These artists created a huge open library – and their idea’s gone global

Library 2019

(Tobias Fischer, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


You might be used to reading words written by your favourite authors in bed, on a train, or even in the park. But have you ever seen them posted on a lamppost, butcher’s shop window or trash can?

With books beyond the reach of many people in India, this unusual concept was exactly what writer Manoj Pandey and illustrator Nidhin Kundathil felt was needed to make literature accessible to everyone.

 

They took to the streets with stickers and posters adorned with eye-catching extracts from the works of great writers – everyone from Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde to Salman Rushdie – and a movement was born.

Image: StickLit.in

It’s called StickLit, an organisation Pandey and Kundathil say they want to create the world’s largest collection of literature in public spaces – a library that’s free for all.

Image: Sneda Nidhin/India Times

Going global

They were inspired by the desire to bring together the disparate worlds of two people Pandey met – a B-movie screenwriter with aspirations to publish a book, and a resident of one of India’s largest slums, who would never be able to afford to buy that book.

And their passion, it seems, is contagious. The pair recruited volunteers to help stick up the posters, starting in Kundathil’s home city of Bengaluru and the capital New Delhi. And they’ve now been joined by more than 100 volunteers in three continents, with their work appearing in Amsterdam, London, Philadelphia and Kathmandu.

They’ve also asked writers to join the cause by giving permission to use their work. Salman Rushdie, Shashi Tharoor, Yuko Shimizu and Malika Favre are among those who have contributed so far.

Image: Mayur Gupta/The Hindu

Hidden talent

Pandey says the group wants to break down the elitism associated with literature. The posters, designed by Kundathil, are free to download in English and Hindi from the group’s website. And, as well as famous names, StickLit wants unpublished writers to be involved.

“Finding hidden talent in hidden places is very important,” says Pandey. “We want to give a voice to writers in small places who have the potential to make it big.”

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