It started as just another art project for Rachita Vora during the pandemic. However, over time, the series, titled ‘The Mumbaikar’, has become immensely popular on Instagram, touching a chord with the city's current and former residents. This is the artist's tribute to her city, and she has done so in the iconic New Yorker magazine-cover style. From a saree-clad woman riding a two-wheeler with children to a middle-aged man next to young lovers enjoying the sunset at the Marine Drive promenade, each of the eight digital artworks provide a slice of life in the city.
“While conceptualising the project, I thought of the New Yorker and how its iconic art covers are such a wonderful tribute to the city. And I thought the play on words ('The Mumbaikar') also worked well. That was what initially sparked the idea,” says Vora, co-founder and director of the India Development Review, an online media and knowledge platform.
She started the series in October and it has amassed quite a following. Vora was careful to steer clear of the usual visual tropes that have come to define Mumbai— the Rajabai Clock Tower, the Gateway of India, and more. Instead, the images that she’s picked signify the visual characteristics of the city, which have remained a constant over the years
The eighth art work in the series, published last weekend, is, crowd sourced, which is an evidence of just how many people the work has reached. “I got some great suggestions about the Catholic ladies on Carter Road, to the tetra pods you find on Marine Drive, and so on. For now, I have stopped it at eight, but who knows maybe I will extend it. I am excited to play with different formats and have fun with them,” she says.
Since she’s not a formally trained artist, Vora wasn’t intending to sell the artworks in the series. “I was doing it for myself, and through the art, communicate a feeling or memory of the city. I didn’t anticipate it would resonate with so many people,” says Vora, who took to digital art and linocut printmaking as hobbies last year. With growing requests prints from the series, she has now started selling them, priced between ₹2000 and ₹3200.
While growing up in Mumbai, Vora has witnessed the city change. And one of the things she misses is the growing loss of community. “I recall as a child, I would have conversations with the milk seller and with people in the neighbourhood,” she says.
There was an ease in striking conversations and building relationships, which seems to have gotten difficult now. “There’s less trust and a greater inequality. Building these relationships takes time and it seems people are not interested anymore. I do miss that and that’s part of the reason why I am choosing to spend time between Goa and Mumbai. Goa still has that sense of community,” says Vora.