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Creativity Sparks Community Conversations

A low-income community-based art initiative in Dharavi, Mumbai – which cited an opportunity to connect resource constrained urban residents with health experts and artists – to share skills plus knowledge, discuss issues and create ways of spreading messages further in a locally engaging and meaningful way.

Photo of Meena Kadri
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A few years back when visiting India I was lucky enough to be invited to the At Home exhibition, conceptualised by artist Nandita Kumar in collaboration with SNEHA (Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action). They worked with local women in the low-income area of Dharavi through a series of art workshops which culminated in a show which attracted people from the local slums and beyond.

The installation space was set up within a school at the heart of Dharavi and housed artworks which spoke to local domestic settings – hence the exhibition’s name Ghare Pe – At Home. During my afternoon visit a number of neighbouring school groups excitedly swarmed through and were shown round by the participating artists – who confidently explained their artworks while encouraging onwards conversation on health issues. Young students were intrigued by the many household items which were both familiar yet creatively provocative. 

The initiative behind the exhibition, Dekha Undekha (Seen, Unseen) brought together mentors in photography, textiles and ceramics with local residents of Dharavi and beyond through a series of workshops run over a year. Participants were asked to draw household items and body parts that they were happiest with alongside other exercises which helped them grasp artistic abstraction and skills, connect as a group, discuss health issues plus focus on themes. Conversations went back and forth between composition, concepts and technique plus personal hygiene, mental health, maternal care, sanitation, waste disposal, domestic violence and superstitions.

The exhibition went  a long way in triggering significant conversations and solution-seeking. In seeking to work with, not for those in low-income communities, it would seem that at home is a great place to start.

Check my full coverage – At Home: Community Conversations on Health

How might we use creative initiatives to spark community conversations on women's safety? How might we empower women and girls to tell their stories and engage others through art? 

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Photo of Yuan Wang

Thanks for sharing Meena! We also worked with SNEHA before. They invited us to the Youth Festival in Dharavi, like in your post, it was very inspiring to see how people are actively involved in expressing themselves through painting, role playing, writing. Also, another NGO in Pune http://shelter-associates.org/bags they have similar project by training women in making Saree cloth bags to provide them a sustainable way to earn income.

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