Water as a Muse

Culture and Heritage
Panel discussion
Panel Discussion
Wednesday, 11th January 2023
From 6:00pm to 8:00pm (IST)


St+art India Foundation, The Living Waters Museum, Kalaghoda Arts Festival, IFBE, and Avid Learning present Water as a Muse

Mumbai has a rich maritime heritage and a unique relationship with water, with the Koli fishing communities living along the coastal waters for more than 500 years. Going beyond the inevitability of livelihood, whether it’s the vast Arabian sea, unending monsoons, or the ornate drinking fountains, water galvanizes sparks of innovation stimulating a continuous flow of ideas and expressions.

From Melville’s Moby Dick to Monet’s ‘Impressionism’, water has been a source of inspiration for artists around the world. The age-old legends and folklore abound with tales of water. It has caught the imagination of storytellers and creators for generations.

Join us for a rejuvenating discussion with leading artists, curators, and policy consultants as they discuss this seemingly ordinary substance’s extraordinary creative influence on the city and its millions of inhabitants.

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Water as a Muse
Water as a Muse
Water as a Muse
Water as a Muse


Rahul Chemburkar

Conservation Architect, Vaastu Vidhaan Projects

Rahul Chemburkar is an alumnus of Sir JJ College of Architecture of the 1995 batch. He has been active in the field of Heritage, Conservation & Awareness since his early years as a practicing architect. Having started the architectural firm M/s Vaastu Vidhaan Projects along with his batch mate Ar. Bhalchandra Tople, they have successfully executed several conservation projects. Some of the major projects are namely Conservation of Pyaavs & Milestones in Mumbai, Conservation of Sri Saptakoteshwar Temple (ongoing), Goa for the State Archaeology Department, Nana Phadnis Wada at Menawali, designing of Jai Vinayaka Temple, Ratnagiri and Shivsrushti Historical Theme Park, Pune. Along with the varied conservation projects, he is also active in promoting heritage conservation by conducting lectures, projects and hands on workshops in various architectural institutions with the aim of introducing the young minds to this field. He is on the panel of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee and is empaneled as Heritage Conservation Consultant with various prominent government bodies such as MCGM and State Archeology Departments of Goa and Maharashtra. He is also associated with the Indian Heritage Society as the executive committee member.

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Meera Devidayal

Visual Artist

Meera Devidayal was born in Delhi, grew up in Kolkata, graduated with an Honours degree in English Literature, married, and moved to Mumbai in 1967. From being a Sunday painter during her college days, she decided to take up Art seriously and joined JJ School of Art in 1971 for 3 years. Since 1975 she has been exhibiting solo, and in group shows, mostly in Mumbai, but also in Delhi, Baroda, and Kolkata. Her gallery is Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai. Being an essentially urban person, the city with its teeming layers provides her with a plethora of ‘found images’ that she attempts to turn into a visual metaphor. Though essentially a painter, she has used a variety of mediums in her artwork, including photography, video, posters, and even objects like taxi doors, and recycled metal sheets. I have taken part in a few public art projects, the most recent being a 40-foot mural at T2, Mumbai’s International Airport, curated and designed by Rajeev Sethi.

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Arpita Bhagat

Climate and Plastics Campaigner

Arpita Bhagat is a seasoned environmental justice campaigner, communicator and policy advocate. She has led public mobilization, advocacy and movement building campaigns across diverse issues including clean energy, sustainable agriculture, climate-resilient cities, gender justice and plastics over the last decade. She currently works as a Plastic Policy Officer - Asia Pacific with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). Previously, she was with Purpose PBC leading their Mumbai climate collective building work.

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Rhea Maheshwari

Assistant Curator, St+art India Foundation

Rhea Maheshwari is an arts facilitator and consultant. She is interested in the possibilities of public art as a means to develop new frameworks of art-making and viewing, through context-led engagements. Previously Assistant Director at GALLERYSKE, Rhea is a curator at S+art India Foundation, leading the development of the Mumbai Urban Art Festival.

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Dr. Sara Ahmed

Founder-Director, Living Waters Museum

Dr. Sara Ahmed has 35 years of applied research experience on water, livelihoods, and social equity. She has been actively engaged in teaching and mentoring young development professionals at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, India, managing large and complex regional research portfolios on water, food security, and climate change with IDRC in Asia, and advising a range of development organizations and water networks globally. Sara holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Sociology from the University of Cambridge, U.K. and is currently an Adjunct Professor at IISER-Pune. In 2017, she founded the Living Waters Museum, a virtual repository engaging youth in visualizing narratives on water heritage through storytelling and digital tools. Sara is on the governing boards of WaterAid, India, and Wetlands International South Asia as well as one of the vice presidents for the Global Network of Water Museums endorsed by UNESCO-IHP as a special initiative towards SDG 6. Sara has published extensively and her last co-edited book is entitled, Diverting the Flow: Gender Equity and Water in South Asia (2012).

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St+Art India Foundation
St+Art India Foundation
Kala Ghoda Association
Kala Ghoda Association

Event Video


Water as a Muse

How is water a source of inspiration to artists, poets, film makers?


Whether it is ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Botticelli or ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Katusushika Hokusai, water has been an inspiration behind some of the timeless artistic masterpieces across the world. Water holds the power to stir the deepest emotions and inspire the most creative minds of artists, poets, and film-makers. Its fluid, mercurial nature allows it to symbolize myriads of concepts – it can be fluid like water, frozen like ice or even like dark clouds symbolizing rain. For example, the Sanskrit poet Kalidas uses the cloud as a messenger of love in his magnum opus, Meghdoot. In its many moods, water reflects the serene stillness of a calm lake or the churning intensity of rough, turbulent waters, it serves as a versatile and powerful force in art and literature.


In the words of a poet ….


‘My emotions are a tidal wave,

caused by the heart and brain,

always reaching for the land;

That they can't quite obtain...’


How are architects inspired by water forms?


Architects and designers have since long drawn inspiration from the natural forms and movement of water when creating buildings and other structures. Water fountains through the eras have served both as classical features in cityscapes or simply as water spouts to quench thirst of passers-by.


In recent times which film is inspired by water?


Associated with life and vitality as well as purity and innocence, water has also been the backdrop against which some of the most memorable films have been made, and been a subject of exploration for film makers throughout the history of cinema.


The latest in line is ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ by James Cameron which deals with the real science behind his fictional world. The director shares how Earth's oceans inspired The Way of Water — and his hope is, it will motivate viewers, particularly the youth, to protect our own planet.


In this context, there was an insightful panel discussion that took place recently, which attempted to highlight importance of water as a diminishing resource and to put the spotlight on the issues of water pollution and the importance of its conservation. The 2-day symposium, recently held in Chennai, as an ode to water, the elixir of life, featured talks and documentary screenings on issues surrounding water, including water scarcity, depletion, and pollution. Adjoining the symposium was an art exhibition featuring paintings, photographs and videos on water.


The core of these talks and documentaries was centered on how water is a treasured resource in our world and how we can understand and nourish it. It also highlighted solutions to water crises like pollution, enhancing water quality, and understanding the water requirements of various sectors.


What is an example of callousness of water pollution?


Mithi river, in Mumbai, today effectively rendered as a gutter with industrial effluents, once had sweet water flowing through it. The crackling sounds of alarm, as what was once permafrost at the polar caps is melting, releasing bubbles of methane, a greenhouse gas 80X more potent than carbon dioxide in exacerbating global warming. The desertification of the oasis around Lake Chad as it continues to shrink, rather visibly, within a matter of decades.


Through global warming, typhoons and hurricanes, melting glaciers, what is nature telling us?


The disappearing mangroves and corals, the oil spills in our oceans, the over fished seas and lakes bear harsh testimony to the callousness of humans.


 Water, Water, Everywhere but Not a Drop to Drink?


The above popular line from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ could strangely be coming true.


Today, there are several countries reeling under flash floods, the dangerously rising sea levels are all red lights to the fact. Despite the seemingly unending vastness of oceans, only 1.2% of water on the planet can be said to be potable. Which is why, it is important to discover newer ways to conserve water.


What is the conclusion?


In such signals, perhaps, water does serve a warning; at this point, timely enough for humans to take action. Water conservation is a big subject now.


Water, verily, is life. And we have the power, and the responsibility to save and conserve water.


And the time to act is Now!!


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