The ongoing five-day Govandi Arts Festival celebrates the spirit and resilience of people living in the Mumbai suburb of Govandi through performative and visual arts. According to the official website, the idea of the festival emerged from “the need of the community to reclaim the narrative about their neighbourhood, which is much more than just a ‘ghetto’…and to connect, create and celebrate with the rest of Mumbai.”
Govandi is an area in Mumbai invisiblised by the rising flyovers and buildings. It falls in the M-east ward of the city which according to the ng to the Climate & Air Pollution Risks and Vulnerability Assessment Report (March 2022), the ward is the most deprived and polluted area with the many factories and an open landfill nearby. This gives a picture of why the privileged might look at the area with a certain gaze. For the residents, it’s beyond the numbers, it’s their home and through this festival, they are using art to voice their resistance and reclaim their place in the city, without romanticising the lived realities of marginalised communities.
The festival is part of the ‘India/UK Together, a Season of Culture’, taking place in India and the UK from June 2022 to March 2023. This a programme of arts, English and education that celebrates India's 75th anniversary and focuses on the British Council's aim to create opportunities between the two countries.
The festival is held in collaboration between Community Design Agency (India), Streets Reimagined (UK) and Lamplighter Arts CIC (UK), who use art to bring diverse communities together. "The Govandi Arts Festival is one of the standout projects of the India/ UK Together Season of Culture and a shining example of inclusion in the creative sectors, and of the arts and artists connecting the community of Govandi in Mumbai with Bristol in the UK,” said Jonathan Kennedy, director (Arts India) at British Council, as reported by PTI.
The event focuses on developing and showcasing the skills of geographically and culturally marginalised communities and providing access and exposure to artists living in the neighbourhood. As part of the festival, 45 youths from Govandi were selected to work with Mumbai-based artists from August 2022 to February.
Some of the upcoming events include a photography exhibition, Aaina, wherein young photography enthusiasts from Govandi will tell stories using the lens, an artist residency exhibit wherein ten participants will showcase an intimate portrait of their lived experiences, rap performances, film screenings followed by panel discussions, printmaking workshops, and plays.
A lantern parade will also be organised by The Lamplighters to bring together people from diverse and divided neighbourhoods. Kennedy calls this parade of hand-made street lanterns, a showstopper street procession.
Govandi Arts Festival will end on 19 February.