May 31, 2013

Dharavi Art Room

By Pavithra Chandrasekar

Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world, a self-sustaining thriving ecosystem of its own, now has its personal little art room for the progeny of the neighbourhood- The Dharavi Art Room. As the founders and collaborators of the art room believe, “who can give a better intimate, first-person perspective on life inside of Dharavi than children?”


Dharavi art room 1

The Dharavi Art room is a space started by the organization Bombay Underground, now has the support of Reality Gives and has been running for a little over a year and a half. The space beckons all the interested children in the neighbourhood to learn and practice painting, drawing, taking photographs and the basic crux of it all- having a good time. As most schools in the neighbourhood do not focus much on art and craft which the children love indulging in, this space was transformed into a constructive activity room by the organizations to serve the purpose. And this year, the confines of paper as their sole canvas was opened up and extended to the walls too. Reality Gives, through its activities and its regular Dharavi slum tours procured the funding for the art supplies and the point and shoot cameras. The art room was extended with an exhibition called Mumbai 17 (Dharavi’s pin code) at False Ceiling in Bandra, displaying the art work and photographs of the children for everyone to view and break the negative archetype of Dharavi’s slum communities and witness the active imagination of the kids growing up in the wonder that is Dharavi. This project also aims at documenting the present day Dharavi through the kids as it is ever changing and will be completely different in the next decade or so.

dharavi wall art1

dharavi art room photo

In conversation with Himanshu S. from Bombay Underground about the Dharavi Art Room and other such upcoming projects:

 When did the association with Dharavi begin?

 We’ve been working in Dharavi for quite a few years now. We’ve been working at different community spaces and with different groups while teaming up with different NGOs. But this particular space that we are running now in partnership with Reality Gives is been on for about a year and a half or two years. Earlier, the spaces were always kind of fluctuating because like in Dharavi it’s kind of difficult to find a static space.

What kind of work does Bombay Underground do?

We’re not a registered organization. We’re just a bunch of friends who’ve been coming together and working out activities. We do a few things like we used to run a library which shut down temporarily cause we didn’t have a space then and we are now looking for a new one to resurrect it.

And there are community projects that we indulge in. We work with a few other neighbourhoods in the city like Lower Parel etc. And we also work with some BMC schools, mostly with the kids, to do art, photography and storytelling and activities around that. And we’re also slowly documenting neighbourhoods which will help them and the rest of the city understand how a particular neighborhood functions. How it shouldn’t be forcefully changed and how it should be gradual and mutual.

Are you working on any similar projects now?

Yes, the Dharavi Art Room is an ongoing thing now and there’s also so much more. Now that we’ve got everyday activities, there’s a lot of work to be done. We are also teaming up with a lot of NGOs and community groups in Dharavi that we have worked with earlier to create a central space.

I am also working with this organization called Muktangan, which works with BMC schools in Lower Parel, Worli and Prabhadevi. And there are about seven schools I have worked with in the art related side. They have started something called the zero period where the kids can use that time to do anything they like and we are doing activities there also.

And there is also a lot of self publishing we are indulging in now.

Bombay Underground is also working on resurrecting their library space in Bandra now which will cater to pretty much everyone interested in the faction of Film-making, Activism, Art, Culture and Graphic Novels.

They recently also held an exhibition on self publishing titled ‘Call a book a book’ at False Ceiling.

Text by Pavithra Chandrasekar



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