iamumbai

iamumbai is a cultural campaign that investigates Mumbai’s diverse nature and many selves through the involvement of its inhabitants. This multi-authorial project, curated, developed and produced by ArtO2, has originated by a piece of ready-made poetry written by an anonymous author and found on one of the trains on the central line.

The title of the project takes inspiration from a conceptual work by artist Uday Shanbhag: iamumbai was a proclamation alluding to the spirit of inclusiveness, negating the interventions against the “other” of and to the city and asserting the fact that we are all immigrants and intruders.

Starting from this statement on the ownership of the city, designer Corrado Cotignano has re-intepreted the style and layout of posters normally used by political parties for their propaganda activities. Instead of politicians, the posters feature the faces of ‘mumbaikars” as individuals trying to find their space in the city. By doing so, they provide the city with their own identity, portrayed by photographer Binaifer Bharucha. In each poster, the text was written in the original language of the portrayed people. Thereafter, the posters were placed at sites considered as catalysts and recipients of migrants and their identities. The posters thus represent an allegory of the political framework through which the city is perceived. They also question the cultural context that frames the way people live their lives in Mumbai.

Finally, the project closed with a performance by artists Georgina Maddox and Neelima Aryan, which summoned the people of Mumbai to partake in their social rally. Through their narrative technique of singing, the artists carried an iamumbai signboard inviting onlookers to place their thumbprints as a sign of belonging and as a mark of proclaiming their individual identity in Mumbai. By arranging and reproducing the once controversial Bombay Meri Hai sung by the Sri Lankan group Felix and the Jetliners in the ‘80’s that venerated the city’s cosmopolitan character – now a popular jingle sung at weddings and festivals – Georgina, Neelima and Smriti Nevatia (members of FAOW, the Forum Against Oppression of Women) reinvent the lyrics whilst provoking chance meetings and producing sociability by eliminating lines that separate classes, castes in our social and economic fabric.

They situated their performance at different locations in the city, where they disseminated their message of conviviality and through this process, recognized the heterogeneity that forms Mumbai.