Art Districts

Mahim (E) Art District

Many of us know Dharavi as one of the largest slums in the world. Thought of in its entirety as Dharavi, the region of Mahim (E) is actually made up of Dharavi, Matunga Labour Camp and Shahu Nagar, considered unsafe by most Mumbaikers nonetheless, with a general sense of apprehension engulfing any mention of the area.

Outside of the infamy often attached with the area, little do people know that alongside being an active centre of entrepreneurship, Mahim (E) is also the site for thriving leather, pottery and recycling industries. Its close-knit community of residents is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. The underground subcultures of hip-hop and b-boying have also begun shaping the identity of the region.

Beginning in October 2017, we made Mahim (E) the setting for India’s third open-air public art district, after Lodhi in New Delhi and Maqtha in Hyderabad. The idea of an ‘art district’ in the area played out with the objective of encouraging the city’s citizens - who generally might not venture into Shahu Nagar and Mahim (E) - to both discover its cultural milieu and get a chance to engage with its people.


The aim of St+art Mumbai 2017 was to connect modern areas of Mumbai that seemed distant from one another but shared the same origin. Artworks were curated with an aim to (re)introduce the area and its people to the city of Mumbai. By encouraging citizens to explore the area on their own, the creation of an art district in the neighbourhood sought to unhinge it from notions of perceived danger and include it in the larger narrative of the city. Lineup artists for the festival spent time interacting with the local population and these conversations found visual articulation in the artists’ work. 6 of them chose to employ the technique of portraiture to celebrate the region’s diversity.

The stretch containing the murals began on facades located in Shahu Nagar, arriving till the 60 Feet Road. The first artwork in the stretch is visible to the viewer right upon exiting the Mahim Railway Station - one that forms the gateway to enter Dharavi. Having a preliminary understanding of the geography and architecture of the neighbourhood from our first experience in the city gave us a map to conceptualise and organise the additions more effectively.


A densely-populated city like Mumbai is largely defined by its inhabitants. Mahim (E) is one of Mumbai’s most densely-populated areas but the stories of its residents remained on the periphery - with the diversity of a significant portion of the city’s residents being clustered/forced in(to) a box. Today, most pieces in the Mahim (E) Art District are inspired by local narratives, together telling its multifaceted story visually.


Spanish artist Elisa Capdevila’s mural in Shahu Nagar celebrates a local resident the artist interacted with on her first visit to the area. Her protagonist is a local woman who has lived in the neighbourhood for the last 15 years and resides in a house very close to the mural. Moved by her protagonist’s warmth, hospitality and her ‘never say die’ attitude despite trying circumstances, Elisa created this piece as a tribute not only to the daily resilience of her subject, but also the collective spirit of resilience of the people and women of Dharavi.