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Dharavi Design Museum

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Design for a Cause:

‘Not everyone can be a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere,’ words rightly said by the fictional character Anton Ego. Closer to home, the infamous complex of Dharavi is the newly-discovered breeding ground for craftsmen and artisans alike. It is a unique environment which reinvents itself every day to accommodate and offer unique solutions. A high density population of over one million people has extreme amount of potential and dedication. They modify their houses on a regular basis to compensate for the lack of space. They build and re-build again. The area is composed of diverse structures including villages, municipal chawls, a few high-rises and self-built, self-standing houses. Despite the tough living conditions, residents are capable of creating, designing, manufacturing and commercialising local crafts and services to feed an economic rise. On their first visit to the city of Mumbai, Jorge Mañes Rubio and Amanda Pinatih conceived the idea and established Design Mueseum Dharavi to showcase this raw talent blooming within the by-lanes of Dharavi. It is nomadic travelling space that will provide a platform for local talent to expand and gain ground. A museum on wheels to provide an experience to go beyond the products produced and relive the moments in making.  ‘This specific approach will aim to interact with the local population in a new way that constitutes a melting pot of crafts, skills, traditions, creativity and technology. This way the Museum won’t just be an exhibition venue, but will also be a flexible meeting point where individuals can showcase their skills, find potential clients, teach workshops to the rest of the community and take their own practice one step further,’ explains Rubio and Pinatih.

The museum plans to relocate every two months to a different location within Dharavi. It challenges the preconceived notions of a curated design institution. The initiative is a way to positively encourage the residents to collaborate in a cultural environment with a long term objective of impacting the perception and future of constantly evolving areas such as Dharavi. ‘Experience, intuition and imagination will be cleverly recombined in order to merge both the tradition and creativity that glows in the streets of Dharavi. By creating a Design Museum—a place for contemplation—we make this city within a city more liveable. Our main intentions are to acknowledge the citizenship of these people, to recognize their equal rights compared to the rest of the city, and promoting a greater exchange between formal and informal economies.’

The first exhibition held in February featured ceramic pieces made by the Chauhan family, who run a pottery workshop in Dharavi that goes back four generations. The founders elaborate, ‘These exhibitions provide the visitors with a completely different perspective. Design Museum Dharavi supports these makers and their practice, creating the space and time necessary to experiment with new designs that go beyond their usual commissions.’ The design museum will host workshops, lectures, meetings and screenings travelling from place to place throughout the informal settlement.  

Starting a conversation about future developments and sustainability of such home-grown neighbourhoods all around the world, Amsterdam will host a conference in the summer of 2016, where the results of the Design Museum Dharavi will be exhibited and pondered upon. Experts from different disciplines will join the conversation and share their vision and ideas based on their perspective and professional experience. 

 

 

Text Lavanya Grover

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