FIRST LOOK: Design Museum Dharavi opens this week

  • Nidhi Choksi, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Feb 16, 2016 17:24 IST

Last month, we wrote about Dharavi’s first museum on wheels.

Now, its founders, TED speaker and Amsterdam-based visual artist Jorge Mañes Rubio and Amanda Pinatih (art historian and critic) have made Dharavi their home for the past 15 days. On February 18, their much-talked about project -- Design Museum Dharavi – opens to public. Expect terracotta pottery, water filters made using mud, and handmade brooms – all handcrafted by the local artisans of Dharavi.

Originally planned as a caravan to be towed by a bike, the project has finally taken shape as a museum-on-vendor carts (another local touch). “We realised the caravan structure would be difficult to move around,” says Rubio.

With the help of a local NGO, URBZ, the duo sought help from the people of the neighbourhood to build the 8ftx4ft metal structure, which can expand to 24ft. The local community leader, Shyam Kanle, helped curate the artisans whose works will be showcased. “The barriers have been broken because we are getting help from Shyam, who knows the locals well,” says Pinatih.

The logo for Design Museum Dharavi (Image courtesy: Design Museum Dharavi)

With multiple projects calling Dharavi their muse, one would think the locals might be sceptical about the project. But that hasn’t been the case. “We didn’t approach this project as designers working with labourers. We see them as co-creators, so that they can take ownership of what they’ve amde,” says Rubio. The locals also get paid for the work they put in this project. “We never told them, ‘This is what you’re supposed to do.’ We came here and asked them what design problems they were facing, and suggested what could be done,” says Rubio. For instance, while interacting, the duo realised that the terracotta tea vessels the locals made weren’t of much use because the tea would spill. So, they suggested a different design to solve the problem.

The museum will reside in Dharavi till March. It will come back again with other exhibitions based on the response in the first phase. “We will fly back to Netherlands, but stay in touch with the locals through video calls,” says Pinatih.

The exhibition will be open till February 21 from 6pm to 10pm, three streets away from the Kumbharwada signal. A pottery workshop will be held on February 20 between 3pm to 6pm. To register and find out about where their next stop in Dharavi will be, visit

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