The Textile Movement
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Using textiles as a backdrop, an ongoing exhibition explores questions of labour, colonialism, capital, trade and politics.
Many years ago, areas in central Mumbai — now called Parel, Byculla and those around them — were collectively known as Girangaon and housed more than 100 textile mills, primarily cotton. In Marathi, the word 'Girangaon' literally translates to 'the village of mills'. Workers came from various parts of the state and lived in one-room tenements while they worked in these mills. However, after the Great Bombay Textile Strike of 1982, the number of these mills dwindled rapidly and not very long after, became the malls and restaurants that we know them as today.
Located not many feet away from the erstwhile Girangaon, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla East presents an exhibition titled "Social Fabric" which, among other things, explores the impact the international textile trade had on our local mills and workers. The show centres around two works — a 2001 painting by the Mumbai-based artist Sudhir Patwardhan titled Lower Parel and an installation by the German artist Alice Creischer titled Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth during the Contemplation of Poverty — while UK-based Celine Condorelli features alongside. Mumbai-based Archana Hande's paintings on scrolls, which are also part of the exhibition, show the progression (and simultaneous degradation) of India over the years as it developed.
For many years, Patwardhan has been closely associated with the plight of the mill workers, having lived in the Lower Parel area when he first moved to Mumbai from Pune, at a time when the mills were still flourishing. While little continues to be said about the mills, the artist believes the exhibition has great relevance. "There are lots of struggling groups of people and their work (or lack of it) needs to be highlighted. That is one of the things the exhibition is doing," he says.
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