Soho House Mumbai’s new mural is a symbol for an inclusive future

Soho House Mumbai’s new mural is a symbol for an inclusive future | Soho House

Designed by LGBTQIA+ collective and media platform, Gaysi Family, the artwork is a joyful celebration of the community

Wednesday 19 April 2023   By Soho House

Set in an 11-storey townhouse on Juhu Beach, Soho House Mumbai has always been a multicultural hub where differences give way to collaborative spirit. Most notably, it plays a special role in the recent history of the city’s LGBTQIA+ community. Opened in 2018, the same year that homosexuality was decriminalised in India, the club celebrates the country’s contemporary queer culture and helps to create memorable moments of shared queer joy. 

Last year’s Soho House Mumbai Pride party was hosted by Durga Gawde, India’s first drag king and a Soho House fellow (read our interview with the performer), and it truly was a night to remember. This year, Soho House has given one of its beach-facing walls to the LGBTQIA+ platform Gaysi Family, who have transformed it into an artistic manifesto for inclusivity. 

Gaysi Family was founded in 2008 as a media platform to celebrate queer people from across Southeast Asia. Today, it not only creates much-needed representation of the community, but also facilitates safe spaces where LGBTQIA+ people can connect, explore their creative interests and be themselves. We caught up with the illustrator and the platform’s art director, Priya Dali, to hear the full story behind ‘The Future is Inclusive’ mural – and the blissful process of painting shared with like-minded people.

Soho House Mumbai’s new mural is a symbol for an inclusive future | Soho House

How would you describe the main mission of Gaysi Family?
‘Our main mission is to create offline and online spaces for queer folks in India. The space can mean many things for us, both online and in physical spaces. They could be art-driven, bar nights, meet-ups, workshops or two-day festivals. It helps to meet new people and to feel the sense of community. We do indulge in a lot of art – everything from music to theatre to visual art to zines. We try to cater to all kinds of people with different interests, and everybody gets to take something away.’

How did the collaboration with Soho House come about and why did you choose a mural?
‘We’ve been doing events at Soho House over the past year: from a drag queen reading hour to Pride pops-ups, theatre performances, movie screenings and zine making workshops. One of our goals this year has been to take up more public space, and murals are great for that. We have created one in Mumbai before and had great feedback. Soho House has been a great supporter of the arts and we knew that they had this wall, so we just suggested to paint a mural. One of the main messages of Gaysi Family is “The Future is Inclusive”, which we try to communicate through different media. So, it felt natural to pick it for this very public wall overlooking the sea.’ 

What is the concept of the artwork? 
‘We picked the story of Noah’s Ark, but in our slightly surreal version he is taking a boat of “queerdos” to a safer place of possibilities, and everybody can be who they want to be. We incorporated the regional language of Marathi into the mural as well. The main message of the mural is that the future is inclusive, and the future is here – we’re writing the future right now.’  

Soho House Mumbai’s new mural is a symbol for an inclusive future | Soho House

You mentioned that it’s important for the Gaysi Family to be present in public spaces. Do you feel like the public space in India can still be challenging for LGBTQIA+ people? Is it changing? 
‘I would say it is changing, but to be honest, we all exist in different bubbles. For me, it looks like it is changing, but for somebody else it may still be a bit of a question mark. But the experience of painting the mural was actually full of acceptance of all the queer identities that were present. People would come over, chat, paint and just generally get along with all of us and help out.

‘The act of painting murals together is cathartic and brings about a different kind of co-existence. There were our friends, passers-by, people from the Soho House team, all just going with the motion of the paintbrush, with music and the waves in the background.’

What is Mumbai’s queer community like? And what kind of spaces does the city have to offer? 
‘Over the past five years, we’ve definitely seen a lot of more spaces focused on LGBTQIA+. It’s not entirely in the mainstream yet, but more recently, especially since homosexuality was decriminalised in 2018, there’s been a lot more representation in the media and in the urban space. We organise our own bar night and actively thinking of creating other community spaces. There are lots of restaurants, clubs and bars open to hosting queer events now, which feels like a fair bit of progress.’

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