The Mariamma Nagar Community Outreach is part of the ‘Critical Thinking in Mariamma Nagar’ initiative lead by architect Nicola Antakiand a PhD scholar at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit and School of Architecture University College London, UK and the 8th standard students of Muktangan’s Love Grove Pumping Mumbai Public School to design changes with local crafts–people to make their neighborhood a better place to live in.
The project commenced in 2012, with the aim of exploring how architecture or the design of place / space can help children to learn. By involving children in design, they can learn how to think critically and feel empowered to change the world around them. The children initially studied the Mariamma Nagar neighborhood, observing, commenting and documenting the place. They made a map of learning with photographs they took and drawings, which was then translated by local embroiderers into a tapestry.
Recently, the children identified their criticisms of Mariamma Nagar during further site explorations, picking out 5 themes they wanted to change: Too many Mosquitoes, Open Gutters, Rubbish and Recycling, Not enough Trees, Too much Fighting and Bad Language. The children spent sessions developing annotated design drawings for objects and furniture they felt would help solve these problems for the inhabitants. One of the key factors in this project is the work with local craftsmen: All the designs envisioned by Muktangan’s young change-seekers are fabricated by artisans found in Mariamma Nagar, to build locally produced responses to locally found issues. The children have been working with tailors, embroiderers, metal fabricators and purse makers among other artisans, who have workshops in Mariamma Nagar.
On the morning of Wednesday Feb 17th 2016, Muktangan’s young change-seekers turned change-makers as they marched to the community and conducted demonstrations and role-plays to educate the dwellers of the prevailing problems and their possible solutions. The event was well received with the local people who turned out on the narrow, winding streets sprawling with huts and small shops while a number of residents were seen curiously peeping and listening through their windows and balconies. The students demonstrated the use of hand crafted mosquito nets to wade of the mosquito menace that has plagued the neighborhood, use of recycled metal to cover drains, shoulder bags embroidered with social messages, debating table to discuss issues instead of fighting and using abusive language and the use of carry-home bags for potted plants to inprove the green cover in the area. These objects once fabricated could be distributed in Mariamma Nagar while the students continue to spread awareness of civic sense and good community living habits among the residents.
We specially thank Nicola for her years of efforts with our students and the faculty and staff of Muktangan’s Holistic department for their continual support to the students.