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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

‘Man Grows With Mangroves’: A mural on Carter Road on mangroves

Carter Road visitors can see the mural at one of the midway entrances to the promenade.

Written by Benita Fernando | Mumbai |
Updated: January 29, 2022 1:39:25 pm
‘Man Grows With Mangroves’: A mural on Carter Road on mangrovesThe sisters — self-taught mosaic artists who go by the name A&T Cunha — turned over 25,000 pieces of glass and vitreous tiles into a mural called “Man Grows with Mangroves”.

In November 2015, as part of the Celebrate Bandra festival, sisters Aashika and Tanishaa Cunha were approached by the Bandra West Residents Association to create a public artwork that would pay homage to one of Carter Road’s oldest residents, the mangroves.

The sisters — self-taught mosaic artists who go by the name A&T Cunha — turned over 25,000 pieces of glass and vitreous tiles into a mural called “Man Grows with Mangroves”. It’s a slice of mangrove paradise — a painted stork and a kingfisher sheltered between the branches and the water so blue, the kind Mumbai-residents haven’t seen in decades.

Carter Road visitors can see the mural at one of the midway entrances to the promenade.

“The idea was to focus on the destruction of the mangroves and to create awareness around it,” Aashika, who is now based out of Singapore, said. While the mangroves that stretch along the promenade add to Carter Road’s beauty, they have become burdened with plastic waste over the years. In the mural, the mangroves appear free of plastic at their roots, as they once must have been.

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Aashika, 32, and Tanishaa, 25, researched the particular mangrove species, Sonneratia alba, that grows here. They learnt that mangroves have peculiar flowers, not always noticeable to the passers-by, as they bloom for a night or so.

Translating those flowers, which resemble a shaving brush, into mosaic was their biggest challenge. Aashika said, “We thought the leaves might be the hardest part, but it was definitely the flowers. They took very long to make because they have sharp edges.”

The entire mural took around a month to make. The Cunha sisters cut mosaic pieces by hand and put them together like “assembling a jigsaw”, they said.

Aashika and Tanisha’s interest in mosaic murals started after a trip to Barcelona, famed for its mosaic works by Antoni Gaudi. Back in India, the sisters tried their hands at making a mural for the terrace of their home in Malabar Hill. “Very therapeutic”, is how Aashika describes the process.

The sisters have also made a mural for the butterfly park at Byculla Zoo.

In recent years, Mumbai’s mangroves have become a challenge to protect, with a number of infrastructure projects that threaten their very existence. Some weeks ago, the Maharashtra Maritime Board had approached the Bombay High Court seeking permission to cut the mangroves on Carter Road to place tetrapods to prevent coastal erosion. It was an application that has since been rejected after residents urged that the mangroves offer natural protection.

When they completed the Carter Road mural, Aashika and Tanishaa made their own frame and plaque stating the details of the artwork. Seven years later, the plaque has gone missing and the mural has suffered wear and tear, much like the mangroves. Aashika said that it could benefit from a deep clean and restoration but funds are hard to come by, as are permissions.

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