“I stopped to catch my breath at the wet docks – this time the reason was marvelous murals, not the dead fish.”
I never thought I’d enter a fish market to admire its beauty if it had not been for the Sassoon Dock Art Project. I remember walking swiftly by the lanes of Chimbai in Bandra, Mumbai as I could not walk by without flinching at the smell of dead fish. I love seafood but the stench really got the worst of me, although I would take the opportunity to practice holding my breath while walking through the fish market!
The Sassoon Docks, situated in Mumbai harbour in South Mumbai of Colaba, are one of the first wet docks that is also open to public. It was built in 1875, on reclaimed land, by the banking and mercantile company David Sassoon & Co., the docks were owned by Albert Abdullah David Sassoon, son of David Sassoon, a Baghdadi Jew and the leader of the Jewish community in Bombay. Initially inhabited by the first settlers of Mumbai, the Koli Tribe, the dock now is the work space of the Banjara community and the Hindu Marathas as well. In 2017, Street Art A.K.A St+art transformed the old fishy docks into a vibrant exhibition space. The 142-year-old Sassoon Dock was splashed with colours in the most artistic way by thirty artists from around the world.
This project was curated by St.art whereas Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore High Commission collaborated for a Singapore Weekender that featured several artists from Singapore who conducted talks, performances & workshops. They offered tours that took visitors around the murals and installations whilst providing insight into the historical aspects of the location, the vibrant ecosystem and the stories behind the project.
Sassoon Dock Art Project gave me an unique insight on one of the oldest docks of Mumbai. I was enchanted to see the old building transform into an art gallery with larger than life murals and unique art installations. Each level of the building had a fishy perspective that reflected the the outside on the inside. It was a perfect collaboration that explored the historical and cultural background and expressed it through art. Most of the art installation’s material were inspired or taken from the sea & seamen or their sea-equipments. Colourful cotton cloth represented the colourful saris of the Kohli fisherwoman, fishing nets were used in various art installations. I really loved how they used fishing nets to enclose windows in the building which made me feel as if I was a fish trapped in a fisherman’s net. The view from the terrace building was breath-taking (pun intended). The entire exhibit was Instagram-worthy and hence we did see a high footfall even on a weekday. The art was so relatable and simple to understand that even non-artsy humans could easily appreciate it.
There is something about Graffiti – it’s so abstract yet it has structure and the colours just lift up your mood. They are a creative fix to make empty old walls look super interesting. Many artists around the world are using this art form to spread awareness or a social message. In India, this has widely picked up as well. My entire lane (Chapel Road in Bandra, Mumbai) and its neighbouring areas have Graffiti/ Wall Art done cottage walls, walls of buildings or on the entire building itself. I have also spotted Graffiti/Wall Art at railway stations and outside school walls or under bridges and so on. They make a great background for Instagram pictures!
I was very impressed by the idea of Tan zi xi, a Singaporean artist whose installation was the ‘Plastic Ocean.’ She believed that the installation resonated with the locals and they started sharing stories of how plastics have contaminated their surroundings. The installation gave an illusion of what the ocean looks from the inside. Plastic pollution is a big environmental hazard and the Indian government has hence banned the use of non-degradable plastic. I think this is a cause each human must be concerned about and do their bit to make the oceans clean and healthy again. You can read more about Plastic Pollution here.
St.Art does many artsy murals all over India. You can follow their work here.
If you have come across their work do share your reviews in the comment section below. If you know of any such artsy events do let me know. Thank you! #artforall