The Museum on Wheels: The Design Museum in Dharavi

The Design Museum Dharavi (DMD as it is better known) defines itself as an innovative intellectual institute that commemorates the creative possibilities in Dharavi, an aboriginal locality situated in the spirits of Mumbai, India. In February 2016, it was inaugurated, a 3 Square Kilometer homegrown neighborhood, home to over 1 million people.

Located in the tiny lane of Dharavi; people easily get lost while not being familiar with Dharavi’s terrain. Strangely, the seclusion of DMD is a symbol for its intention: to highlight the unofficial settlement’s concealed and often undiscovered local talent. It is to say that even in the rough circumstances of Dharavi’s environment, people are flawlessly producing, carving, making and selling variant creative goods – that talent doesn’t come from where you are but rather from what you are and what you want to be. Design Museum Dharavi works like a display area for these merchandise and their artisans, so the home-grown society, Mumbai and the globe can recognize them.

The literal lack of space turned out to highlight DMD’s nomadic exterior – called as a museum on wheels – but this way, the museum illustrates the fleeting and mystical character of informal settlements. It thereby takes the familiar form of a lorry – a vendor’s pushcart- symbolizing India’s large informal and unorganized economic sector.

Nevertheless, just like every object in a conventional gallery is an object of history with a story behind it or a theme to bind it, the materials exhibited at the museum also merits a nearer scrutiny to unearth the tales of its inspiration. For example, many things exhibited during its foremost week of inauguration are Chai cups and water containers. These ordinary, everyday things were ideated and made by potter father and son Nathalal N. Chauhan and Mitul N. Chauhan. The Chauhans are running this 4 generation old heirloom trade in Dharavi with a modest assistance by the DMD team.

DMD’s chai cup assortment provides a flavour of Dharavi’s intrinsic creativity. Shows a vibrantly colourful celebration of diverse styles in which chai is sup in Dharavi. This was also an initial trial to engage local creators in developing their own style and design rather than replicating it from a sample. None of the items are for sale at DMD but it is surely doubling as a platform for all designers to get in touch with creative artisans of Dharavi for collaborative projects.

The DMD plans to mobilize the community and fix art camps, workshops, and festivities to engage tourists and locals to connect amongst one another. Over the next two months, the DMD team will showcase designs created in collaboration with the local artisans.  The DMD’s objective is dual: Pulling visitors to see Dharavi with a different perspective and, significantly, allowing provincial craftsperson to regain their feeling of dignity. The main mission of Design Museum Dharavi is to make design a medium to bring social welfare and novelty and to remove the pessimistic perception for informal settlements across the globe.

The Museum idea was generated in the brain of Jorge Mañes Rubio (Seethisway) and Amanda Pinatih (MADE Pinatih), an artist and curator from Amsterdam.

Cover Graphic : Ketul Gamit

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