Art project transforms historic Indian fishing dock

An installation mural of the St+art Festival at Sassoon Dock, one of the oldest fishing docks in Mumbai. Photo courtesy: AFP

Mumbai (AFP) -- Indian fishermen unload their morning catch as sari-clad women carrying buckets on their heads walk past street art that has transformed one of Mumbai's oldest fishing docks into an exhibition space.

Thirty artists from around the world have given the bustling 142-year-old Sassoon Dock, home to Mumbai's traditional Koli fishing community, a colourful makeover as part of the St+art Urban Art Festival.

"The artworks range from mixed media to graffiti to street-art styles to installations, from using paints to wood to fishing objects," Arjun Bahl, co-founder and festival director, told AFP.

Exhibits include large portraits of Koli fisherfolk -- believed to be Mumbai's original inhabitants and whose goddess "Mumbadevi" lends her name to the city -- and brightly painted murals representing women from the community.

One installation, entitled "Parfum Sassoon", alludes to the dock's notoriously pungent fishy smell while another has a clear environmental message with its depiction of plastic bottles floating through the ocean.

The Sassoon Dock project is part of the seventh edition of the St+art Urban Art Festival which aims to make art accessible to everyone by transforming a public space.

"The whole idea was to bring art to a certain sect of the community who usually don't interact with art," explains Bahl, as dock workers push trolleys loaded with fish and boats bob gently in the harbour.

Sassoon Dock was built in 1875 and is home to one of Mumbai's largest fish markets. It is situated in the district of Colaba, in the southern tip of India's financial capital.

The exhibition, which is free to view, opened to the public on November 11 and runs until December 30. It will also feature screenings, talks and tours.

Another feature of the festival is a giant, multi-coloured mural on the nearby Churchgate railway station showing India's independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi stepping down from a train.

It was painted by popular Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra.

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