House Proud: Urbz’s New Exhibition ‘Mumbai Return’ Examines The Migrant’s Idea Of Home

Konkan Coast by Ishan Tankha, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai.

Konkan coast. Photo: Ishan Tankha.

The idea of the migrant’s physical home is the locus of Mumbai Return: Journeys Beyond The City, an ongoing exhibition at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum by Urbz, the city-based collective of urban researchers, architects and activists. Housing is perhaps the most pressing concern for the migrant in Mumbai as it’s unaffordable to most and perennially in short supply. Yet the difficulty of finding a place in which to live does little to seriously deter people moving here from other parts of the state and country. Mumbai Return focuses on the Konkan region, underscoring the fact that a substantial number of migrants to the city are from within Maharashtra. This seems significant in the context of the rhetoric spun by nativist parties in whose books they’re exempt from migrant status. For the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, who like to blame ‘outsiders’ for many of Mumbai’s ills, migrants are folks from beyond the state borders.

Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai.

‘Design Comes As We Build’.

The show examines, through photographs, architectural drawings of village homes, videos and models of houses, the way architectural elements of the city have travelled to the village and vice versa. ‘Homegrown Homes Part I’ is a set of images and drawings of several houses in villages in the Konkan built by individuals who work in Mumbai and dream of eventually settling in their native places. Anil Jadhav’s residence in Ukshi, for instance, has both a modern and traditional kitchen and a layout inspired by the urban chawl.

‘Design Comes As We Build’ is an intriguing look at how contractors living in Dharavi imagine their ideal homes. The exhibit is a series of models of houses in various building materials. Most have an element that allows the residents to interact with the world outside, a nod to the sense of community found in the villages the contractors come from. For example, the wooden house designed by Murugan Sundaram, who is from Tamil Nadu, has a partly-open second floor meant of gatherings. Joseph Koli from Dharavi Koliwada has designed a clay model house with balconies on every floor with a view of the outside.

Warli, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai.

Warli art by Sandeep Bhoir.

The prettiest exhibit is a set of panels arranged in a spiral painted by Warli artist Sandeep Bhoir (a section of the work is pictured above). The shape of the piece indicates the circular nature of the exchange between the village and the city. The painting begins with pastoral scenes, moves on to an urban mid-section and ends with the gaothan, the village in the city, suggesting that the idea of the rural home travels to the city and metamorphoses into a uniquely urban phenomenon.

Mumbai Return: Journeys Beyond The City will run until Monday, July 31 at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Rani Baug, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Road, Byculla. Tel: 022 2373 1234.
Open Thursday to Tuesday, from 10am to 6pm; Wednesday, closed. Get directions here. Tickets for Indians are priced at Rs10 per person for adults and children above the age of 13 and at Rs5 per person for children below the age of 13, and tickets for foreigners are priced at Rs100 per person for adults and children above the age of 13 and at Rs50 per person for children below the age of 13.

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