Project 'Me/We'

A special collaboration between artist collective Aravani Art Project, Facebook AIR (Artist in Residence) and St+art India, Project ‘Me/We’ led to a series of artistic interventions in Mahim across the months of Jan-Fed 2019 which probed ideas of community living and identity.

Over the years, Aravani has created several large murals using a participatory approach in cities across the country, including many with St+art. The Bangalore-based collective is known for using art as a means to shape safe spaces for the transgender community in India.

While in the initial weeks artists from the collective facilitated a series of workshops with different communities of Shahu Nagar, the latter weeks of the project saw the creation of two context-driven murals in the art district.

The Kindness Walls, by Aravani Art Project

The twin murals, located at the Dharavi-Shahu Nagar passageway are made up of several elements which depict small moments of kindness one encounters in a close-knit community setting - like a conversation shared across windows, a friendly smile while rushing for work, lazing dogs, balloon sellers, and swinging down a basket for time management amongst others. Largely inspired by visuals the collective observed in Dharavi, the murals also contribute to the founding ethos of the Mahim (E) Art District, which since its beginning in 2014 has focused on celebrating the lifeline of the neighbourhood - its people.

Complementing the ethos of the Facebook Artist-In-Residence program, which aims to build community through art, the workshops helped build the concepts and imagery for the murals. Exploring the ideas of kindness, identity, solidarity and community living and what they meant for children and women living in Dharavi and Mahim, the elements of the mural were made through an interactive process with the residents which ultimately represented the different voices of Shahu Nagar.

Workshops conducted with the community of Shahu Nagar, Project Me/We, January 2020

We want to create genuine friendships, intangible bonds and of course 'Art' in a seamless way along with our artist friends from the Transgender community. It's not about reclaiming a space with a mural, rather encompassing all of its happenings, all day, everyday. The project has left us yearning to know more about how something as delicate as human emotions are built over the strongest circumstances. Dharavi is a never-ending real life novel.

- Poornima Sukumar, Co-founder, Aravani Art Project

The ‘Me/We’ project was officially unveiled in a weekend of performances and celebrations - all with the backdrop of the ‘Kindness Walls’. Through workshops, murals and a final launch event, the project aimed to speak with and sensitise people about the concepts of kindness, co-existence and inclusivity - to truly use art as a tool for positive social change.

Celebration Day - 8th February

Celebration Day included a panel discussion led by Sadhna Prasad, Co-founder of the Aravani Art Project on topics of community-living and creating art in public spaces, poetry performances by gender-free arts organisation Anat Speaks, and performances by beatboxers and rappers Rahul, Nexus and Paul - creating the perfect celebration of street culture and the Me/We project. While trans women from the collective also performed a 'laavani' dance, the event ended with a collective photo session against the backdrop of the Kindness Walls, with the honourable Ms. Varsha Gaikwad, Cabinet Minister, Maharashtra, who graced the celebration with her presence.

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