On that narrow lane off 90 Feet Road in Dharavi, a truck can block all view ahead. Yet, in such a place, a curious crowd had gathered under a yellow shamiana that Saturday evening. There were local women and children dressed in their shiny best. There were those from lands beyond Dharavi in their ethnic kurtas and cool tees. Passersby wondered what all the commotion was about. And as fleeting glances deepened into interest and the crowd spilled into the street, we knew that this was going to be one exhilarating evening.
The assembled had gathered to attend an exhibition on health.We were calling the exhibition Ghar Pe (At Home) and it was an installation of art pieces made by our participants. Every piece evoked a particular aspect of health and was the culmination of almost a year’s efforts in creativity, conversations and skill acquirement. Mosquitoes embroidered on windows, photographs spread on utensils and dreams moulded into ceramic slippers were just some of the examples of household items that were afflicted by a healthy dose of art.
The inaugural was preceded by a frenzy of photos taken by and of the participants of Dekha Undekha. We would have continued with glee into the night had it not been for the gentle intervention of Jaya Nuty who hosted the programme. For the inaugural, Dr. Shanti Pantavaidya traced the journey of every woman, the SNEHA youth group performed a spirited Marathi street play on safe sexual practices and those who had put together the exhibition, through art or administration, were felicitated.
The hall that is part of Ganesh Vidya Mandir was painted a turquoise green and saw almost two hundred and fifty visitors that evening. Among those who burst with excitement into the exhibition was Akku Behn, a middle aged sweeper from the neighbourhood. For Akku Behn, who had never been to an art exhibition before, the art pieces made by our participants led her to say that it is great that women are doing something different and it is important that women do more such things in their lives. And then in the crowd, was the little boy who wanted a fabric globe off a dream slipper to play with. And there was the sound of many an air kiss blown into the noisy room.
The artists who had just been felicitated were exuberant when they saw people paying close attention to their art pieces. This was yet another moment when a craftswoman metamorphoses into an artist and they recount a terrific time explaining their art to curious visitors. Zarina from the photography group feels that this exhibition is sure to bring about change in the neighbourhood.
As the street lights came out, the crowd ventured outdoors. But we could see that everyone who had come there that evening returned with a bit of turquoise.
Ghar Pe opened on 25th February 2012 and is on till 9th March 2012. If you haven’t stepped in yet, do so!