Resilient nature

By Aparna Narayanan
Published: Thursday 31 March 2005

-- Nature Mumbai: A photographic journey into nature's beauty, purpose and resilience Maharashtra Kala Academy, Mumbai, 11-19 February 2005

"Nature is at its most dramatic when it is under threat or encroached upon", says Mumbai-based naturalist Sunjoy Monga. Inevitably, then, his photographs focus upon the urban landscape -- the biggest test of the resilience of the natural world.

This lensman looks at the slums and sludge, the decrepit mills and obese malls to discover "nature's indomitable spirit" in his city. He documents the survival skills of its non-human residents -- house swifts dart around Rajabai Tower, mudskippers emerge from the noxious ooze of Malad Creek and flamingoes congregate at Sewri Bay against a backdrop of oil refineries. "We often ignore the nature of our urban habitats but nature's adaptation strategies are most evident here," he claims.

The exhibition under review showcased more than 250 photographs culled from almost 25 years of Monga's adventures in forest, marsh, coast and creek. The photographs, arranged in 110 single and multi panels, were interwoven with text that sought to contextualise the images and achieve a "story format". While the images capture a burnished dawn in the Sanjay Gandhi national park, or a moonrise over Tulsi Lake, the detailed caption explains that the park's lakes supply almost 4 per cent of the city's immense water needs.

Monga's Mumbai doesn't adhere to municipal definitions of city limits. He describes it more loosely as the "Mumbai region" and includes habitats within 100 kilometres of the city, such as the ruins of the ancient fort at Bassein or the evergreens sprawled atop Tungareshwa mountain.

The exhibition, he hopes will "help us look at the urban scenarios in a different light".

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