Mumbai slum holds art biennale

Updated 14 February 2015
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Mumbai slum holds art biennale

MUMBAI: The Mumbai neighborhood made famous by the film “Slumdog Millionaire” is set to host its first “biennale,” aiming to promote health through creativity, although it will be very different to some of the world’s grander art fairs.
The three-week festival, opening Sunday, will showcase works created by residents of Dharavi, the densely populated settlement in the heart of India’s financial capital that is known as one of Asia’s biggest slums.
From hand-painted pots arranged to show how sexually transmitted diseases spread, to a quilted map marking known locations of domestic violence, the Dharavi Biennale is designed to raise awareness without being “preachy,” say the organizers.
But they also want to celebrate the neighborhood itself, home to an estimated 750,000 people from all over India, which has been held up over the years as a symbol of both grimy destitution and flourishing industry.
“What we see is that Dharavi is sitting on a lot of wealth and a lot of talent and art that gets missed out when you want to show squalor and slum,” said festival co-director Nayreen Daruwalla.
Britain’s Prince Charles in 2010 cited Dharavi as a role model for sustainable living, praising its habit of recycling waste and the “order and harmony” of the community, in contrast to Western countries’ “fragmented” housing estates.
Guided tours around Dharavi’s mini-factories — producing all manner of goods from clothes to pottery — are now a popular tourist attraction, while initiatives such as the SlumGods, a group of hip-hop street dancers, have challenged outsiders’ negative perceptions.
But the difficulties facing the community remain stark, and “there is a danger of going to the other side and romanticizing,” said Daruwalla, pointing out the cramped conditions, poor ventilation and lack of toilets.
With such issues in mind, the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) held an exhibition in Dharavi two years ago called “Dekha Undekha” (“Seen Unseen“), aiming to foster discussion, through art, about themes such as sanitation and maternal health.
Its success led SNEHA to develop the biennale, a more ambitious project funded by the British charity Wellcome Trust, which culminates in the exhibitions and events this month at various locations across Dharavi’s maze of alleyways.
Aside from being held every other year, the festival has little in common with some of the world’s better known art fairs, said co-director David Osrin, who in a presentation this month described the name as “slightly a joke, and slightly ideological.”
“The spirit and the way that our biennale is structured is very, very different,” he told AFP.
While other festivals simply ask artists to submit works, the focus in Mumbai has been on participation with Dharavi residents, particularly through workshops led by “mentor” artists.
The results include the “Immunity Wall,” a depiction of the body’s immune system using recycled materials and everyday items: red hair bobbles for red cells, scouring pads for B cells and flexi bracelets as antibodies.
Another exhibit uses traditional block-prints on cloth to illustrate the various levels of depression, a problem thought to be widespread but under-diagnosed in Mumbai’s slums.
Thousands are expected to attend the exhibitions over the coming weeks, but social scientists will be conducting surveys to try and assess the festival’s qualitative impact as well as footfall.
However much it raises health awareness, the biennale appears to be boosting morale among Dharavi’s residents, such as student Saraswati Bhandare, 21, who helped to create giant puppets for the opening show about tuberculosis.
“People think this is just a slum area where we aren’t educated, but the truth is that it’s a place where so many talents come together. We’re proud to be from Dharavi,” she said.


‘Hunger Games’ prequel book and film planned

Updated 18 June 2019
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‘Hunger Games’ prequel book and film planned

  • The new book will revisit Panem 64 years before the events of the trilogy during a period known as the “Dark Days”
  • Movie studio Lionsgate said another film was already being planned

LOS ANGELES: A new “Hunger Games” novel set decades before the original best-selling trilogy will be published next year, its publisher said Monday, with plans for an accompanying film already under way.
The book will revisit the macabre post-apocalyptic world of Panem created by Suzanne Collins’ young adult novels, which were adapted into one of Hollywood’s biggest movie franchises starring Jennifer Lawrence.
The original books, which sold more than 100 million copies, told the story of Katniss Everdeen, a teenage heroine forced by the realm’s totalitarian leaders to participate in a reality TV-style fight to the death.
The new book will revisit Panem 64 years before the events of the trilogy during a period known as the “Dark Days,” in which the nation “struggles to get back to its feet” after a devastating war, Collins said.
Four films based on the trilogy of novels — the final book was split into two parts — turned Lawrence into an A-list movie star and grossed $2.97 billion worldwide.
Movie studio Lionsgate said another film was already being planned.
“As the proud home of the Hunger Games movies, we can hardly wait for Suzanne’s next book to be published,” said Joe Drake, chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group.
“We’ve been communicating with her during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to work closely with her on the movie.”
Author Collins said the book would explore “the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival.”
The as-yet untitled book will be published on May 19, 2020.