Recently the fascinating ‘The Ghoda Cycle Project’ was brought to our attention. The project is a visual document of the myriad avatars of bicycles in the rural and urban landscape of India by Mumbai-based illustrator Sameer Kulavoor, who works under the name Bombay Duck Designs. The linchpin of ‘The Ghoda Cycle Project’ is to lay emphasis on the framework, structure, decoration and design of the cycles of India. Ergonomically these cycles may not be the best examples of bicycle design, but they have the strength to carry the hopes and aspirations of a big section of the Indian population. No wonder they are called ghoda, which translates to sturdy or durable, cycles. In India basic necessities like cooking gas, milk, bread, newspapers and tiffin are delivered to people’s homes on a cycle. And next to this activity, there are the mobile cycle shops that sell, among other things, tea, vegetables, waist-belts, ice-creams, SIM-cards and so on. Bicycles in India are truly multifunctional beyond Western imagination, which is caught perfectly by Kulavoor.
Its a display not only of sustainable living, but also how a section of the society in India make a livelihood out of it. With customization, adornments, embellishments and a bit of jugaad, which is the name of a movement within Indian society which has gathered a community of enthusiasts. It is said to be the proof of Indian bubbling creativity, or the omnipresent cost-effective way to solve the issues of everyday life, of which the cycle culture is a clear example. As a result the cycles start developing their own unique personality, directly reflecting the occupation and background of the rider and collectively adding enormous charm to the streets of India. In the country more than 20.000 cycles are manufactured everyday, with the Indian company named Hero Cycles as the largest manufacturer of bicycles according to the Guiness Book of World Records, with a staggering production of 18.500 bicycles a day! The beautiful images of Kulavoor are a collection of his observations and drawings of these omnipresent cycles, which can be seen as a icon of modern India.
‘The Ghoda Cycle Project’ was exhibited at the Helsinki-based Bicycle Film Festival in July 2012, as part of World Design Capital Helsinki, in a collaboration with Chalo India!, Keskula Network and Pelago Bicycles. A year after the exhibition four drawings from ‘The Ghoda Cycle Project’ were also part of a unique collaboration with Paul Smith. The outcome was a series of T-shirts available worldwide making it a wide spreading showcase of the unique cycling culture of India, which are all sold out at this point.
Sameer Kulavoor‘s area of work lies at the intersection of graphic design, contemporary illustration and art. He has been creating a personal body of work, and self-publishing art books and zines that take a look at characteristic mannerisms and archetypal facets of urban surroundings, design and culture. Kulavoor’s image-making approach coupled with a wide arsenal of tools, methods and mediums have worked well for music and cultural projects, publications, exhibits, motion graphics, animation, advertising and editorials. It is the earliest ‘specialized’ independent studio of its kind in India. Besides a lot of music related projects, Kulavoor has illustrated for BBC, Honda, Condé Nast and Virgin Atlantic, among many other clients.