The Colour Real

16 Sep

A Tale of Blue Cities

By Sylvia O'Brian

A city painted blue seems like fantasy, but there are three very real blue cities each with their own tale as to why they're blue. First, there is Jodhpur, India. Jodhpur has been around since the 15th century and one section of the city, the blue section, is thought to be where the Brahmans, of the higher caste, lived. Here blue is associated with royalty and power, befitting of the higher caste. It is also connected to the blue Hindu Gods. Another more practical 'tale' could be that it was discovered that adding copper sulphate to the limewash used to paint the buildings that long ago created a natural termite deterrent and had the side effect of being blue! In such a hot climate another practicality is blue can lower the perceived air temperature up to 4 degrees. (image above by Izzet Keribar)


The next tale of a blue city is Chefchaouen in Morocco. The history of this also goes back to the 15th century. The myth regarding why it is painted predominantly blue seems to have to do with religious symbolism of a particular blue in Judaism...and also the fact that a local mythic sea creature, chilazon, produced a blue dye known in Hebrew as 'tekhelel'. Tekhelel was used to dye the tassels of their prayer shawls... also used to colour the paint. Even now exteriors and interiors are painted a range of blues and the colour range is felt to keep mosquitos away.




The third tale takes place in our own times, in the city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Here the use of sky blue is a recent and controversial development. In 2012 a plan was put forward to revive the city and change it's public image. The current chief minister is quoted as saying "Blue is a beautiful colour and also soothing for the eyes." and " The sky is the limit". In fact it is most likely politically driven to create change from their history and what is known as 'their red legacy'. Historic buildings will not change (but will be awash with blue light at night), however here are some of the things that are to be painted blue... bridges, tree trunks, roads, taxis, buses and bus shelters, park benches and street signs. A tax break is even offered to homeowners who paint their exteriors blue.


So the reasons for painting a community blue are as diverse as connecting to a higher power, keeping insects at bay, lowering perceived air temperature or making a political statement. The common thread throughout the three blue cities is colour symbolism. Whether that symbolism represents Hinduism, Judaism or political change, clearly blue means different things to different people. For the rest of us it presents a curiosity and appreciation of a community that commits to an actual colour over a neutral...creating something spectacular on the landscape!


This article was contributed by Sylvia O'Brien, Creative Director of Colour Theory, a Toronto (Canada) based commercial colour & design firm.

Her motto is "Colour...get it right the first time ".

She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through


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Color Objects encourages you to get a better eye and appreciation for colors and characters. To get a special selection of pics and info for you, we find designers and artists that make colorful work from all over the world. There's a lot of character in colors, and having a closer look will change your view of the world and people around you. So we share a host of pics and info from design, art, cultures and the natural world. All about colors.

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