Fact FILE:

WKND - - Travel United States -

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

Method

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.

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