There is an impeccable stillness that can be found in the confines of the sea that nurtures and provides life; it is as essential to Mumbai as it is to the condition of human existence. When you visit the docks of Mumbai, the salty smell of the sea and the stench of the fish from the markets will infiltrate your nose, reminding you of the very essence of the ocean. But not far behind is the realization of how humans have impacted something essential to their existence. At this year’s Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF), these concerns are addressed and we are reminded of the hybridity that results from the union of the man and the sea in the form of unique and fascinating artworks.
The art festival is focused on the theme “Between the City and the Sea”, aiming to explore the intricate relationship between the waters of Mumbai and its populace, highlighting the environmental effects humanity has had on the oceans. The festival will end soon on 22nd February 2023, having lasted for three months since its opening on 22nd December of last year. It will contain the works of over 60 artists, international and domestic, including Filthy Luther from the UK, Andha Ras from Malaysia, Serge Attukwei Clottey from Ghana, among many others. This was organized by a Delhi-based NGO group called the St+art India Foundation and is supported by Asian paints. MAUF is hosted across key venues in the city, including Bandra, Churchgate station, Mahim East, and Jindal Mansion, with the heart of the festival being at the Sassoon Docks in Colaba, one of Mumbai’s oldest docks and fish markets., focus on key environmental issues, this art festival stands as one of the most significant in the recent years.
The Sassoon Docks were one of the places revitalized by the St+art India Foundation as a part of their project in 2017 with the aim of marking art democratic and accessible for larger audiences. St+art understands the relevance of art when it comes to highlighting environmental and social issues and the Sassoon Dock Project, along with the Mumbai Urban Art Festival 22-23, both aim to spread awareness.
Public art can serve as a standpoint to express and drive home the condition of the environment; and this is very visible in the art festival through its murals, installments, and paintings spread throughout the city. This large-scale exhibition takes art out of galleries to serve a larger purpose, giving back to the communities that have sustained the city. It pays homage to the Koli community residing in the dock, one of the city’s oldest inhabitants. Artists from different countries drive home the theme with their spectacular artworks dotting the Docks and the rest of the city. An artist with Koli lineage, Parag Tandel, displayed an installation titled ‘Vitamin Sea’ comprising of resin and metal spikes, creating a jarring work that highlighted the dangers of urbanization to marine wildlife. Several other notable artworks explored different dynamic themes and experimented with different materials that must not be missed.
Public art has the power to send resounding messages about social issues, and this year’s Mumbai Urban Art Festival 2023 highlights the environmental impact on water and explores the relationship between the city, its people, and the sea. With its unique theme and goal of revitalizing the Docks, massive and variegated collection of artists that utilize drastically different mediums, and focus on key environmental issues, this art festival stands as one of the most significant in recent years.