With a population of around 700,000 in an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers, the region of Dharavi is one of the most densely-populated areas in the world. Amidst the general sense of apprehension that gets invoked whenever the area is mentioned, what doesn’t get mentioned is that it’s also an area bustling with cultural activity and entrepreneurship.

A major chunk of Dharavi’s inhabitants is made up of poor rural migrants who come to urban Mumbai looking for job opportunities. Owing to the fact that migrants from all over India settle down in the region, Dharavi’s settlement is highly multi-ethnic and diverse. Additionally, the region is an active hub of leather, textile and pottery products, which are sold not only in India but exported to regions including the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

During St+art Mumbai 2014 - our first festival in the city of Mumbai, Dharavi provided the perfect setting for a public art project that would engage with the locals and also add a bit of colour to the neighbourhood. During subsequent festivals held in the city, more artworks were added to the locality.

Work in Progress, Dharavi, St+art Mumbai 2014

Owing to the low-rise style of buildings in the area, many lineup artists for the festival took to creating pieces on Dharavi’s rooftops.

Bond Dharavi Start Mumbai 2014 3
Bond Dharavi Start Mumbai 2014 4
Bond Dharavi Start Mumbai 2014 2
Dharavi Rooftop Bond 5
Dharavi Rooftop Tika 1
Seikon Dharavi Rooftop 2014
Notes Dharavi Rooftop 2014

Pieces on rooftops in Dharavi, made by artists Bond, Tika, Seikon and Notes, St+art Mumbai 2014

In a bid to make its public spaces more interactive, artists also painted murals on many of Dharavi’s walls.

Gomez Dharavi Start Mumbai 2014 6
Pobel Dharavi Start Mumbai 2014 1
Rainbow By Tofu Dharavi Start Mumbai 2014 2
Toilet Wall Tona 2
Toilet Wall Tona 1
Rainbow By Tofu Dharavi Start Mumbai 2014 1

Artist Gomez’s piece on 60 Feet Road, Labour Camp, Dharavi, laid the founding stone for the Mahim (E) Art District in Mumbai // ‘Reclaim your City’ projects a rainbow in Dharavi // Pobel’s piece in Dharavi // Using the technique of stencilling, German artist Tona created a check-shirt and fedora-wearing little boy on one of the region’s community toilets.

During the festival, artists Tona and Gomez also held workshops to further engage with the local residents.

Tona at colourbox (TONA (Germany) makes a stencil at Colourbox run by the Sneha Foundation during the Dharavi workshop)