The iconic Mount Mary Steps will never look the same again. Blinking in the glare of the sun is the latest addition to the bank of street art in Bandra — a first-of-its-kind mosaic art installation. Artist Tyrell Valadares, the man behind the transformation of the stairs that will be used by lakhs of devotees as the Mount Mary Fair gets underway, says he has “always loved the night sky”, and hit upon the idea once he decided to depict opposites.
The art project was undertaken by Valadares and founder of the ‘I Love Mumbai Foundation’, Rahul N Kanal, who is behind other beautification projects such as the ‘We Are The World’ and ‘Love Mumbai’ installations in Bandra. It was Assistant Municipal Commissioner of the H-West ward Sharad Ughade who approached the pair for the Mount Mary Steps project. Having met him, the project was completed in nine days. “The team worked non-stop from 9 am to 4 am. It was incredibly stressful, and with a downpour one evening and the deadline approaching, we couldn’t leave it unfinished,” Valadares explained.
The choice of mosaic for a street-art installation is also unusual. “I love graffiti, but I chose to make this in mosaic because a graffiti has the possibility of getting washed away. With too many people walking around, it gathers dirt and loses its charm after a while. It tends to fade. I wanted to make something permanent and vibrant, so that any time people see it, they think ‘wow, that’s here to stay’,” he said.
While Kanal and Valadares were school classmates, for the mosaic work, their another school friend supplied the tiles, and also helped them get in touch with a group of women, who specialise in mosaic work. The women, from Kathiawad in Gujarat and some from parts of Hyderabad, live in Mumbai but are the go-to people for mosaic art, usually sought out for house decor, swimming pools, etc.
It was somewhat challenging to get the group understand exactly their vision for the project. “They are the experts when it comes to the skill and technicalities of the art, but are unable to understand the aesthetics sometimes,” said Kanal. Valadares worked out on a system in which he drew the outline of the design and explained the colours and placements.
This entire project was built with the support of friends, Bandraiites and former schoolmates, with no commercial gain. “The women’s fees were funded by a school friend, and the friend supplying the tiles refused to accept money. We came together for our home,” Kanal said. The two are extremely happy that the installation has evoked a community feeling among the locals again.
“These are people who know us, they’ve seen us grow up. Bandra becomes a community when something grand happens, everyone wants to be a part of it. These projects are binding Bandra together again,” they said. The Mount Mary festival, popularly known as Bandra Fair, started this Sunday and will go on for a week.