We were delighted when Mumbai-based illustrator Sameer Kulavoor’s beautiful publication, The Ghoda Cycle Project came freewheeling into our studio the other week. It’s a visual documentation of the many types of “ghoda” bicycles found across rural and urban India. The word “ghoda” means “stallion”; the name alludes to the sturdiness, heaviness, and durability of these vehicles that sustain businesses and livelihoods alike, and which become customised and personalised according to the needs and whims of each owner.
Kulavoor’s publication is screenprinted, bound with elastic, and presented in clamshell format, and the illustrations therein are full of vitality – bike vendors pour chai, sell ice-cream, waist-belts, and knife-sharpening services. transport petrol, groceries, and schoolchildren, and cover their handlebars, saddles, and racks with all sorts of bags, baskets, vases and boxes. Kulavoor executes this with vivid detail and close attention to composition; flip-flops, metallic surfaces, fabric patterns, and local advertisements positively pop from the page. This is all presented against a plain backdrop with very occasional accompanying figures to provide a sense of place – the result is akin to focussing on a scene that might get lost in a densely crowded image, and ensures a fascinating and fantastically rendered glimpse of these bicycling livelihoods.