Women of Dharavi welcomed visual artist Shilo Shiv Suleman for a workshop and mural painting on gender-based violence. "Bonded not Bound,” the hashtag by which the mural became popular on social media, is a tapestry of tarpaulin blue. This shade of blue is most identifiable with shanties and wayside shops in the city, and the tarps pop out as vivid spots of colour during the monsoon. Made of large paper cut-outs, the mural shows a friendly gathering of girls and older women who live in Kala Killa area of Dharavi. Gaze at the gentle eyes and fierce faces and the tableau is reminiscent of bonds women make, such as when a grandmother plaits her granddaughter's hair or when friends have chai and chat on their verandahs.

As the Dharavi resident-participants painted and improvised on their own photos pasted on the wall, this was truly a sisterhood in the neighbourhood. At some points it seemed like everyone in the area was clustered around the wall: local vendors took part in the process and even provided free tea and snacks, and it was exciting to watch the artwork develop over three days.

Bonded not Bound is part of The Fearless Collective, an on-going series of murals across the country. The Fearless Collective is an artistic response to the gang rape of Nirbhaya in 2012. As a way of highlighting gender violence and issues, the murals affirm a single strong message: “It is NEVER my fault."


Shilo Shiv Suleman