After adjusting to the heat, humidity, and constant stares from people wondering what in the world we are doing in their neighborhood, our first major task was to set up our workshop in Dharavi.
Acorn India’s Dharavi Project graciously provided us space in their community center, which is used occasionally for meetings and activities. The space is directly in the heart of the rag-picker community, which is the focus of our immersion during this project. Alex will be utilizing the space as his production center – a place to reflect and bring to life his interpretations of the people and their life through art. We will also be using the space to conduct workshops, art & photography classes, interviews, and project meetings.
Getting the space ready for the above activities was quite the chore, especially given the combination of the heat, a room made entirely out of tin and minimal ventilation. This equation seems to result in dehydration regardless of the amount of water consumed throughout the day. Seriously, no matter how much water I drink my pee is still alarmingly yellow each night. We were fortunate, however, to secure a small army from the rag-pickers (recycling community) to help – people that regularly participate in Dharavi Project activities. Over the course of a few days at least 10 different people helped clean the space and build walls to use as backdrops for canvas. Countless humorous moments resulted from miscommunications as we moved piles of things from one corner to the next and tried to figure out the best configuration for the workshop.
Below is a short video I put together from the 2 days we spent on this adventure.
This proved to be our first real opportunity to connect with some of the usual suspects in this community that we’ve been plopped in the middle of. From my perspective, it seems as though everyone is supportive of our project and what we can to bring to the group – albeit a few of the adults hesitantly.
More pictures from the workshop days can be seen here.
- Office Space
This is the view from our workshop looking into Dharavi; most of the people we work and interact with live within a couple minutes of the workshop.
In the meantime, we continue to ease our way into the daily lives of people here. Some local shop owners and residents now refer to us as “My friend” when they introduce us to their more permanent friends. Many people have come to realize that we are not just weekend tourists as they embrace our funny clothes and goofy smiles with a grin and a wave each morning as we walk by. However, the novelty of us “outsiders” has far from worn off; we still drawn intense states, giggles, and neck turns wherever we roam. The reason for this is simple – westerners don’t come here. After two full weeks I’ve only seen four other westerns in Dharavi; they stood on a bridge and looked down on the community for a couple of minutes before jumping back in their cab and driving away. Seeing those tourists here felt strange; they came only to gawk at the mounds of rubbish and cramped living quarters in Dharavi. I already have a sense of pride for the people here and find it sad that the tourists are missing out on something special that transcends what they saw from the bridge.