It is “map the hurt”, sewing together disparate but connected stories of domestic violence from the women of Dharavi, who embroidered a quilt depicting the sprawling slum where they live, marking out with embroidery the areas where they suffered such violence. For an added touch, the quilt was made out of second-hand denim purchased from Dharavi’s sweatshops.
The quilt is one of the artworks to be showcased at the Dharavi Biennale, an exhibition blending art and science to share information on urban health. It showcases the contribution of the people of Dharavi to Mumbai’s economic and cultural life.
The Biennale project has been organised by Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action (Sneha). The exhibition will be held from February 15 to March 7.
Nirmala Jaiswar, who sewed her story into this art work, was a victim of gender-based violence as a child. “We shared our stories before we started this project. One of the women started crying during her narration. Such incidents never really leave you. But now I know better. I know I can talk about what happened to me and help others who might be facing a similar fate,” says Jaiswar.
Jaiswal is a ‘Sangini’ in the ‘Little Sister Project’ of Sneha, which maps domestic violence incidents in Dharavi.
Coordinator of the programme Koushiki Banerjee says, “Most of the violence is not reported. We map these incidents and train women who have been victims of such violence to help others through the use of technology. Such women are called Sanginis and they are provided with smart phones to provide immediate help in case of such incidents.”
Talking about “map the hurt”, Banerjee says it helped the women talk about what they went through. “Talking about such incidents in seen as taboo. During the workshop, which led to the creation of this art work, these women sat and spoke of what happened and then mapped out areas where such incidents had taken place in Dharavi,” says Banerjee.
Susie Vickery, a textile artist, says that approximately 14 second-hand pairs of jeans were used to create the artwork. “We bought second-hand jeans from Dharavi and used this as the base to this quilt. The seams of the jeans were used to represent roads, buttons were used to show temples and plastic wrappings were used to depict buildings. Railway lines were marked with zippers and the areas of violence were represented by caps of bottles. Pockets of all the jeans were embroidered by the 28 women working on the project,” she says.
According to Jaiswar, all of them worked hours to tell their stories through this work, each feeling a little bit more confident about talking about the incident that scarred them in some ways.