Mumbai — the city that holds many platitudes — the city that never sleeps, the city of dreams, the city of gold, but when you get a little closer and dig a little deeper, you find the city layered in a manifold. Over the years, different kinds of people from varied places, races, and communities have settled in the city and made it their home.
But, it is the Koli community, who holds the strongest right to the title of being Mumbai’s first residents. Cross through Bandra-Worli Sea Link Koliwada, Versova Kolivada, or the Sassoon Dock and you observe their overwhelmingly busy world in action.
It is said the Koli community has been living in Mumbai for over 500 years — the times when the city was known for its coastal waters of the seven islands. There are many stories, including the city’s present name, which is said to have been derived from the goddess and patron deity of the city, Mumbadevi. As of now, Mumbai is a house of about five lakh Kolis, who are still making their living off the sea — fishing majorly — and what better way to celebrate this diverse community than documenting their illustrious journey for the generations to come.
A digital photo exhibition, Through the Eyes of the Kolis: A reflection on Mumbai’s past, present, and future, is one such initiative by the Bombay61 Studio in collaboration with Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic. Hosted by The Heritage Lab, the exhibition was launched on August 9 to mark World Indigenous Day. It showcases the community’s endeavours in the city through the lens of its first residents.
The four-part exhibition showcases a series of archival photographs from 1950 to the 2000s, highlighting the physical, socio-cultural, and ecological transformations that the community has witnessed over the years.
Boats anchored in Versova creek near Mandvi gully | Prithviraj Chandi
The pictures will transport you to the cluster of houses, beaches, community gatherings, boats dotting the sea, leaving it up to your imagination to fill in colours to the visuals. Besides, a community map of Versova Creek documenting archival stories from the Koli community complements the exhibition alongside archival imagery.
Dol net boats docked at the Versova fishing harbour | Sadashiv Raje
Read the full the story here.