By Chitra Venkataramani, Harvard University
“Trachyte” is the first in a series of narratives that explore the relation between the islands that were reclaimed and developed into the city of Mumbai (Bombay) and its suburbs. Most historical narratives about Mumbai begin with a description of an archipelago of seven islands that later became the city following a reclamation process that began in the late 18th century. An eighth island, Salsette, which lay to the north of the archipelago and is not usually included in this narrative, but was a crucial reservoir of resources such as stone, wood, and salt — and later became the Mumbai suburban district. These narratives about Salsette not only seek to contextualize its history in relation to a growing new city in the south, but also function as an opening into contemporary developmental politics.
These narratives are a part of the process of revising my doctoral dissertation titled, “Drawn into Life: Mapping, Development, and Ecological Vision in Urban India,” which examines the ways in which cartographic images shape contemporary spatial and ecological politics in Mumbai. The comic book format permits me to explore the intersection between my art practice and academic interests, and allows me to work with the cartographic material as a “visual.” Apart from helping me draw out the historical threads of urban development, the graphic medium allows juxtaposing ethnographic and archival material in ways that speak to their complex interconnectedness across distance and time.