• Global Health Disrupted

Dharavi Biennale



On a hot, muggy day in Bristol (much like an average day in Mumbai) I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Nayreen Daruwalla and Professor David Osrin. Nayreen and David directed the Dharavi Biennale arts festival in Mumbai and have been collaborating since 2008. They explained how the arts festival was inspired, how the workshops are organised and the methods used to evaluate the combination of arts and health.

Interestingly, Dharavi Biennale was inspired by a suggestion from local policemen. Although counselling services were provided in Dharavi, turnouts remained poor as women did not understand what constituted violence: awareness needed to be created first before these services could be useful to the local residents. Following a murder in Dharavi the police suggested the formation of an awareness campaign. With a staff of only 2-3 people Nayreen struggled with how a campaign of this magnitude could be run, hence the creation of the idea to combine arts and health. India has a thriving Bollywood scene, with movies grossing $1.6 billion in 2012, therefore it is not surprising that theatre is one of the favoured forms of art used by Nayreen and David. Other favourites included painting and embroidery, particularly enjoyed by the women.

All approaches used in the artboxes (the workshops that create pieces for Dharavi Biennale) are participatory. The artists who facilitate the workshops are all local Indians and initially whoever volunteered was incorporated into the project. With experience Nayreen and David learned to be selective with the artists chosen as some could be temperamental, whilst others would create projects that did not focus on the health issue at hand.

Dharavi Biennale was evaluated using a variety of methods. The gold standard of qualitative and quantitative methods were used but interesting new ideas were also implemented. An art evaluation conducted by an art critic was used as well as a journalistic evaluation. Quantitative evaluation showed that Dharavi Biennale was visited by over 10,000 people, with some visitors being from abroad or other regions of India. Qualitative evaluation highlighted that awareness about a variety of health issues had increased and that participants really enjoyed the arts-based approach as they had become tired of conventional methods used by NGOs. Despite the successful outcome evaluations, there was surprisingly little interest from the Indian government. However, local organisations and some international organisations had shown interest in Dharavi Biennale.

A key issue which divides many people, including Nayreen and David, is that of slum tourism. A tour of Dharavi is listed on TripAdvisor as the top cultural tour in Mumbai. Dharavi Biennale is meant to create awareness for the health issues faced by the people of Dharavi as well as highlighting the contribution of urban slum dwellers to life in Mumbai. The latter point becomes difficult when you consider the ethics of letting everyone come and observe the work produced by artboxes. Tours can provide sources of income and create global awareness of the issues in Dharavi, but the “do it for the gram” mentality clashes strongly with the resident’s right to privacy.

The work carried out by Nayreen and David is at the forefront of the emerging field of combining the arts and health and the new field of thought that favours participatory approaches (this is considered more sustainable). The products from the artboxes range from embroidered 3D fMRIs of schizophrenic patients to a highly acclaimed cookbook. The weird and wonderful variety of art pieces created by Dharavi Biennale have added spice and colour to a region that is certainly not lacking in either.

On a hot, muggy day in Bristol (much like an average day in Mumbai) I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Nayreen Daruwalla and Professor David Osrin. Nayreen and David directed the Dharavi Biennale arts festival in Mumbai and have been collaborating since 2008. They explained how the arts festival was inspired, how the workshops are organised and the methods used to evaluate the combination of arts and health.

Interestingly, Dharavi Biennale was inspired by a suggestion from local policemen. Although counselling services were provided in Dharavi, turnouts remained poor as women did not understand what constituted violence: awareness needed to be created first before these services could be useful to the local residents. Following a murder in Dharavi the police suggested the formation of an awareness campaign. With a staff of only 2-3 people Nayreen struggled with how a campaign of this magnitude could be run, hence the creation of the idea to combine arts and health. India has a thriving Bollywood scene, with movies grossing $1.6 billion in 2012, therefore it is not surprising that theatre is one of the favoured forms of art used by Nayreen and David. Other favourites included painting and embroidery, particularly enjoyed by the women.

All approaches used in the artboxes (the workshops that create pieces for Dharavi Biennale) are participatory. The artists who facilitate the workshops are all local Indians and initially whoever volunteered was incorporated into the project. With experience Nayreen and David learned to be selective with the artists chosen as some could be temperamental, whilst others would create projects that did not focus on the health issue at hand.

Dharavi Biennale was evaluated using a variety of methods. The gold standard of qualitative and quantitative methods were used but interesting new ideas were also implemented. An art evaluation conducted by an art critic was used as well as a journalistic evaluation. Quantitative evaluation showed that Dharavi Biennale was visited by over 10,000 people, with some visitors being from abroad or other regions of India. Qualitative evaluation highlighted that awareness about a variety of health issues had increased and that participants really enjoyed the arts-based approach as they had become tired of conventional methods used by NGOs. Despite the successful outcome evaluations, there was surprisingly little interest from the Indian government. However, local organisations and some international organisations had shown interest in Dharavi Biennale.

A key issue which divides many people, including Nayreen and David, is that of slum tourism. A tour of Dharavi is listed on TripAdvisor as the top cultural tour in Mumbai. Dharavi Biennale is meant to create awareness for the health issues faced by the people of Dharavi as well as highlighting the contribution of urban slum dwellers to life in Mumbai. The latter point becomes difficult when you consider the ethics of letting everyone come and observe the work produced by artboxes. Tours can provide sources of income and create global awareness of the issues in Dharavi, but the “do it for the gram” mentality clashes strongly with the resident’s right to privacy.

The work carried out by Nayreen and David is at the forefront of the emerging field of combining the arts and health and the new field of thought that favours participatory approaches (this is considered more sustainable). The products from the artboxes range from embroidered 3D fMRIs of schizophrenic patients to a highly acclaimed cookbook. The weird and wonderful variety of art pieces created by Dharavi Biennale have added spice and colour to a region that is certainly not lacking in either.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT DHARAVI BIENNALE HERE


#Festival #Arts

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