Whether it’s elections, new movies, religious conventions or advertisements, Dharavi is jammed with signs and posters regardless of season or reason. What is the role of health posters in the midst of the visual noise, and what do residents think of them? Looking at local sensibilities and aesthetics in the light of local needs, the Signs of Health Artbox focused on For Dharavi, By Dharavi.

Prepared with cameras, handycams and microphones, participants went out and interviewed local people. What were the most effective strategies for health posters? What changes would they like to see? The general conclusion was that the best signs used a mix of languages to address Dharavi’s linguistic diversity. Attractive packaging and unique layout could help posters stand out in the graphic jungle. The least effective posters were text-heavy with few explanatory graphics. If the stress was more on reading than on understanding, people with little education might struggle to make sense of them.

After developing vivid hand-drawn posters and enough participatory footage to make a short film, the last step was to try them out. The posters had strong visuals that reflected local health concerns: garbage disposal, malaria, nutritious food, timely visits to a doctor and safe drinking water. Amid a great deal of enthusiasm from the group, there were a lot of firsts: the first time they held a camera, the first time they interviewed Dharavi residents, the first time they used paintbrushes, the first time they spoke to people about health issues.

The posters were pasted up in the places where they had done their interviews, including Labour Camp, 90 Feet Road and Transit Camp. Posters about waste disposal were pasted near overflowing garbage bins and alcohol de-addiction posters were put up at a tea stall (and were torn down the next day). This is Dharavi and there is always room for change.

Voices from the street

Mentor Artist

Khushboo Bharti

Participant Artists

Lakshman Mane, Anita Doiphode, Sheventa Khade, Mannu, Renu, Rani, Akshay Shinde, Deepak Shetty, Ashish, Babita, Timesh Shetukindi, Akash Bellam, Arun Begar, Ashok Shetukindi

Health Expert

Dr Samapti Guha, Associate Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences