STREET-SIDE WONDERS: The photo gallery on these two pages showcase the varied and exotic murals that adorn the walls of buildings in different neighbourhoods in the city of Philadelphia. These photos were taken by the authors while on a Segway tour Not so long ago, Ben informed us, large sections of the city’s walls and buildings were scarred with ugly stabs of graffiti. All that started to change in 1984, when Jane Golden, a local artist, came into the picture. She appealed to graffiti artists not to discard their brushes and spray paint cans but to use them more creatively and channel their latent talent in more meaningful ways.
Slowly, Philadelphia started to shed its ugly duckling image and a beautiful swan took wings across the city. Then, in 1997, the movement got the city fathers’ backing with the establishment of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The first of its kind, the programme, which drew and recruited talent from across the social and economic strata of the city, launched public art into an entirely new stratosphere of expression.
And we would only be nibbling at the fringes of this movement on our two-hour Segway Mural Tour through a few neighbourhoods of the city. Colourful murals served as backdrops to swings and slides in children’s playgrounds. A tidal wave surged across a primary school building. A wall of self-portraits paid tribute to local artists. Walls around parking lots provided canvasses for ex-
ploding colours and images. Even dustbins looked attractive with a lick of colour.
“Many of these murals are modern masterpieces!” Ben seemed to have read our minds. Sadly, he added, they are not in museums or art galleries, and do not have the protection that is accorded to heritage structures. So if a building or neighbourhood is being redeveloped (like the one to our right), some paintings are sacrificed at the altar of progress.
We ‘Segwayed’ past a smaller parking lot where the walls around paid tribute to the city’s sporting heroes: baseball, American football, ice hockey and basketball stars. Across the road, a mural spoke of a lost world. The artist had returned briefly to his childhood island in the Caribbean only to discover that the natural beauty he had grown up with had been swallowed up by rampant development. So he transplanted the memories of his youth — fields blooming with wild flowers — on a wall of his neighbourhood in his adopted city.
As we rolled into Chinatown, the history of its origins unravelled on a large mural near the entrance: the first migrants worked in laundries and were involved in the construction of the railroads... Suddenly, the area we were cruising through looked familiar. Yes, that was the house of Betsy Rose, the lady who fashioned the first US star-spangled flag.
We were coming to the end of the Mural Tour circuit. We rolled our machines into a back alley behind the offices of Philly Tour Hub, removed our helmets and looked on as Ben plugged the Segways into electric sockets so that they would be recharged and ready to whisk the next batch of visitors on a magic mural ride.
For the salad:
• 100 gm quinoa, washed, soaked • 50 gm beetroot • 50 gm carrot • 5 tbsp pomegranate seeds • 1 tsp chopped mint leaves • 1 tsp dry mango powder
Make a marinade with all the ingredients and coat the prawns with it. Refrigerate for an hour. Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the prawns in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast at 200°C for 8 minutes.
For the salad, boil quinoa for 15 minutes; drain and chill.
Boil beetroot and carrot al dente, chop and set aside.
In a large bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well.
Serve Lasooni prawns hot, with quinoa salad and mint chutney on the side.