‘Sassoon Dock Art Project’ Photo Essay: A ‘Dock side Reading’

Indian Ocean Bombay come alive. The Sassoon Docks, a reminder of an Imperial Bombay- a Port Trust Area thankfully away from the gaze of the real estate sector have been brought into the spotlight of the Insta generation through art, which has converted the derelict dock into a reimagination through the art of the city, opening registers and invigorating commerce in the Colaba area, as the art set flock to the shores over the weekend. The title of this photo essay draws from Scholar Isabel Hofmeyr’s book of the same name that thinks with hydrocolonialism as a lens that lies the Indian Ocean from Bombay to Natal.

The politics of resistance is subtle in the gentrified global veneer. Water centers Bombay and the curators bring it out well. Hydropolitics as has been written by Nikhil Anand in the context of politics in Mumbai in particular the leaking pipes exhibit depicted a Mumbai which relies on time-based water supplies for sustenance. The exhibits on waves and the relationships of the coast with the city, the artwork and the video montages spoke to an imaginary of the city that has been often lost in the territorial linguistic stasis of politics. A reclaiming of the hydro frontier through art, even of the elitist sort is a relief. The ‘East Indian’ coastal communities of the city, the ‘orang asli’ of the place- have found a register through the art spaces in a roundabout manner. The politics behind art is well layered in the curation. Dalit poetry finds a stage on the walls of the art spaces, to give voice to erased actors.

Curation has a scale and ambition with decay and life sitting together. The writing on the exhibits is sometimes better than the exhibit itself. The writing describing the installations is exquisite and appeals to my sensibilities as an ethnographer.

The festival has an Art Jameel Dubai Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanism aesthetic show cases a Mumbai which rises above its retail politics.


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