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Govandi Arts Festival: Five interesting ideas you can explore this weekend

Updated on: 16 February,2023 02:15 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Aditi Chavan |

As the first ever Govandi Arts Festival kicks off, we head to ground zero to soak in the action, excitement and colour, and list out five cool ideas that we think you must check out this weekend

Govandi Arts Festival: Five interesting ideas you can explore this weekend

Volunteers prepares for the launch of the festival at the venue. Pics/Shadab Khan

Approaching Natvar Parekh Compound in Govandi, the venue of the first Govandi Arts Festival, we aren’t sure what to expect. We step into a huge colourful pavilion buzzing with people across age groups, ranging from adolescents and teenagers to adults, all working towards the same goal — to create a cracking new event in the eastern suburbs.

Hosted by Community Design Agency (CDA) and enabled and supported by the British Council as part of its India/ UK Together, a Season of Culture programme, the five-day festival is a blend of Govandi’s art and culture to bring forward stories of the slums. In a chat, Sandhya Naidu, CDA’s founder and managing director, shares how she was inspired by the paradox of challenging surroundings and its resident’s passion to work around it, “I saw a stark difference in the engagement to better this area when art was used as the binding tool. In that process we uncovered that people here want to show that they are not defined by their neighbourhood. That is how the idea for this festival emerged.”

Sandhya Naidu and Natasha Sharma Sandhya Naidu and Natasha Sharma 

Natasha Sharma, CDA lead public art and design and  Govandi Arts festival’s co-curator, adds, “Govandi has been consciously and geographically neglected. This festival aims to put the spotlight on this neighbourhood. It is a six-month-long effort by the mentors and mentees who came together to prepare for this event using various artistic expressions such as photography, rap, filmmaking, make-up and so on.”

“The festival is an example of the arts and artistes connecting Govandi’s community with Bristol in the UK. The showstopper street procession of spectacular hand-made lanterns by the UK’s Lamplighter Arts bringing their iconic lantern parade to India, is especially exciting! Our larger arts work in India also focuses on upskilling India’s future festival sector professionals and we engaged those festivals experts in the development of the Govandi Arts Festival, making it a model festival for community-focused culture festivals in the future,” sums up Rashi Jain, Director West India, British Council. 

The Guide’s Top 5 picks at the festival:

Till February 19; 3 pm to 8 pm  
At Natvar Parekh Compound, Shivaji Nagar, Govandi West (entry near Shivaji Nagar Police Station).

Projection of life stories (Feb 16 to 19)

Jerry Antony

An artiste in residence, Jerry Antony’s quest to convey the neighbourhood’s stories led him to make Afsana, a film that will be projected on a building façade all five evenings. He shares, “Afsana is a collection of narratives from the community. I conducted workshops and interviews with children and women from the area, and their stories along with my own thoughts came into being in this project. It is a blend of animation and live action curated by the kids and myself from my animation workshop.” 

Rapping a movie (Feb 16 to 17)

Mateem Ansari, Zain Sayyed, Qasim Shaikh and Zaheer ChaudharyMateem Ansari, Zain Sayyed, Qasim Shaikh and Zaheer Chaudhary

While the recent exploits of Govandi’s young rappers Zaheer Chaudhary and Mateem Ansari reached the Habitat festival at Delhi, they will also perform at the event. Mentored under DJ and producer Sohail Shaikh for six months, they along with a few others will be a part of the rap performances at the event. Shaikh tells us, “They started from nowhere but worked hard for six months. Their rap will be based on the positive vibes of Govandi, the changes that should be incorporated and the misunderstandings that surround the neighbourhood. It is like an entire movie, and I am sure you will ask for more in the end.” 

Ignite the passion (Feb 18)

Dee Moxon (right) stands beside the lamps with co-founder, Maya WolfDee Moxon (right) stands beside the lamps with co-founder, Maya Wolf

A spectacle to witness on February 18 is the Under the same sky: Lamplighters’ parade. It will be a procession by all artistes around the neighbourhood as they carry huge lanterns created by kids from the neighbourhood. Dee Moxon, co-founder of Lamplighters Arts CIC, who guided the children during lamp-making workshops, shares with us, “We are amazed by the skills and creativity of the community. This is one of the most exciting projects we have ever worked on.” 

Clicks of change (Feb 16 to 19)

Tejinder Singh Khamkha with the menteesTejinder Singh Khamkha with the mentees

Tejinder Singh Khamkha is a known name in glamour photography. But we loved how he turned mentor for the young minds of Govandi at an exhibition that shows them in a new light. “During the mentorship, they all worked on different final exhibition projects of their choice. The only thing I did was to find a trait that was their strength based on the options they shared with me. One of the mentees wasn’t allowed to leave the house, so she focussed on self-portraits. Another mentee who loved to giggle at the sessions, only took portraits of people laughing. A third mentee followed and clicked a cat over three days. I think that art is for all and we hope this festival ignites enthusiasm for more such events,” Singh elaborates. 

In it together (Feb 16 to 19)

Vasanti Vatkar

Vasanti Vatkar runs a clothes stall outside the compound. But thanks to the festival, she has set up a Maharashtrian food kiosk. “I have been a resident for 16 years. But never did I imagine that I would see this place so clean and beautiful. I am grateful to those  who made this happen. The 10-women Mahila Bachat Gat is preparing delicacies including puran poli, modaks and upma for all five days,” she chirps. 

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