UM x Okami
We love celebrating Indian Street Culture and we are always on the lookout for cool new artists. Mumbai-based graffiti artist and next-door art nerd Okami - grew up spending most of his time on the Internet, creating digital and conventional art. A computer engineer by profession his art follows an object-oriented approach like software with a heavy influence from Japanese culture.
So, when we spotted Okami’s work, on a busy street corner in Mahim, we knew we had to work with him.
Tell us a bit about yourself? How did you develop your style?
Thanks to the media I consumed, I was always aware of graffiti but I had not familiarised myself with the graffiti scene in India. I always assumed that some artists from abroad came here, took some special permission from the government thanks to their reputation/portfolio, and did as they liked. So I never really gave much thought to it. Then as life went on, I focused on my other interest - technology, and eventually became a computer engineer.
The art I made always had this object-oriented approach like software. The code I wrote always had some Easter eggs in the form of ASCII-art or some obscure UI design and so does my art.
How'd you first gravitate towards graffiti and what motivated you when you began?
My experience as a Software Architect made me realize that social media is a simulacrum of the scene on the streets. I decided to document my art and start a social media art account sometime in the mid-2010s. Through that process, I discovered the Indian graffiti scene, and it all clicked.
You put your thoughts out there for the whole world to see and, in effect, leave your mark on society- Okami
Around that time, I was working on a project abroad in a different timezone and used to leave work by 1-2 AM. Not a single soul in sight. That was the perfect time to make the streets my canvas. I bought a couple of cans and started dropping tags along my work route back home. Eventually, tags became throwies, throwies became fleshed-out pieces, and here we are!
What kept you going and how did it shape you?
There was no social media algorithm to decide my reach or any centralized system to store/monitor my art. I got to choose my walls and set in motion the butterfly effect of who my audience could be. There were only two factors at play- probability and myself.
How was the collaboration with Urban Monkey unique to you?
My collaboration with Urban Monkey has been a unique experience right from the beginning. Since I maintain a rather dystopian,conflict-centric view about the world, they tend to show up in my art, in the form of washed-out colors and expressions of conflict.
For this collection, I learned to incline myself towards positivity and celebrations of street culture, and it’s honestly been such a breath of fresh air! That and it also helped me elevate my creation to a whole new standard, where it's not just about expressing myself but at the same time, making it inherently more appealing. Which I haven't done much before.
Graffiti to me is the purest, adulteration-free means of self-expression
What was the concept / ideology behind this collaboration?
I take pride in my South-East Asian background and personally, my inclinations are anti-colonial and anti-oriental in nature with a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture. So, the theme behind the collaboration was to create a fusion of my feudal Japanese-inspired art style and iconic aspects of the hip-hop culture in India - Be it skating, dancing, or simply dressing up with swag for street cred.
What is Indian streetwear according to you?
Now I won’t pretend or claim that I am someone who has a deeper understanding of ‘Indian Streetwear’ or ‘Streetwear’ at that matter. For me, Indian Streetwear is synonymous with Indian Street Scene. It has its influences from the west, but the desi tadka is what makes it unique.
Indian Streetwear should be raw and experimental with a throwback to western hip-hop while maintaining that desi tadka- Okami
What does the word Graffiti mean to you?
Graffiti to me is the purest, adulteration-free means of self-expression. I am not an outgoing or even moderately social person, so I put my name out there for the world to see. It wasn’t given to me by anyone, nor do I have any legal right to be called or known as Okami. I built it up from scratch and made it my identity. And for the very same reason, I respect everyone out there who did or is doing the same.
You can view more of Okami’s work and contact him via Instagram