St+Art at Dharavi: Murals, water tank art and more

The conversation is not going the way I wanted.

“And why should I give the keys of the building terrace to you?”

“We want to see the art painted on the terrace of your building?”

“The terrace is not safe. You could fall over.”

“We’ll be very careful. We only want to see the art work there.”

“That is what everyone says.” The office bearer of the Nabi Nagar Co-op. Housing Society at Dharavi (Mumbai) glares at my friends and me and launches into a tirade about people pestering him for keys to the terrace all the time, how it was no longer safe for the building children as they wanted to go to the terrace, how it was a nuisance, etc.

We listen to him and commiserate with him and promise to be very careful and not allow any children up on the terrace with us. But he isn’t done ranting and after what seemed like a long time, he runs out of steam and grudgingly hands over the keys to us.

As we thank him, he says with a sly smile, “The lift doesn’t work. You’ll have to take the stairs all the way up to the terrace on the 9th floor.”

Dharavi St+Art, Mumbai. Street Art

Rainbow Art

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The St+art invasion of Bandra and a curated walk

On a Saturday morning in November 2014, I participated in a special, curated walk — perhaps the first of its kind — on street art. Organised by the St+art India Foundation, the walk was to showcase the culmination of almost three weeks of work done by 20 renowned artists from India and abroad in and around Bandra in Mumbai.

I had closely followed the progress of the various artworks on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And each time an artwork was “unveiled”, the itch to go and see them for myself only intensified. So when the announcement of a curated and guided street art walk popped up on my Facebook feed, I immediately signed up for it. But then, the excitement gave way to scepticism.

Let me elaborate. I love street art — it’s vibrancy, its uniqueness, its colourfulness, and the fact that they don’t follow any set rules. But most of all I love how all the street art I have seen have been serendipitous and delightful finds. Something, I thought that a curated walk would not be able to give.

Bandra St+Art, Mumbai. Street Art

Location: Pali Village | Artist: Fomas

Still, the lure of seeing the St+Art in Bandra prevailed over my scepticism and I made it for the walk, as did 10 other people.

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Messages on the wall: The graffiti of Nawalgarh

When I arrived in Nawalgarh, the first work of ‘art’ I noticed was not its famed frescoes or even its grand havelis — it was a piece of graffiti.

I was looking out of the window of the car I was travelling in, hoping to catch a glimpse of a fresco, when the car suddenly braked to let a cow pass. That’s when I saw the graffiti — a yellow rectangular patch with blue lettering on a cracked and patched surface. It was the contrast of the freshness of the graffiti against a dull and old surface that attracted me and I took a picture of it for that reason. The words (for those who can’t read the Devanagari script or understand Hindi) can be roughly translated to:

Even if it means losing your life, don’t give in to anything improper or immoral.

Graffiti, Nawalgarh, New Art, Morals, Gayatri Shaktipeeth

As the car moved ahead, I dismissed the graffiti as a one-off and resumed my search for the frescoes. Little did I know at that time that along with the frescoes and the havelis, I would be seeing other graffiti all over Nawalgarh.

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The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015

I received an Asus Zenfone 5 for review just a couple of days before the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) began giving me the perfect opportunity to test out the phone camera, something that is very important for me in a smart phone. Enjoy reading my KGAF post, but do let me know what you think of the photographs too.


Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts FestivalWhen I ended my post on the 2014 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) last year, it was with mixed feelings. Though I had liked the installation / visual art on display, I hadn’t particularly enjoyed the way the events (or rather the heritage walks I had participated in) had been organised and conducted. I was upset enough to write a post on all that was wrong with the way the heritage walks were organised.

KGAF 2014 had also ended with uncertainty about the 2015 edition of the festival. A Kala Ghoda resident had filed a case complaining about the inconvenience and nuisance caused by the KGAF and the Bombay High Court was considering shifting the venue elsewhere.

Over the last one year, I followed the news on all developments pertaining to the KGAF and read the arguments and the counter arguments, the demands made and the compromises offered… till one day, I saw the announcement for the KGAF 2015. At Rampart Row. And to be held as usual from the first Saturday of February.

That was on 7th February and I visited the KGAF on that very day. And then again on the 8th. Then the 10th, the 12th and finally on the 13th. I went alone and with friends, attended programmes and also met up more friends. Want to see what I did at the KGAF 2015? Read on…

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival

These colourful ladders were not part of any installation. I just saw them lined up and had to take a photo. Never say no to colour !

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Mumbai Lens: The Junction Box Family

There we were — a friend and I — walking along the Central Avenue in Chembur last Sunday animatedly discussing forthcoming travel plans when we met this family.

Street Art, MumbaiNaturally, we stopped to say hello. The Junction Box Family, that was their name, had taken up residence in Chembur earlier this year during the Chembur Festival.

“We like this place,” said Mr. Junction Box.

“Oh yes, we do,” repeated Mrs. Junction Box looking adoringly at her husband.

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Street art @ Reay Road

There I was travelling in a Harbour Line local train that hot April afternoon.

I had just woken up from a short nap when the train halted at Cotton Green station. I was still drowsy when the train crossed the beautiful drinking water fountain (that I always look out for whenever I travel by train on this route) just before Reay Road station. I noted that the water fountain was there, a little more decrepit than ever before, a little more lonelier and a… wait a minute… what was the flash of colour on the wall behind the fountain? It looked like graffiti, but I couldn’t be sure.The train had already crossed that patch and was slowing down for its Reay Road station halt.

A week later, I was back on the train travelling the same route at round the same time. This time I did not sleep. And this time I saw that my guess was right. There was not just one wall with graffiti, but what looked like a lot of them. My first impulse was to get off the train and explore the area immediately. But the deserted area, run-down buildings and a general sense of unease at going alone made me postpone the visit to another day and with company.

So a month later, I was back on the train and this time alighted at Reay Road station to wait for Rushikesh Kulkarni, a fellow blogger, the guy who runs Breakfree Journeys, and the guy who very readily agreed to be my bodyguard and explore the area with me. :) A short walk from the station and I was looking at the first of the many works of art I saw that afternoon at Reay Road.

Peek-a-Boo !Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouse Continue reading