Mumbai, Nov. 1: Mumbai got its own sex museum this week.
Antarang, the country’s first permanent exhibition on sex, is the brainchild of two unlikely partners: the Brihanmumbai Municipality Corporation and the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society.
It may not be anything like the chic New York Fifth Avenue exhibition that started in September with the show called “NYC Sex: How New York City transformed sex in America”, but Antarang is a bold, earnest attempt to throw light on a basic fact of life. “We have tried to make it as entertaining as possible,” says Dr Prakash Sarang, the man behind the show.
A wooden staircase, the sides of which are done up with larger-than-life stylised erotic paintings, leads to the hall with its 50-odd exhibits.
To enter the hall, visitors have to pass through a huge cutout that looks like a book. It is the gateway to the book of life that opens out in the form of exhibits arrayed in a hall .
The first stop is the myth and literature corner. A chunky excerpt from Kalidasa’s Kumarsambhabam, the romantic kavya about the birth of Kartik, son of Shiva and Parvati, adorns the corner.
On a counter done up with paintings telling the story of how a boy and girl fall in love, marry and have children, are displayed terracota reproductions of figurines of mother goddesses from different ancient cultures like Syria and Indus.
But then the exhibition gets down to serious business: the body. While two life-size models of a man and a woman stand in a tight embrace, a stained glass painting by the side is the artistic representation of what happens inside the bodies. There are also a number of life-size body-parts. If they are clinical, they are also quite explicit.
The third and final section is about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“The idea is to catch them young,” says Sarang. “It is primarily meant for students and young people,” he adds, pointing out that the museum’s proximity to Kamathipura is only a coincidence.
The AIDS and STDs section is a horror show, with graphic photographs of body-parts of affected people. In one section are displayed data on the prevalence of AIDS in India.
Another section shows the protected and unprotected ways of having sex. At the end of the partition on unprotected sex, there is a small coffin put up vertically.
“That’s what you walk into through unprotected sex,” says Sarang, who works with Aasha, a municipality project on AIDS.
There’s another mirror as you walk out of the passage. “That’s you. You could also be a carrier,” he says.
The show, put up at a cost of Rs 18 lakh, took about 10 months’ work. “I am from an artists’ family, so many of the ideas came naturally to me. Many artist friends also worked with me,” Sarang says.
The show, which is meant to become more interactive, is free for now.
“There are so many people dying of AIDS in India every day. If this can educate even one person a day, we would consider our mission a success,” says Sarang.