The Mumbai skateboard
Combine a worldwide sports craze with Mumbai's traditional craftsmanship, and the result is an uncommonly interesting series of objects.
Under the supervision of German curator Tobias Megerle, a dozen Mahim woodcarvers produced their own take on the traditional skateboard. The project -- Final Cut -- will be showcased at THE LOFT at Lower Parel.
Wood cutting as cool
“The very first time I drove past I was magically attracted to the carved wooden objects in Mahim, all the open workshops, the woodcarvers sitting on the floor with their traditional tools, working on their items, the whole atmosphere," says Megerle.
"As an artist I wa driven to do something with these woodcarvers and their work. I visited the workshops several times to study their craft and always thought to myself: 'Wonderful, but a bit dowdy, a bit frumpy.' All the nice ornamented chairs, divan beds, frames and what else I know not... some in the typical colonial style.
"After a series of thoughts I hit upon the object to be combined with the traditional woodwork -- the good old skateboard. In Mumbai -- though almost completely unknown -- the skateboard is, in many places, more than just a piece of sports equipment. It's an entire lifestyle that's created around it, a unique music style, special clothes, whole skater-parks.
"Invariably all commercially-available skateboards are artistically designed, mostly with graphics, spray paintings, printed, often in a comic style."
The aim of the project was to keep the board functional after the artistic treatment.
Over weeks and months, the project assumed a definite shape, with 12 woodcarvers transforming skateboards into functional, but purely ornamental art objects.
More credit to the craft
"Although all of them have produced loads of this craft, their work, without exception, disappears into apartments, without honoring the woodcarver," says Megerle.
"The woodcarvers brought their traditional patterns, the whole set of traditions and processes with them to 'the city of dreams,' together with a whole way of life. This project lifts the woodcarvers from the state of craft and inserts their work into the artistic field and frame."
"Every time I visit them now, they greet me like an old friend. I think Mumbai is full of unimagined possibilities, and I am curious about what my next discovery will be."
Final Cut, part of the series Solicited Perspectives, opens March 25 to April 12 at THE LOFT at Lower Parel, New Mahalaxmi Silk Mills, Mathuradas Mills Compound, Tulsi Pipe Road, Lower Parel; +91 (0) 22 30400166