24 Feb A New Map for an Old City; Meet Ahmedabad’s Up-And-Coming Creative Illustrator Maitri Dalicha
Our illustrated maps are created and designed by locals. Why? Because we explore cities across Southeast Asia through the lens of the people who actually live there, which is why we ask local talent to capture the spirit of place. In the UNESCO-listed old city of Ahmedabad in India, we were lucky to work with exceptional creative minds to dream up an artistic ode to two of its neighbourhoods. Local illustration artist Maitri Dalicha designed a map of Khadia, one of the most captivating hoods in the walled city that encapsulates the culture and traditions of Ahmedabad. We met Maitri for a cup of chai to learn more about her creative process, what she loves about life in Ahmedabad, and more.
From ink to micro-chips
Self-proclaimed ‘ink catalyst’ Maitri Dalicha is an ink and pen type of a girl. A Science graduate / Electronic Engineer by training, she’s a self-taught illustrator. Artistic talent runs in the family: Maitri’s mum is a painter and sculptor. As a little girl, Maitri would sit with her mother for hours, scribbling away. “There was always art in the house,” she fondly recalls. “On weekends my mum would take me to art fairs and museums”.
Maitri’s been drawing ever since she can remember, but in school, she also excelled in academics, and when it was time to choose a career path, she found herself drawn to exact sciences. An Electronics degree from Rajkot in hand, she landed a job as a micro-chips controller. After a few years of soldiering away at circuit boards, she realised that while she enjoyed learning about science, she didn’t like working in this field.
A new journey, inspired by Ahmedabad
In 2013, a friend invited her to join photography walks in the old city. “We’d get up at 6 am before the city is fully awake yet and the light is beautiful. By 9 am, when the streets start to get busy, we’d be done. We’d have our breakfast and leave.” Clicking away, the faded colours and intricate woodwork of the old buildings reignited her own artistic spirit.
“Being creative was such a big part of my childhood”
Maitri quit her job and started illustrating full time. It was a tough decision to make, but it wasn’t long before her playful, meticulous ink art and calligraphy caught the eye of Ahmedabad’s brand evangelists. Maitri’s illustrations—mainly in black-and-white, sometimes containing a splash of pastel-tinted colours—can now be found on anything from Charles & Keith tote bags, Society 6 pillow covers to JAWA motorbikes. Maitri was also among the few local artists invited for a Locals X Society mural project in Dhal ni Pol in the old city, which was part of an artistic heritage rehabilitation project run by the Brihati Foundation.
“I get immense pleasure from creating something”
Becoming a full-time illustrator felt like coming home. “Being creative was such a big part of my childhood. Consequently, I decided that I wanted the same for my adulthood because I get immense pleasure from creating something.” Yet Maitri is quick not to romanticise the artistic profession. “When you call it work it becomes scary, it gets harder, the art can get heavy,” she shares when asked what it is like to become a full-time designer.
The illustrated iDiscover map for Khadia is Maitri’s first digital art project. “I’m most comfortable using paper, but I like to try different mediums. Creating the Khadia map is the first step of my digital journey. I’m a very detailed-minded person so the process of making this map was time-consuming,” she explains.
Maitri’s favourite illustration and its real-life counterpart”
My favourite illustration is the icon on the front of the map. It took me a couple of hours to draw its delicate features. I keep educating myself and I’m grateful for the opportunity to add a new dimension to my portfolio.”
The Khadia connection
Creating the iDiscover Khadia map helped Maitri to reconnect with the old city. Her aunt lives there, and she used to come there a lot as a child. “When somebody asks me where to go to in Ahmedabad, I say ‘let’s go to the old city’.
Creating the map helped Maitri to reconnect with the old city
It’s a place of creative inspiration; the nooks and crannies, the back alleys, the bird feeders and of course the food,” Maitri says enthusiastically. “I loved illustrating the dishes that Ahmedabad is famous for. Through this project, the old city has become closer to me. I am, for instance, able to identify the pols and I no longer get lost!”
About Khadia. the soul of Ahmedabad
At first, the intensity of Ahmedabad may seem a bit daunting. But if you venture behind the bustling markets, you’ll find a living labyrinth of surprisingly quiet residential streets. The city is home to more than 500 traditional Guajarati neighbourhoods called ‘pols’. These intimate neighbourhoods are grouped around a central courtyard, a temple and a birdfeeder. Hidden in these pols you’ll find the city’s inner secrets. Here, people of different faiths and castes live together in harmony based on the powerful mantra of ‘Mahajan’, a custom of shared wellbeing. This unique concept was championed by the mighty Sultan Ahmed Shah who founded the city in 1411 and has been at the core of Ahmedabad’s success for over six centuries. Today the city’s glorious past is still present in the many exquisite temples and stunning havelis—traditional townhouses or mansions—decorated with handcrafted wooden sculptures in all colours of the rainbow.
Explore Khadia like a local
iDiscover is your ultimate guide to exploring the hidden gems in the old city through the lens of its residents. Discover Khadia through two walking itineraries handcrafted by the women and children of two inner-city neighbourhoods: Desai ni Pol and Dhal ni Pol.
Click here to download Maitri’s beautifully illustrated map of Khadia for free. For even easier navigation, download our storytelling app (also 100% free, no in-app purchases!) for iOs and Android here.
We’d like to thank the passionate folks of the International Center for Innovative Developments (ICID), and the Prince Claus Fund/British Council ‘s ‘Beyond cultural heritage’ programme and Creative Yatra for helping us realise our Ahmedabad App&Maps.
iDiscover founder Ester van Steekelenburg (left), architect and urban/regional planner Sameeha Sheth (middle), who helped facilitate the Ahmedabad project, and map designer Maitri Dalicha (right)
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