(written by Yelena Posniak/S4C Nyc)
Artefacting Mumbai – www.artefacting.com- the story of an artist, photographer and filmmaker in Dharavi, India
Dharavi, in Mumbai, India is one of the largest slums in the World. It is sandwiched between Mahim in the west and Sion in the east, and spread over an area of 1.7km, with an estimated population of over 1 million people.
This winter, a photographer from Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Arne de Knegt (who enthusastically joined S4C!), together with an artist from Brooklyn, NY, Alex White Mazzarella and a filmmaker from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Casey Nolan immersed themselves in the deep community of Dharavi to show a different reality. During the project’s three month life, they will document and manifest their experiences as they engage the humanity and society of the people, their culture, energy, and ultimately identities, through artwork, photography and film making.
“In Dharavi nothing is considered garbage. Ruined plastic toys are tossed into massive grinders, chopped into tiny pieces, melted down into multicolored pellets, ready to be refashioned into knockoff Barbie dolls. Here every cardboard box or 55-gallon (208 liters) oil drum has another life, and another one after that. Working at ACORN’s Dharavi recycling center, the Artefacting Mumbai team collaborated with local artisans and artists to create artwork. Additionally, they gave free classes in photography and mixed media painting to the Dharavi children working in the recycling industry. During the project’s three month life, they documented and manifested their experiences as they engaged the humanity and society of the people, their culture, energy, and ultimately identities through artwork and photography. The teams immersion and residency was followed through a behind-the-scenes approach, providing the end viewer with a glimpse into the emotional and physical realities of life in India’s largest slum. Moreover, they utilizes this unique opportunity to explore the controversial development issues of the local community through a visual storytelling that investigates and examines the auxiliary issues of sustainability, globalization, and cultural/social cohesiveness in a context of extreme contemporary urbanization and growth.
Through the project, the artists hope to bring light to what is truly valuable and important in people’s lives and communities. In the end, Artefacting Mumbai is about embracing humanity as it exists in a world that many people believe it does not. More intimately, the artists hope to bring light to what is truly valuable and important in people’s lives and communities… the way people treat each other, and the moments they share together. At it’s core, this project is about using art to tell the story of a settlement, people, culture and economy, in danger of being displaced by contemporary urbanization”. By Casey, Alex and Arne
Here at Shoot 4 Change, we are proud to present you with photography of Arne de Knegt www.2hp.nl, who spent the last 3 months documenting the daily life in Dharavi. Arne de Knegt obtained his engineering degree in urban planning in the Netherlands in 1999 focusing his studies on sustainable development through research of multifunctional land-use in Amsterdam. Within the Artefacting Mumbai project, besides being responsible for the photography branch of the project, Arne strengthened the team through his logistical knowledge, built up through years of freelancing as a stage technician on the large rock-n-roll bands world tours. Armed with a collection of digital cameras and a photography curriculum designed for children, Arne
ADK ”…When I took that step in the fall of 1999, over 20 journeys would follow. Added up, over 7 years were spent away from home. Traveling became a lifestyle; backpack became home, photo camera and diary close friends. The experiences unforgettable, just marginally possible to put on paper…”
Arne emerged himself in Dharavi to document life as seen though both his own eyes and that of the generation that will see the future of urbanization evolve into new dimensions.
“The images taken talk about art as a tool to connect with the community we’ve lived with for 3 months; a way to talk about the complexity/identity/reality/ of a place that is by so many discarded as ‘negative/black/illegal’.
and a way to touch on the subject of disconnect between ‘Western’ lifestyles and the realities of life in an ‘informal settlement’ (i rather use this term then the term ‘slum’)”
Here’s a gallery and, below, each photo description
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1 – Girl in the potters’ colony inside Dharavi.
2,3 – Dharavi children attending weekly free art classes given by the Artefacting Mumbai team. We were working closely together with the Acorn foundation, an NGO that seeks to give recognition to the people who work in the rag-picking business.
4 – Life on the Tulsi water pipe, a Dharavi landmark.
5 – Best buddies, posing in front of one of Mumbai’s landmarks; the water pipes that connect Bandra (the rich part of town, in the far end of the picture) with Dharavi (the slum from which this picture is taken). In the front one can see the place where rag-pickers sort and segregate the collected waste which they in turn sell to the people who will grind/wash/dry it and turn it into recycled raw materials.
6 – Muslims attending Jumu’ah, or Friday prayer, on Dharavi Main Road.
7 – Dharavi children attending weekly free art classes given by the Artefacting Mumbai team. We were working closely together with the Acorn foundation, an NGO that seeks to give recognition to the people who work in the rag-picking business.
8 – Harsh reality of everyday life in Dharavi, sorting through grinded plastic chips.
9 – Mumbai’s landmarks; the water pipes that connect Bandra (the rich part of town, in the far end of the picture) with Dharavi (the slum from which this picture is taken). In the front one can see the place where rag-pickers sort and segregate the collected waste which they in turn sell to the people who will grind/wash/dry it and turn it into recycled raw materials.
10 – Children playing cricket on between the Tulsi pipe and a residential block in Mahim West.
11 – This image talks about the bringing together of art and Dharavi’s industrious recycling compound where the art itself has originated from. A worker carries a (heavy) bag of recyclable plastic waste into Dharavi to be processed into raw materials.
12 – A public mural radiating out colorful rays that can represent the diversity of the background/religions of the migrants that live in Dharavi. Throughout the project, we’ve started to use barrels/oil drums as metaphors for communities. One community being made up of several smaller communities, all interlinked like the cells of a beehive.
13 – While Alex is painting, a worker is bringing a bag of waste to a small factory to be recycled into new raw materials.
14 – A mural of an individual, wrapped up in its individualistic lifestyle, only connected to the outside world by means of ‘social apps’ on a smart phone. The disconnect is derived from the fact that the mural is situated in a place that is void of individualism. The Dharavi slum hold a record in terms of density, its character as a first stop for migrants makes rooms often being shared 5-15 people.
15 – This image represents the question whether art is an appropriate way to connect with a community like Dharavi. The image shows grinded plastic on the roof of one of the go-downs (work spaces) in Dharavi. The street lights that radiate through transform that readily available industrial scene into an artistic impression that still holds a key element to Dharavi’s industrial recycling area, yet also shows the artistic existence of its place. One can either say that art is existing in (radiating out of) a place where no-one is expecting it. Equally, one can say that the image symbolizes the light that is radiating out of a place (slum) that so often and to many has a black/negative association.
16 – A photo of a flex that I made which I named ‘Behind the scenes’. It was my way giving a face to an otherwise ‘anonymous slum’.
We will bring you more stories from Arne who is currently working a project called “Camera in the Slum” and “Dharavi Menswear Collection”… stay tuned
Thank you Arne, Alex and Casey for bringing this project together.