Art For Animal Compassion: Archita Shah is Building a Strong Community of Animal Lovers Through her Art and FFMA.
Archita Shah, a painter and an animal lover, is building a strong community of fellow animal lovers all across Mumbai who are not afraid of getting down and getting their hands dirty. Her efforts have already garnered huge support from Hindustan Times and Times Now.
Beginning of Love
Speaking about the beginning, Archita tell us, “I was kind of scared of strays while growing up. A turning point in my life came when I adopted a stray dog during my 1st year of engineering, who is now my best friend. It was after this that my perspective towards animals changed completely. I started understanding that they too have a soul, a voice, a feeling, and more importantly they are one of the most intelligent, loyal, and loving companions. I realized how carelessly these strays are treated on the streets and started feeding them in my near vicinity. I even started taking care of their vaccinations”.
Foundation for Mumbai Animals (FFMA)
After working with a number of NGOs and animal shelters, Archita decided to start FFMA with Chaitya Poladia & Nirali Koradia. Chaitya looks after the rescue and volunteer network while Nirali handles the legal formalities of FFMA’s tasks. Archita tells us, “Gradually FFMA became a community movement. A lot of volunteers started joining us. Finally FFMA (Foundation for Mumbai Animals) was formed in May 2017. We have been building our network since then, which now has people from diverse backgrounds including legal, art and even marketing. We at FFMA take care of adoptions, rescue, legalities and spreading awareness. Many a times, people want to help but don’t know where to begin. One might see someone harassing the animals but don’t know what to do about it. We provide legal guidance as to what steps they can take to discourage such people from harassing animals. We also conduct awareness workshops at colleges to promote and spread compassion towards animals because as living beings, they deserve to be treated with respect. Another important thing that FFMA does is connecting volunteers with NGOs and shelter homes and coordinating with them on regular basis”.
Art for Animal Compassion
Speaking about her varied style of art, she tells us, “Whatever I earn from my art, I use a part of it to help animals. My art consists of canvas, fluid, abstract and metal. I wanted to do something to promote compassion towards animals. What better way to do it than using my art? For this, we at FFMA, decided to approach the railway authorities and seek permission to organize an art campaign at Bandra station. The idea was to paint the walls with the theme of compassion towards animals. When we finally got the permission, the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘How will I portray the plight of the voiceless in a loving and compassionate manner?’ I didn’t want to depict cruelty but wanted to encourage positivity through every artwork and give the audience an experience that could change their perception towards the strays”.
“Artworks were planned 10 days prior to the final execution. More than 300 volunteers joined us that day. We completed painting the station in less than a day, it was true art for all and art for all the voice less around us. Artists and volunteers from all age groups- from colleges, from corporate and art industry- came to join us and made this event a cherished success. There came so many artists that we fell short of boards to give them. Even the people passing by stopped and took notice of what we were doing. I was a bit unsure about how they would react. But to my happiness, they lauded our initiative and agreed that even the voiceless must have voices. One of the paintings had dogs with slogan, ‘Respect me’. Once we were done at Bandara station, the railway authorities noticed it and offered us to come and paint at Ram Mandir station as well. In a nutshell, the response was mind- blowing. We were even retweeted by BJPs Poonam Mahajan and Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu”.
Creating Self-Help Groups For The Betterment Of Community Pets
“I strongly believe that if we take care of the community pets around us (I don’t like to call them strays), as citizens we will be serving a good cause. It doesn’t take much effort to come together and share responsibilities like food and vaccinations. We have Whatsapp group dedicated to the volunteering activities in different areas all across Mumbai. If an animal is in need in Juhu, volunteers in Juhu can connect with each other and share information regarding that animal. The nearest volunteers can then go and take appropriate care of that animal. We even have animal ambulance at our disposal. We have ties with animal shelters and hospitals in all areas of Mumbai and if need arises, the animals can be taken to one of these places for proper care and attention.”
Social Impact Philanthropy
This is one of Archita’s theory that she strongly believes in. She explains, “I believe that cutting down on our meat intake and reducing the use of leather material can go a long way in reducing the pressure over animal population. One can rather go for cotton stuff. Such small measures can go a long way in keeping a check on depleting animal population, thus restoring the proper balance in the ecosystem. It will also help in reducing animal cruelty to some extent. If one starts to adhere to these small changes, slowly it would give rise to a more informed society and together people will bring a positive impact on the ecosystem”.
Talking about the future of her initiative, Archita tells us that after Mumbai, she is planning to take this good movement to other cities including Pune, Bangalore too. She adds, “We hope that FFMA continues to promote empathy towards animal and builds harmony between strays and us”.