Govandi Arts Festival to celebrate talent and creativity of Mumbai’s youth

15th October 2022, Mumbai: Community Design Agency (CDA), Lamplighter Arts CIC (UK), and Streets Reimagined (UK) come together to create the first of its kind “Govandi Arts Festival”. Starting in August 2022 with six months of artist mentorships and residencies within the neighborhood, the Festival culminates on 15th February 2023 till 19th February 2023 with an array of events open to the public.  Govandi Art Festival has a robust arts-based framework focussed on building and showcasing the skills/talents of spatially/culturally marginalized communities through inclusive processes. Supported by the British Council, Govandi Arts Festival is part of the ‘India/UK Together, a Season of Culture. The season celebrates and strengthens the bilateral relationship, friendship, and vibrant cultural bonds between the two countries and also marks India’s 75th anniversary.

Govandi, one of the most densely populated and polluted areas of Mumbai, the city of dreams, has been living in the shadows for a very long.  In addition to the refineries and thermal powers in its vicinity impacting the average life expectancy in the area, the lack of sanitation and cramped housing made it even more difficult for the residents of Govandi during the pandemic. Despite its challenges, Govandi is brimming with talent that seeks a chance to express itself. The Govandi Arts Festival will be one step in the direction of celebrating the neighborhood and giving access, exposure, and agency to the artists coming out of this area.

The Govandi Arts Festival has two overarching goals. First to provide residents—especially youth, with access to high-quality artistic mentorship and a public platform to express themselves joyfully; without minimising their lived experiences. The second is to use art as a gateway for those outside the neighbourhood to understand its human joys and complexities, washing away entrenched stigma and judgement.

Jonathan Kennedy, Director of Arts India, British Council says: “India/UK Together, a Season of Culture will establish a network of Indian and British artists to support a more diverse, inclusive, and sustainable creative sector. The must-see Govandi Arts Festival will celebrate the resilience, inspiration, and creativity of young people in both countries.”

Sandhya Naidu, Founder and Managing Director of Community Design Agency says, “Community Design Agency has engaged with Govandi residents since 2016, working alongside them to support social cohesion and reimagine inadequate built spaces. Art and creativity are central to our work there, so launching an arts festival feels like a natural, exciting evolution that will have long-term, positive impact.”

Co-Curator Bhawna Jaimini (Lead, Community Development, Community Design Agency) says: “Govandi is a neighborhood often identified by its structural inadequacies but it is home to a vibrant community that continues to thrive and finds joy because of their sheer resilience. Govandi Arts Festival is an incredible opportunity for the people of Govandi to define themselves and create their own identity which is rooted in their culture, beliefs, talents and way of life. This will lead to a significant shift in the public perception of the neighborhood and its people.”

 Co-Curator Natasha Sharma (Lead, Public Arts and Design, Community Design Agency) says: “We are developing an alternative method of engagement by using arts as a tool to create safe and creative spaces of expression for the budding youth artists of Govandi. Our intensive mentorship program gives mentees the opportunity to share their stories and experiences through multiple artistic mediums. I have no doubt that this one-of-a-kind neighbourhood-based arts festival will bring people of different communities together to celebrate and have meaningful social exchanges.”

Festival activities include:

Mentorship Program- Forty-five youth were selected to work with Mumbai-based artists for a six-month period, from August 2022 to February 2023. Areas of focus include Theatre, Filmmaking, Photography, Public Art, and Rap and Music. The resulting work will be featured in the public festival in February.

Some of the key Mentors at the Govandi Arts Festival will be

  • Pankaj Rishi Kumar, an FTII graduate, has made numerous documentaries and TV series. He is recipient of Asia Society fellowship at Harvard Asia Centre (2003) and an alumnus of Asian Film Academy (Busan) and Berlin Talents (2016).  Pankaj is mentoring a cohort of young filmmaking enthusiasts from the neighborhood of Govandi to make their own films.

  • Tejinder Singh, an independent photographer, and researcher, has documented the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, IIHS Urban Lens Film Festival, Swaraj Abhiyaan’s Jai Kisan Andolan, and many grassroots movements and events in India. Tejinder is mentoring a cohort of young photography enthusiasts from the neighborhood of Govandi in the art of making photographs.
  • Niharika Lyra Dutt, an alumnus of the Drama School of Mumbai, has worked with Faezeh Jalali, Atul Kumar, Manav Kaul, among others. Her recent screen work includes, Eternally Confused and Eager for love on Netflix, and Sutliyaan on Zee5. Her most critically acclaimed role is Sara Matthews in Paatal Lok, which streams on Amazon Prime Video. Lyra is mentoring a cohort of young theatre enthusiasts from the neighborhood of Govandi in theatre practice.
  • Sanskar Sawant AKA Chew’d Perfect, a visual artist and illustrator based out of Bombay, runs a design studio called Homework Coolkids which specialises in environmental fashion, installation
  • art and audiovisual experiences. Sanskar is mentoring a cohort of teenagers and youth of Govandi in the practice of public art. 
  • Danish, a rapper, beatboxer, singer, shaayar/poet has done national and international gigs and performed for well-known rappers like MC Altaf and Kaam Bhari.
  • Sohail Shaikh better known by his stage name DRJ Sohail, is an Indian record producer, DJ, and audio engineer. DRJ has worked with top artists from India such as Divine, Mc Altaf, 7bantaiz, Dopeadelicz, Munawar Faruqui, and more.
  • Tash, an underground beatboxer, organises hip-hop cyphers every Sunday, where the most talented rappers come and showcase their talent. He has performed all over the country at various events and venues. Danish, DRJ Sohail, and Tash are mentoring a cohort of rap enthusiasts of Govandi to create and produce an album of rap numbers. 

Artist Neighbourhood Residency- Four emerging and established Indian artists were selected through an Open Call for a 4-month residency within the neighbourhood. These artists will draw inspiration from, and collaborate with, Govandi-based artisans to create new work.

Lamplighters Residency- A component of the festival grant from the British Arts Council is a collaboration with Lamplighters, a Bristol, UK-based artist collective that creates work that encourages social interaction.  Lamplighters will work alongside Govandi Arts Festival to create giant illuminated sculptural lanterns. These will be brought to life in a spectacular parade orchestrated by members of Lamplighters and Govandi residents. 

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