With interiors like dolls’ houses, Safety Deposit Box is an assemblage of transparent boxes, each with a different story to tell. Farida’s cube, with mathematical formulae scribbled on the walls, is her idea of the perfect room: one in which she can immerse herself in her studies and do her homework. Her sister Saiba arranges yarn of varying shades of blue to create a sunny day at the seaside where she can relax. Shabnam’s box is a regal bedroom with brocade curtains and depicts her wish for solitude on days when she feels low. Each box is as unique as the woman or girl who made it and each scenario is a response to a question that many women ask themselves today: what is my safe space? The participants thought about places where they felt safe or unsafe and came up with a number of factors that created a safe environment: happy families, responsible family and community members, and quick action taken by authorities when a gender-based crime is reported.
Made over consecutive weekends by 11 Dharavi women, the boxes quickly accumulated toys, miniature handpainted clay dolls, and landscape and interior elements to represent a real or a fantastical space in which each felt safest or happiest. Discussions around each box ranged from the practical to the ideological – the colour of a rug or why the kitchen is considered a woman’s space – and offered a peek into the lives and minds of women from Dharavi, whose experiences, while personal, are bound to resonate with others’.
In an initial session, the participants performed some skits to show real-life instances when women feel unsafe in indoor and outdoor spaces. As they pulled off hilarious and impressive caricatures of people, some of the incidents were thought-provoking. One group showed how a plumber’s visit when no one else is at home can make a woman feel unsafe (though she looks strong enough to take on two such plumbers). Another showed a sleazy father-in-law who needed to use the bathroom only when his daughter-in-law was bathing inside. Away from the disturbing and threatening incidents in the skits, the Safety Deposit Boxes, with their pop-coloured toys and tiny clay figures, are havens of peace.
Bhagyashree Alkunte, Saiba Shaikh, Farida Shaikh, Shakuntala Jaiswar, Fiza Ansari, Suraiya Ansari, Jyoti Pandey, Peer Bhano, Anjum Sheikh, Shabana Shah, Shaboo Sheikh