Mumbai slum holds art biennale

Updated 14 February 2015

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.


Thai king strips “disloyal” new royal consort of titles

In this file undated handout from Thailand's Royal Office received on August 26, 2019, royal noble consort Sineenat Bilaskalayani, also known as Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, is seen in an aircraft. (AFP)
Updated 58 min 34 sec ago

Thai king strips “disloyal” new royal consort of titles

  • Days before his coronation ceremonies, the king married the deputy head of his personal bodyguard, Suthida Tidjai, 41, giving her the title of Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana

BANGKOK: Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has stripped his newly named royal consort of her titles and military ranks for being “disloyal” and conducting a rivalry with Queen Suthida, the palace said late on Monday.
It made the extraordinary announcement just months after the king, who was officially crowned in May, made Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi a royal noble consort — the first such appointment in almost a century.
Sineenat, 34, had breached a code of conduct for courtiers and was disloyal, a two-page palace statement said.
“Royal Noble Consort Sineenat is ungrateful and behaves in ways unbecoming of her title. She is also not content with the title bestowed upon her, doing everything to rise to the level of the queen,” the statement said.
The royal family had been scheduled to participate in the Royal Barge Procession on Thursday, one of the last ceremonies in the king’s year-long coronation celebrations, but last week the event was postponed https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-king-coronation/thai-royal-barge-procession-put-off-due-to-water-and-weather-conditions-idUSKBN1WW1PE until later in the year, with officials citing weather conditions.
King Vajiralongkorn was crowned https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-king-vajiralongkorn-profile/thailands-king-rama-x-from-pilot-prince-to-powerful-monarch-idUSKCN1S8114 as constitutional monarch in May after first taking the throne following the 2016 death of his father, who reigned for 70 years.
Days before his coronation ceremonies, the king married the deputy head of his personal bodyguard, Suthida Tidjai, 41, giving her the title of Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana.

RISE AND FALL
Before July’s of Sineenat’s elevation, the title of royal noble consort had not been used since before the end of Thailand’s absolute monarchy in 1932.
The following month, the palace released a set of unusually candid pictures https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-royals/camo-and-crop-top-thai-palace-publishes-consort-pictures-idUSKCN1VG1AV of Sineenat, along with her official biography on its website.
Some of the pictures were in the usual royal tradition, with Sineenat wearing Thai dress and sitting at the king’s feet. She was also pictured in the cockpit of a fighter jet and wearing a gray camouflage pattern crop-top at the controls of a light aircraft.
The page appeared to have been taken down on Monday.
As recently as last week, Sineenat was featured in official photographs released by the palace doing volunteer works in Bangkok.
Monday’s statement described vivid details of Sineenat’s behavior, saying she had opposed Suthida’s appointment because she had hoped to be named queen herself.
It also called her “ambitious” in trying to obtain royal titles and “self-promoting” in exercising her royal activities.
“She lacks the understanding of the good traditions of the royal court. She displays disobedience against the king and the queen,” the statement said.

CODE OF CONDUCT
During his reign so far, King Vajiralongkorn, also known by the title King Rama X, has moved to consolidate the authority of the monarchy, including taking more direct control of the crown’s vast wealth and transferring two military units to his personal control.
He also reintroduced the “Ratchasawat,” a basic code of conduct for those in royal service rooted in the old absolutist court, and has punished royal staff who have breached this code in the past.
Public criticism of the king or his family is illegal under Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws, with insults to the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
King Vajiralongkorn, 67, was previously married three times when he was the Crown Prince before ascending the throne.
In 2014, he divorced his third wife, former lady-in-waiting Srirasmi Suwadee, after the arrest of several of her relatives in an investigation into people making false claims of having links to the monarchy for financial gain.
Her uncle, parents and three brothers were later convicted of lese majeste and remain in prison. Srirasmi, who was never charged herself, lives outside Bangkok and has rarely been seen in public since the divorce.