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A remarkable initiative

Friday, August 10, 2018

A citizen’s group in Thane that began by bringing professionals together to encourage hobbies is now making a difference to the development of the city

Three years ago in Thane, a group of professionals—architects, lawyers, cost accountants, doctors, engineers and artistes—came together to form a non-political movement named ‘Swatva, the BE YOU Project’. (Swatva means ‘Be Yourself’ and refers to the search for one’s own self.)

The group, co-founded by Ar. Shripad Bhalerao and Adv. Swati Dixit, has now expanded into different sub-sections, reaching out to enthusiasts with varying interests and hobbies. There’s the Swatva walkers’ initiative, for instance, which is taken care of by Jitendra Vaidya.

During the three years of its existence, Swatva has supported various initiatives in Thane and nearby localities that are making a difference to the development of the city, in terms of art, culture and the environment. They have also been instrumental in bringing various government and non-government institutions together for several initiatives and have extended a hand to local self-governance.

Among their activities are the Eco Diwali Kille festival, Heartland Art Festival Thane, Mulund Mahotsav Mulund and Art Gallery of Global Kokan Festival at Goregaon. Swatva formed a group called ‘Swatva Sketchers’ 18 months ago for Thane artists to meet for Sunday morning outdoor sketching sessions. The objective was a non-linear, no instruction, platform for artists to get together to document Thane through their sketches. The first such meet had seven artists; now, the group has more than 200 members who include professional artists, housewives, hobby artists, and art students aged eight to 70 years. The group gathers on Sundays to create their drawings and share their thoughts on art. They have supported Akhil Bharatiya Natya Sammelan with portraits of theatre personalities and managed the art and graphics of the event.

When the Thane Municipal commissioner Sanjiv Jaiswal suggested painting the city walls and launched the initiative with sample walls on November 30, 2016, Swatva and its artists supported the cause. The group, which included Chandrakant Hulawale, Virendra Deshmukh, Mahesh Vijapurkar and others, set out themes; Swatva called them ‘Emoting Walls’. The first wall began with an area of 5000 sq.ft. with 25 Swatva Sketchers.

When they began, magic happened; onlookers joined in and became regulars. As the motto of the group is inclusiveness, the artists began guiding them and gave people tasks according to their skills. The first wall was successfully completed in eight days with two themes—one of a wallpaper concept depicting the flora and fauna of Yeoor hills, and the other an infographic concept of The Dream Smart City of Thane.  “All Thane Municipal Corporation officials were sensitive and cooperative,” says Chandrakant Hulawale, Artist and Visualiser. “So it actually became a citizen’s event with a great coherence between citizens and the corporation.”

After completing the first wall, Swatva received another fantastic opportunity to serve in an artistic way; the Indian Air Force invited them to paint the walls of their station in the beautiful jungle within Thane. Air Commodore Singh, along with Wing Commander Nagarale, welcomed the artists and many air force personnel with their families joined in the wall painting. Swatva completed 3000 sq.ft. of the Air Force wall with the theme of fighter planes on one wall and tropical jungle theme with animals on the other wall.

The third large initiative was painting theme houses of the first ever village of books Bhilar, near Panchagani,  a Maharashtra government initiative that was the brainchild of Education and Cultural Minister Vinod Tawde.

This project was a crowd-sourcing experiment where over 75 artists across Maharashtra responded to the appeal by Swatva and volunteered for three days to complete 25 houses of over 6500 sft. of literature theme artworks. This gave Swatva state- wide recognition.

Swatva has started their flagship annual event called ‘Celebrating Swatva’ and the first event was organised only through crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding with multiple workshops and an art exhibition of over 250 artworks by Swatva Sketchers artists.

After a great response to Swatva Sketchers, Swatva has announced four more groups to connect with citizens based on their interests, namely Swatva Writers, Swatva Performers, Swatva Designers and Swatva Walkers.

Swatva walks in August

Swatva Walkers have announced late evening walks in the city twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. There will be one route per month and the routes will change every month so that along with staying fit, citizens also will get a chance to know the city they live in.

For the month of August the route of the walk organised by Swatva Walkers is from Open Art Gallery near Satkar Residency to Yeoor Foothill and back. The night walk starts at 9:00 p.m. sharp. Anyone can participate in the weekly walks and join the group.

On August 12, Sunday Swatva Walkers has organised their first theme walk. Thane Heritage Walk 1.0 will begin at 8:30am on Sunday, August 12, from GPO office near Central Maidan Thane (W). The route will be St. James Church, Thane Fort from outside, the location of the Old Ashok Pillar, Thane court, Town Hall and Parsi Agyari. It will end at the new location of Ashok Pillar opp. St. Johns Church. Noted historian and Thane resident  Sadashiv Tetvilkar will guide this walk and narrate the stories and history of the heritage structure on the go. He will tell stories of Sardar Biwalkar Wada and Budhaji Naik Wada that were in the path of the walk.

For the heritage walk on August 12, Swatva Walkers has appealed to citizens to pre-register as the number of participants is limited. The contact numbers for registration are 9322597139 and .

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