Bombay61 Studio, in collaboration with the Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, have undertaken two placemaking activities at Versova Koliwada, transforming key public spaces including the Bhandari community well and the Mandvi Gully. The work incorporates an urban design project along side street art initiatives with local artists. In support of the project and community, Bombay 61 and Hallu Hallu organized a heritage walk through the Versova Koliwada village on Saturday, 29th August which highlighted both the placemaking work and the local history. Known as ‘Vesava’ Koliwadain the local language (translation - Place of rest), the name was changed by the Portuguese to ‘Versova’ Koliwadaback in the 16th century. This immersive walk into the Vesava Koliwada uncovered the generational history of the Kolis and the deep relationship they share with their natural environment that has altered over the years, highlighting their indigenous culture, knowledge and lifestyle. The walk also covered ﬁshing-related activities, important cultural landmarks, traditional houses and the recently completed placemaking initiatives of Bombay61 Studio in collaboration with the Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic.
Participants followed a 2 km path from the Masan Devi Temple, moving northward to the Shri Sinya Mahadev Mandir and included dialogues with key Koli community members and social entrepreneurs. By working with local Koli artists including Sairaj Shigwan (from Mulund Koliwada), Nilesh Dhakle (from Versova Koliwada), and Rujvi Sankpal (from Lalbaug, Parel), the project seeks to actively include communities in design interventions. Key transformations at the Bhandari Chawl and Mandvi Gully bring to light the symbolic and historical signiﬁcance of these areas and aims to re-establish a positive relationship of the Koli community with their locality.
Bombay61 have similarly worked towards documenting Koli history and culture in Through the Eyes of the Kolis: A reﬂection on Mumbai’s past, present and future, a digital photo-exhibition in collaboration with Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, and hosted by The Heritage Lab. Such design-led projects intend to bring forth the vulnerabilities and the uncertainties that the community faces in a fast developing city, and challenge the slum narrative these original villages consequently carry.
“Mumbai is popular for beaches, British era Gothic heritage and Bollywood. But at Hallu Hallu we take participants to a few indigenous cultural-social hubs left. Mumbai’s original culture (that includes languages- lifestyle – architecture) has been lost due to unethical reclamation and so called development. Rather than preaching, we want participants to get engaged and interact with the indigenous communities who are the real representatives of Mumbai and understand why their settlements like Padas and Koliwadas should be saved.”- Aslam Saiyad, Hallu Hallu
“The spaces in most of the villages/urban villages emerge out of the context relatable to the artifacts- may it be wells, temples or trees deﬁning their character. Over the years we have witnessed these spaces getting degraded due to lack of associational values especially by the younger generations. Hence we identiﬁed Placemaking as the tool by creating artwork reﬂecting the local context by artists who are part of the community and interactive spaces to intervene and revive the lost identity of these spaces - which will eventually help the village regain its lost character at large.” - Jai and Ketaki Bhadgaonkar, Bombay61Studio
“I see art, aesthetics and community assets as key devices to collectivise people and shape public discourse; essential pillars to movement building. By collaborating with artists from within the Koli community and transforming the spaces they inhabit, we have appealed to their sense of shared identity. The walks have been designed to bring outsiders(participants) into the community space (Koliwada) and invite a two-way conversation between fellow Mumbaikars who don’t have avenues to interact on a common platform. We hope that will serve for the beneﬁt of both the city and all its inhabitants.” - Arpita Bhagat,MMM
“The artworks are trying to bring forth the essence of the Koliwada by way of representing characters from the village. It is heartwarming to see the passerby women associating themselves with the Koli woman drawn near the Bhandari well. The artwork at Mandvi Gully boasts the history of the area which showcases their ﬁsh market, legendary Gurudatt brass band and the occasion of Ganpati Visarjan where this lane transforms itself into a colourful and festive zone playing local Koli music to accommodate the Visarjans of largest Ganpati idols.” - Sairaj Shigwan, Artist
Want to know more about the Koli's? Download this image sheet:
About Bombay61 Studio: Bombay61 is an innovative and experimental urban solutions think tank. It facilitates urban design and research projects with public participation as the key idea, creates and has been deeply involved in developing experiential architecture and design projects since 2013. Bombay61 tries to create a social difference addressing various urban issues, with the community and for the community with a very sensitive and ecological approach. We conduct research and ﬁeld work for getting to the roots of the issue and then articulate a simple solution for the beneﬁt of the people. Our team is very crucial in mobilizing the community to strive towards the envisioned innovative solution.
About Hallu Hallu: Hallu Hallu was founded in 2019 by two photographers who chronicle Mumbai Aslam Saiyad and Gopal MS. They explore the other side of the city where the real Mumbai resides – the Koliwadas ,the Padas , the Gaothans, the colonies of community workers etc. They invited people of Mumbai to join them to take a break from the hare-paced world and step out for a walk and meet people, communities, culture, subcultures, birds, rivers, ponds, animals and plants that will restore their faith in humanity. Their long term goal is to attempt to see the world differently and develop empathy for each other by going slowly, through walking, observing, and engaging is our way to destroy walls, real and imaginary. That is why it's called Hallu Hallu or Slowly Slowly.
About Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic:
Mumbai’s Ministry of Magic (MMM) is a platform to unite citizens and showcase their collective action, mobilizing them to draw the attention of the local government to prioritise protection of Mumbai’s biodiversity hotspots, green spaces and its inhabitants. The goal of this growing community is to bring new and diverse voices into the climate movement and experiment with new approaches to climate conversations and people's participation. MMM collaborates with local organizations, experts, artists, and groups to ﬁnd multiple avenues for impact.