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Mumbai’s Creative Community Campaign for Nature at Digital Festival ‘Biodiversity By The Bay’

The online event, spanning three weeks, features Parekh+Singh, Jose Covaco, Anushka Manchanda, Aaquib Wani, Shilo Shiv Suleman and more

Rolling Stone India Oct 24, 2020

Artist Shilo Shiv Suleman's artwork for Biodiversity By The Bay

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When politicians fail, we hope art can inspire change. The climate crisis is real, and there is a pressing need for everyone to initiate action locally to impact a global movement towards our planet’s preservation. To raise awareness about Mumbai’s endangered ecosystem, a new festival Biodiversity By The Bay has been doing its bit throughout this month. The three-week-long online series features music, comedy and art, and it has been organized by Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, a community-centric collective and the comedy news portal DeadAnt.

In its first leg, the festival featured gigs by popular musicians such as Parekh+Singh, Anushka Manchanda, Nikhil D’Souza and DeeMC, among others. D’Souza says there is an urgent artistic responsibility for musicians to campaign for change. “Most people seem to pay attention only to the topics that are ‘trending’ and somehow environmental issues never really get close to the spotlight. By having a cultural/music festival, people show up (albeit virtually) and while being entertained, they are also being made aware of these issues by the artist that they follow and look up to,” says the musician.

Manchanda, on her part, feels that musicians often get some of their greatest inspiration from nature. “We have a voice, and we have an art form that can touch people emotionally. It’s like a secret weapon, one that can be wielded to cause change and growth in the world around us,” she says.

Anushka Manchanda in a shot from the photo story ‘Mute’. Photo: Pretika Menon; Hair and makeup: Eshwar Log; Production design: Joyston Vaz

The Biodiversity By The Bay campaign has announced key points of action from authorities: from declaring wetlands, mangroves and the Aarey forest as no-development zones to protecting the species of the lesser Flamingo. It has also demanded policies that look into marine life preservation and sustaining the livelihood of the native Koli community in Mumbai and the regions around it.

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The second week of the festival featured ‘interventions’ where renowned artists and designers showcased artworks that address the need for biodiversity protection. The artists included Shilo Shiv Suleman, Aaquib Wani, Mehek Malhotra, Pia Alize and Aaron Pinto.

Wani feels visual art has a larger role to play in activism today. “There is a lot of written and verbal information on causes but art generates and encapsulates an audience far greater than any text. So much can be showcased with art through all the mediums available – I think that is also a space that only art can capture since there are such a variety of spaces it can be highlighted through.”

In its ongoing final week, Biodiversity By The Way is employing the powerful medium of comedy to push for positive and immediate action. The performing artists Jose Covaco, Anu Menon, Daniel Fernandes, Prashasti Singh and more. Covaco says the need for demanding specific and impactful policies has never been greater. “For most people this is extremely boring as a topic of discussion, considering everything that’s going on around us. But once you grow older or have kids you realize what a mess we’re making. Artists and influencers have huge followings so it is absolutely important that they use their platforms to spread awareness, especially these days when it seems like hurtling towards the end of the world,” he says

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The performances in Biodiversity By The Bay feature on Ministry of Mumbai Magic’s Instagram handle as well as those of the artists. Ravina Rawal, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, DeadAnt, says, “We have put together a really strong lineup of artists, musicians and comedians. But most importantly, this is a lineup of people who care passionately about the environment and Mumbai’s rich ecosystems, using their craft to spread awareness and talk to young audiences about the urgent need for their attention,”

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