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.
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.
Dharavi woman's stovetop exhibit, portraying domestic harmony and violence.
Embroidered work depicting bacteria.
Stainless steel canisters are gifted to women at marriage. The artist, Sneha, reveals: “I store rice, dal, wheat, jaggery, peppercorns, tamarind and dried chillies – an array of ingredients. To me they are like the flavours of my marriage”
Embroidered figures were inspired by the topic of diet
Locals were confronted by images from their own neighbourhoods – here of a woman facing mental health issues who lives on the street outside a roller door.
Dishracks displaying household utensils are exhibited with pride across homes at Dharavi. Blended with photography they speak here about local health issues – especially surrounding sanitation.
Children readily engaged with a hand-operated television set featuring ‘good news’
Both youthful and elderly visitors were taking in the show – here checking out a cupboard filled with stuffed emoticon balls. These intended to illustrate how women have diverse emotions but are unable to express all of them openly within acceptable social norms.
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
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?