (photographs, drawing, video, sculpture and sound) to exhibit the lives of Mumbai’s street professions.

Currently exhibiting in Bangalore, you can see her work first-hand here. Meanwhile, a sneak peek for Yahoo! audiences. Anisha Oommen in conversation with the artist.