Art for health's sake

Ghar Pe, a ceramic wares, photographs, and embroidery designs exhibition organised by NGO Sneha, aims to create awareness about health issues while empowering artisans from Dharavi

Parvati Harjichitroda is a lady of resolve. She lived in Diu before she married and came to Kumbharwada, Dharavi. She turned to pottery as a means of livelihood when her husband was paralysed. As the mother of five children, she is famed as one of the first women in the slums who took to the wheel to make fashion pots.

One of the photographs clicked by 22 year-old Rupesh Sable, an
aspiring photographer and actor, which will be on display at the exhibition

She makes garbis, diyas and pots and also specialises in clay plates meant for pujas that have a little pot, a coconut and five diyas placed on them. Thanks to an exhibition organised by SNEHA (Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action), a non-government organisation, which aims to spread awareness about individual and public health, we will now get a chance to see Harjichitroda's work.

A preview of the invitationĀ  for Ghar Pe

Titled Ghar Pe, this first-of-a-kind exhibition, which will be held from February 25 to March 9 at Dharavi, will feature photographs, embroidery designs and ceramic ware created by 20 participants from Dharavi and Shastri Nagar, Santacruz. The event is an outcome of the initiative Dekha Undekha that blends discussions on health awareness with a development of artistic talent. It targets locals and artisans and aims to not only empower them but also spread the message that art can be used as an important tool for health advocacy.

The exhibition is conceptualised in the form of a domestic space and none of the items on display are on sale. Each of the artefacts, while drawn from household items, is the consequence of the participants using their talent to symbolise a specific physiological or psychological health concern. For instance: One of the artefacts is a cupboard with lots of emoticon balls that symbolises how women have diverse emotions but are unable to express all of them as they are not socially acceptable.

Likewise, there is a good and bad window that is used as a metaphor to juxtapose dreams and reality. So while the good window has butterflies hovering around flowers, the bad window shows flies and mosquitoes that are the breeding ground of various diseases. One of the photos on display, which shows a woman holding a child over smoked ginger and garlic pieces after a maalish (oil massage) to ward off cold and flu, depicts the importance of homegrown remedies.

Explaining the purpose behind the exhibition, Priya Aggarwal, project manager, says, "Ghar Pe has three main objectives. Firstly, we wanted to bring together established artistes with upcoming artisans from lower income classes and ensure that the former impart skills to the latter. Secondly, we wanted to facilitate discussions on public health and ensure that the voice of women is heard. Thirdly, we wanted Mumbaikars to start discussing about public health. We decided to conduct the exhibition at Dharavi itself so that the locals could identify with the concerns of the participants as well as ensure that urbanites recognise Asia's largest slum as a space that is commercial and artistic."

Each of the participants was trained for over a year. While six of them were trained in photography by photojournalist Sudharak Olwe, eight were groomed by international costume designer Susie Vickery, while the remaining six were mentored by leading ceramic artiste Anjani Khanna.

Each of these mentors facilitated skill acquirement in their respective areas and initiated dialogues on sanitation, personal hygiene, garbage disposal, domestic violence, maternal care and superstitions among other topics.

Aggarwal elaborates that the initiative has instilled confidence in the participants. She says, "Initially, they were passive learners of various skills. As the sessions progressed, they took ownership of the artefacts and began conceptualising in terms of material and design. The photography group has developed a consciousness to spread the need for proper sanitation in Dharavi. Some of the participants who are housewives have released that they can use their skills to earn a steady income." Aggarwal is hopingĀ  to turn it into an annual event.

From: 11 am to 7 pm, February 25 to March 9
At: Shree Ganesh Vidya Mandir Primary School, Dharavi, Mumbai - 17.
Call: 9821013907

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