On a sunny Saturday morning, we find ourselves at the entrance of Sassoon Docks, Mumbai’s 142-year-old fish market. Upon following the conspicuous signboard directing people to the ‘Sassoon Docks Art Project’, we walk past warehouses pasted with black-and-white portraits of the community. We would later learn that these are a part of the iconic Inside Out project, spearheaded by the French photographer, JR. The Sassoon Docks version was shot by Akshat Nauriyal, and assisted by Pranav Gohil and Ravi Patel. The project aims to celebrate identities and amplify untold stories—and the Koli community, working anonymously for generations, deserves the recognition.
Walking around in Sassoon Docks, Western India’s first wet dock and one of Mumbai’s only open-to-public fishing markets, the strong, pungent smell of fish cannot be ignored. But once you move past the odor, the sight of several fishing boats on one hand and colourful, painted façades on the other welcome you to the Mumbai edition of St+Art India’s Urban Art Festival.
With murals, installations, screenings, talks, audio-visual experiences and curated tours, the #SassoonDocksArtProject invites people to step into the world of the fishing community. The project is inspired from the docks, the Koli community and Mumbai itself. Over 30 artists from India and across the world have come together to transform the almost-forgotten area, located at the tip of the city.
Founded by a five-member team in 2014, St+Art has organised six festivals and a multitude of public art projects in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The initiative provides a platform for street artists to come together and metamorphose the city’s public spaces into art hotspots. With the tagline ‘Art for All’, the sole purpose of their projects is to take art outside conventional boundaries and encourage a larger number of people to interact with it.
By now, no wall has been left white in the docks. The graffiti-filled installation by artist duo Do and Khatra stands out with its bold colours. When we look closely enough, the bright, red heart reads as ‘love’, and the graffiti is filled with ‘Kind Comments’. The adjacent walls of the warehouse have also been transformed by the duo into a mural titled ‘Life at Sassoon’—their interpretation of the docks.
The other façades are transformed too—‘Sustenance’ by The Fearless Collective is painted across two primary walls, ‘Everyday Banjara’ by Poornima Sukumar and Sadhna Prasad fills the walls with colour, Singaporean artists The Yok and Sheryo have added quirky and fun illustrations, and a recent graffiti workshop by French artist LEK has completed the transformation.
However, it the #KindComments mural that keeps calling us back. With graffiti and 3D typography in vibrant colours, we soon realize that the messages of positivity and peace are in multiple languages, including Marathi and emojis. The mural is a part of photo-sharing platform Instagram’s #KindComments initiative. After a successful collaboration with artists in London, Washington, L.A, and Madrid, the social media giant launched the Mumbai edition on November 11, 2017.
Emerging street artists Nikunj Prajapati and Siddharth Gohil, who go by the name Do and Khatra respectively, are both shy and reticent when we proceed to pick their brains about the mural. The duo studied Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda and has been working with St+Art straight out of college. Their individual styles merge seamlessly, whether it is in the form of ‘Rasik of Raja Band’ in Delhi or ‘Usual Unusual’ in Hyderabad. For this one, they decided to go with graffiti because it would meld well with the likings of the younger Instagram generation. Plus, it’s a great spot for selfies.
The art that they create will last, spread good vibes, and be accessible to all. What more can an artist dream of, they ask?
Art for all, indeed.
The Sassoon Docks Art Project is on till December 30. Follow St+Art India on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates on the festival; the project is open for public from Thurs-Sun, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. For a glimpse of the project, go here.
Pooja Naik is Senior Sub-Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.