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In Mumbai, a pair of vibrant flamingos add a pop of colour to Sewri skyline

The 16-ft tall installation by sculptor and artist Arzan Khambatta is a tribute to the migratory bird that used to make the Sewri wetlands its home between November and May.

The flamingos are made out of iron from scrap of old ships, a material Khambatta regularly uses. (Express photo by Amit Chakravarty)

At Sewri, amidst the grey of the industrial units and parked trucks, an installation on a traffic island of a bright pink pair of flamingos brings in much-needed colour. Standing tall at 16 feet each since April, the flamingos are hard to miss and can be seen from the passing Harbour line trains nearby too. Unlike its counterpart in the satellite city of Navi Mumbai, which has the migratory bird painted and installed across city walls and public spaces, Sewri’s wetlands which had also been a home for flamingos till recently between November and May for many years, had no sign to represent its connection to them.

“I thought there had to be some installation to show that flamingos make Sewri their home by arriving at the Sewri jetty every year. So many people across the city would visit Sewri to view the flamingos and there was nothing to reflect that,” Sachin Padwal, former corporator of the area, says.

So, earlier this year he approached famous sculptor and artist Arzan Khambatta with an idea for an installation of flamingos at a traffic island. Padwal said that since Khambatta’s studio is also in Sewri, they had in the past discussed collaborating on a public art project for the suburb. Padwal adds that Khambatta’s vision for the installation was that it has to be one that lasts for a long time and should not rust or break within a few years.

Standing tall at 16 feet each since April, the flamingos are hard to miss and can be seen from the passing Harbour line trains nearby too. (Express photo by Amit chakravarty)

The flamingos are therefore made out of iron from scrap of old ships, a material Khambatta regularly uses. “I did not want to use fibreglass as it loses value within a short time. We used thick mild steel and decided to make the flamingos contemporary and not lifelike, as many others have done that already. I also wanted to use the bright colour as the area with the godowns, units and the freeway on the other side, has a lot of grey and brown. The height was to make it look grand and be visible from far including the trains passing by,” says Khambatta.

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He says that it took him three months to complete the installation and it weighs 3,000 kg. After the installation of the pair of flamingos was completed, the artist used a crane to carry them to the traffic island on P Sawant Chowk. “We thought that we would be wasting a lot of money in packing them and carrying them in a truck for a short distance, given their size and weight. We then deployed cranes to carry them and everyone in the area curiously looked on as the birds were being transported to the spot,” Khambatta recalls.

Padwal says that he also plans to add more features to the traffic island, including lights. He said that the spot near the traffic island will be more significant since multiple upcoming infrastructure projects are passing through the area. Work on one of the projects, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, is however also the reason why the area has been out of bounds for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of real flamingos. The birds have also been reported to not have visited the Sewri jetty since 2018 since construction for the project began.

First published on: 26-11-2022 at 11:57 IST
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