Mumbai culture: Public Art initiative is all set to paint Bandra red

Aug 19, 2017, 11:24 IST | Dhara Vora Sabhnani

A new public art initiative aims to revitalise abandoned, blank spaces in the suburb through murals and installations

Artist Shanaya Tata with a local - known as 'mamu' - who became her friend and guardian during the project. Pic courtesy/Roshini Kumar
Artist Shanaya Tata with a local - known as 'mamu' - who became her friend and guardian during the project. Pic courtesy/Roshini Kumar

The buzzing suburb of Bandra is set to become the canvas for Mumbai Reimagined, a new beautification project curated by Dysco, a networking app for varied professionals, and Big Happy City (BHC), an organisation that aims to solve citizens' issues.

The mural is a surreal description of fisherfolk living under waterThe mural is a surreal description of fisherfolk living under water

"It took us two months to find the artists, take care of logistics and get started with the artworks. It's been a challenging project because of the monsoon, access to the spaces selected and availability of the artists. But we are looking forward to the next four to five months to see each vision become a reality," says Khrisha Shah, co-founder of Dysco.

The team is currently waiting for the rains to end to inaugurate three projects. The first is a mural on a restroom's facade by 24-year-old Shanaya Tata and the next two in queue (out of a total of 10) are installations by Ashni Tapuriah and Shahena Zaveri.

For Tata, a Parsi-Gujarati artist from Washington DC, a public art project in an alien city seemed exciting but daunting. The artist, who moved to the city last year to care for her 86-year-old grandfather, breaks it down for us about her Mumbai experience:

Underwater diaries
The restroom is located diagonally across Café Coffee Day [on Carter Road] and is at a spot where the commercial area ends and the area dominated by the Kolis begins. The idea was to elevate the space with something bright that would catch the attention of people stuck in traffic and passers by. We also wanted to send out a public awareness message and represent the local community. The mural is a surreal piece, showing a fisherman and fisherwoman living underwater and cleaning the sea. Spread across 700 sq ft, the artwork tells us that we are responsible for what happens to the sea and that we need to protect it. The message is written in English and Marathi.

Art in the heart of the city
For an artist, making a public artwork is a high point. Such initiatives also bring the community together. My simple mural turned into a performance art project as locals would come by, ask me questions, bring tea and invite me for food at their homes.

The artwork helped turn something dirty to something that the locals are proud of and call their own. I come from a different world and this project brought us together. There is a man, everyone calls him mamu, who camped there on all seven days until I finished the mural and became my bodyguard. He still calls me every week. It was naive of me to have apprehensions; my misconceptions dissolved while working on this project.

Public artworks give a face to the city beyond its monuments and mix art into identity. It's visual, hence has a universal language and regardless of what I make, people will stop and look. This was perfect to bring me closer to the city.

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