Mural by trans women portrays Love Grove sewage treatment plant in Mumbai in a whole new light

Love Grove in Worli is all about seduction. Once a coveted vantage point for honeymooners to view the hills around town, the place is now the site of a great stink. It is home to large wastewater treatment plants – a crucial element in any polluting megalopolis – but the loss of its romantic connotations has been deplored for decades.

In April 2021, Love Grove morphed into a vibrant street art site. Members of the Aravani Art Project painted a mural along the compound wall that spans Dr Annie Besant Road. It’s a sight for sore eyes and tired minds waiting at the crossroads.

Seven trans women from Mumbai and one from Jaipur painted the Love Grove mural and finished it in about a week. (Source: Aravani Art Project)

The Aravani Art Project is a collective of women and trans women involved in collaborative public art projects across India. Like their other murals, the Love Grove project is a series of portraits of people who frequent the neighborhood. Sadhna Prasad, co-founder of Aravani Art Project, describes the mural as showing “the daily life of the place”. They were invited by the public art platform St + Art India, which arranged the logistics, paintings and permissions for the mural.

“We celebrate every type of person that passes through the area. People find someone they can relate to on the mural, ”said Prasad. As artistic director of the project, Prasad designs the murals and makes distinct use of geometric patterns and bright colors. Geometric patterns make painting easier.

Seven trans women from Mumbai and one from Jaipur painted the Love Grove mural and finished it in about a week. Among them was Deepa Kathare (26), who was born in Worli and now lives in Colaba. She has been part of the Aravani Art Project for five years. Kathare, like many other members of the marginalized community, makes a living by dancing and giving blessings at ceremonies and celebrations, such as housewarmings and weddings. “Many know transgender people as beggars and dancers or sex workers, but they also don’t know that we paint. They are happy to see us do this, ”she said.

The Aravani Art Project is a collective of women and trans women involved in collaborative public art projects across India. (Source: Aravani Art Project)

The mural occupies an interesting space in Mumbai. The traffic intersection has roads leading to some of the town’s wealthiest elite homes as well as Worli Koliwada, home to indigenous fishermen who have challenged infrastructure projects on the coast. When designing the mural, Prasad recognized the communities that exist nearby. The fishmongers and fishermen of Koli are identifiable with their gold jewelry and unique caps. But, added Prasad, this does not mean that the other portraits in the mural, a woman with a handbag for example, do not have Koli roots – this is especially true of a fishing community that s ‘is diversified today in other professions.

“We do portraits, postures and clothes in the mural that people can relate to. It’s a mix of colors and locals, ”said Prasad. This is why the mural features portraits of police officers and a postman, made after the person delivering the mail to the sewage pumping station.

Prasad said: “The wall belongs to the people of the region. If they relate to it, they will protect it.


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