One of the most enduring sights of Mumbai is the sea of blue tarpaulin that acts as roof to the settlements that surround the Chhatrapati Shivaji international airport. “It is the first thing you see when you fly in,” says Satyajit Vetoskar, who grew up in Mumbai but moved to Goa 13 years ago, with his wife and son.
Spurred by the way of life in a Goan vaddo (village) that necessitated conscious consumption, Vetoskar, an alumnus of the Sir JJ College of Architecture and the IDC School of Design at IIT-Bombay, incorporated sustainability into his design philosophy. He started designing bags of used tarpaulin and fabric from recycled PET bottles with straps made from car seatbelts, under his label , launched in 2018. “The bloodline was still very much the city, but [I began to work] with materials which are upcycled and re-cycled,” he says.
On May 14, Vetoskar, 52, opened his first show, Future.IsNow, exhibiting pieces that exemplify his design sensibility: A line of jewellery made with reused gold and aluminium from an old Cessna airplane; clocks made with instrument gauges acquired from an aeroplane scrapyard and old MiGs; fountain pens encased in metal from artillery shells and bits of old aircraft.
“It’s important for people to see what can be done with different materials, waste and other stuff like that,” Vetoskar says.
The space he refers to is 47-A, a gallery that opened last month in Mumbai’s heritage precinct of Khotachiwadi.
“Design is different from art in that it performs a function. It offers a solution,” says Srila Chatterjee, co-founder of furniture and design studio Baro Market, who partnered with Tara Lal and Mortimer Chatterjee (who run contemporary art gallery Chatterjee & Lal in Colaba) to open a gallery dedicated to design. It’s named after its address. The gallery is on the ground floor of a heritage bungalow; the Crastos, the owners, occupy the floor above.
Khotachiwadi has housed a small and tenacious East Indian community for at least 200 years. James Ferreira, a fashion designer who lives in his ancestral home here, has been vocal in his fight to preserve the urban village, hopes that 47-A might end up being a solution for Khotachiwadi too. The 66-year-old introduced Chatterjee to the Crastos, aware that this entrepreneur would help restore and preserve the space.
“Khotachiwadi’s homes need to be looked after and cared for. It’s important to keep the essential quality of the place intact — familial, people-friendly, quietly buzzing,” says Ferreira, who also organises festivals in the area to help familiarise people with its heritage.
The homes at Khotachiwadi are difficult and expensive to maintain. Recently, the municipal corporation announced plans to beautify the precinct to attract tourists, but the corporation doesn’t provide any monetary support to those struggling to find ways to keep the place itself sustainable. Currently, yet another bungalow is set to come down as its owner has sold it and moved on. Residents, including Ferreira, have appealed to the municipal corporation to intervene and stop the demolition of the heritage structure.
Like Vetoskar’s designs, which give old things a new lease of life, Ferreira is keen for a sustainable approach to Khotachiwadi’s preservation. “The heritage laws need to be looked at,” Ferreira says. “There has to be regulation on what happens when you sell a house.”
“One of the main aspects of sustainability is a responsibility to the community, to our future. It is in our hands now,” said Vetoskar.
Future.IsNow is on at the 47-A gallery until June 12.
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