Lonely Planet Writer

An old fishing area in Mumbai is getting an artistic makeover

The Sassoon Dock area of Mumbai in India is currently a hub of colourful activity. Until the end of December, St+art India Foundation is facilitating a whole host of Indian and international artists, who are working together to organise installations, murals, talks and tours.

The area has been given a colourful makeover, image via Akshat Nauriyal

Akshat Nauriyal, the foundation’s content director and co-founder, tells Lonely Planet why they chose this area of the city. “With most of our projects, we try to activate spaces that aren’t necessarily associated with art. We identify areas which are synonymous with the city, but somehow get neglected or lost. Sassoon Dock is an extremely interesting place in terms of the timeline of Mumbai (Bombay). It’s one of the oldest docks in the city, settled by the fisherfolk themselves, who are the original inhabitants and settlers of Mumbai. So in that sense, it was a very interesting space for us to work in.”

A visitor interacts with ‘Plastic Ocean’, image via Akshat Nauriyal

“The idea with the St+art Mumbai 2017 Urban Arts Festival”, he continues, “is to re-introduce people to Sassoon Dock through the lens of an art exhibition. Before we initiated our interventions here, it was a dock with daily activities, but now it’s transformed into an extremely vibrant place where locals interact with the artworks. Our project is open to all, which means residents of Sassoon Dock and those who work there are welcome to come and, in fact, they’ve been pouring in since opening day. In India, art has become a commodity for the elite and middle class, and people living in areas like Sassoon Dock usually never get any exposure to it. That’s why a project like this is so important.”

It’s important for St+art that the project be accessible to everyone, image via Akshat Nauriyal

It was important for the team that participating artists share this same ethos. “The artist line-up comprises of artists who have already worked with communities”, says Giulia Ambrogi, festival curator. “So we knew they were going to be incredible when it came to communicating and interacting with the context, and utilizing local narratives and materials. German artist Clemens Behr is one of the festival’s contributors. “I was inspired by the cityscape of Mumbai; the materials and colours”, he tells Lonely Planet. “I’ve created two large-scale installations that reflect my impressions through an approach of material painting. The inside of my installation is a sidewalk scene, while the outside work is a mix of a house being renovated, deconstructed and graphically painted at the same time.”