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Cult of the Streets

A man gets his ears cleaned by the pavement in Mumbai.

"The ear-cleaners are originally from Andhra. I remember my first installation was in front of the JJ School of Art in Mumbai, where I blew up their photos and displayed them on the streets. Each kaan saaf wallah sat quite proudly in front of his photo on the pavement, and I’m quite happy to say that it helped them get a little more business."

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.