Art tram reflects India friendship

08 November 2017

The first art tram launched as part of Melbourne Festival 2017 is inspired by a long-standing, creative collaboration between Kolkata, India and Melbourne.

The new design by Indian-born artist and graphic designer Bushra Hasan celebrates his own love of trams and combines popular Indian street and tribal art elements that reflect works produced by the unique friendship between the two tram-loving societies.

A creative collaboration, known as Tramjatra, has brought together residents and artists in Melbourne and Kolkata to co-design art for trams in both cities.

Since its inception in 1996, the Tramjatra project has produced designs to decorate 12 trams in Kolkata and six in Melbourne. 

Tramjatra began when Melbourne tram conductor Roberto D'Andrea visited India to support the Calcutta Tramways while the company was facing threat of closure.

D’Andrea brought a travelling tram show with him including a photo exhibition, posters on the environmental benefits of trams and prose about trams from Melbourne poet Malcolm Just, translated into Bengali.

The tram show was well-received and helped to ensure the survival of Calcutta Tramways’ service.Bushra said Tramjatra works in partnership with the Calcutta Tramways Company and Government of West Bengal.“We have a rich history of engaging Victoria’s Indian diaspora, reflecting years of collaboration between Melbourne and Kolkata,” he said.

The Melbourne Art Trams project stems back to the ‘Transporting Art’ scheme in the 1970s, in which the Victorian Government commissioned artists such as Mirka Mora, Howard Arkley and Michael Leunig to paint Melbourne trams. Nowadays the artwork is printed onto vinyl and ‘wrapped’ around the trams.

However, the sentiment remains the same:“The project puts art at the centre of public life and acknowledges the powerful role creativity can play in many different areas – from public art to public transport,” said Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley. 

Now in its fifth year, the Melbourne Art Trams project has seen eight art trams included as part of Melbourne Festival’s visual arts program, which will stay on the tracks until April 2018.

Find out all about the Melbourne Art Tram project.

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