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Homeless Street Artist Paints Incredible Murals Using Only Plant Leaves, Mud and Natural Pigments

A homeless artist in the Indian state of Kerala spends most of his days decorating concrete walls and buildings with beautiful murals he paints using only plant leaves, mud, charcoal and natural pigments.

Everyone knows him as Raju, but that’s not his real name. Judging by his dirty clothes and unkempt beard, you’d think he was just one of the many street dwellers in Kollam City, Kerala, but he’s actually an insanely talented artist. For at least 8 years now, Raju has been entertaining the people of Kollam by painting beautiful murals on whatever clean concrete walls he can find, using plant leaves as paint brushes, and plant saps, mud, charcoal and natural pigments as paint.

Photo: YouTube screengrab

No one seems to know anything about Raju, where he came from, how he wound up on the street or how he started painting murals with unconventional tools. But whenever he starts a new project, crowds seem to naturally gather around him. And for good reason. Despite his frugal arsenal of tools and paints, Raju’s artworks are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

 

I came across his work by accident the other day, when I stumbled upon a video of him painting a traditional Kerala scenery. It shows him plucking a fistful of plants from the ground and grinding it against a concrete wall to achieve a variety of green tones, than spreading mud and dirt with his hands, as black and brown colors. He also has some bags of natural pigments by his side, for colors like yellow and blue. As he works, a crowd of by-standers gathers around him with their phones out to capture the artist at work.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The video didn’t offer much information on this intriguing Indian artist, other than he was from Kerala and that he was a mentally unwell street dweller. I didn’t have much luck finding more information on him, but I did find a number of other videos of him displaying his artistic skills, with the oldest one dating back to 2011.

 

I also found this Facebook video by Kerala-based Manorama News TV which seems to confirm that Raju does indeed suffer from mental problems. He was apparently a trained artist and designer, but one day he started behaving oddly and eventually left home and never returned. His family have been looking for him around Kerala and in the video requested help from the media to locate him. Unfortunately, my Malayalam is rusty, so that’s all the information I got.

If anyone can shed some light on this unsung artist’s story, I’d appreciate it if you left a comment or sent me an email via the contact form.

 

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