n. extent or range of view, outlook, application, operation, effectiveness, etc.
GAURI SANGHI Diploma Project 2012 Srishti School of Art Design and Tehnology Review Panel Tara Kini, Naga Nandini, Neeti Bose
Contents 1. Making of the proposal
2. Building a team
3.Reflecting on their relationship with the art from
4.Re - imagining artist-audience relationship
5.Re - imagining performance
6. The bigger picture
7. Plugging back into local
8. Way forward
When “Visual Journals” turn into To-Do lists.
My four years at srishti I have almost been seduced by all these words and concepts. The entire process has also been a gradual disconnect from Alwar, my home town. Consciously or un consciously, I have always attempted to map these onto my upbringing , schooling, exposure to media, space to ask questions etc. In the past I have attempted to bring that into my work, but it needed a longer and more intense process. It became essential to place all this in where I come from. To understand the relevance of whatever it is that I have gained. 10
It was most important for me to take back my practice to my family, and include them in the process. The decision of working in my hometown was thus made way before I started looking for projects that I would like to work on. The project has been a personal journey of reflecting on my practice and reconnecting my practice to the people back home.
Making of proposal
UMAR FAHRUKH MEWATI Bhapang player Alwar
Sometime last year I met Umar Fahrukh Mewati, a folk artist based in Alwar who plays Bhapang, a percussion cum string instrument. He belongs to the Muslim jogi community who led a life of minstrels, going from one house to the other singing in praise of their patrons and asking for food (ata). The art form was given a new stage and place in the society when his father Zahoor Khan stepped out of Alwar and joined the Bollywood industry and the legacy followed.
something to preserve the art form. Unlike many other artists the intention was to do this on his own, with his family. His engagement with the art form is what became the basis of my project. To work with a family of artists who have the intent but need the tools to work towards it. It was new and overwhelming to meet a folk artist who wants to use his art from to preserve the art form all his life.
Fahrukh Bhai besides being successful in taking his art form all around the world had a vision of doing 13
Following conversations with other people from the family brought up few important pointers for the project. The youngsters from the house, though have taken up other means of livelihood like rickshaw pulling, construction work , playing in bands, they are still passionate about their art from and practice every now and then. They have the intention of bringing the art form to the fore front, but lack the imagination of how can their music be placed in the present scenario. All efforts need patronage from the tourism sector or the newly developing NGO culture. 14
There is a disconnect between the practice of performing as a means of earning and efforts to preserve the dying art form. There is a need to find alternative spaces to perform and build a pool of audience within the city they music originated from. In the past the artists have helped people with research on the community and have worked with documentary film makers but are dissatisfied with the inaccessibility of what was produced and inability to use it to further their culture.
The ideas I came up with initially, did feature in my final project at different points of time. I see my project as a mix of bits from all these thoughts.
Since this group of artists use a lot of sarcasm and comment on the society, using their music as a trigger to initiate critical thinking. Exploring expression in a creative way through music.
A community event where all the participating schools come together and share what they have done. Adds to the pool of audience in the town. 16
The artists know many elders who remember old songs that are not written everywhere. Through the process of archiving, the youngsters get an opportunity to connect to their art form.
A network of local practitioners who can come together and collaberatively work on the project.
Since there are very few families in different parts of Rajasthan who practice various geners of Mewati music, to create a collective where they can come together and perform for each other. The youngsters from the community get to know about their art form.
Wording the project
Defining a form for a project has always been a conflict in my practice. How to give something a form in the beginning of a process and yet leave it open enough for it to evolve from it? Where there are so many process in play and each term brings its own politics along, whether it is a toolkit or a model, or a case study or a community project or a mix of all. The project has evolved from one â€˜formâ€™ to another all throughout the process and each time it would be referred to it can be viewed differently depending on the context. The project is a workshop model that becomes a space for interface between 18
these artists and different kinds of audiences in town, specifically students from different schools in Alwar. It comprises of a series of interactions and performances cum workshops held by the artists and a group of local practitioners in schools that involves engaging with the art form as well as responding to it in various mediums through a creative process. The objective is to use this model as a reflective space to re-imagine the traditional art from in a contemporary context for both the artists as well as the audience.
Making my biases explicit
I realized that this is a longer process, and nothing actually can be achieved in this direction within the scope of my diploma project. This project demands a longer engagement. The next task then was to define the scope of the project and what it is that I am going to finish in three months. Whatever I do has to be in a form that can contribute to an archive. A model that can be taken over by an organization or an individual, scaled up and replicated. This defined two very important tasks for me.
One, that during the course of the project we need to start creating a network of local people in order to make this project self-sustainable. And second, the project needs to be documented in such a way that the work is accessible and comprehensible by the artists as well as any other individual who would want to build upon the model. My project thus is a case study of one artist family in Alwar. What I do in the following three months would be experiments to develop this model.
In a place like Alwar where there arenâ€™t many alternative spaces for cultural exchanges, I see schools as cultural centres, which can be developed as spaces for dynamic experience. A school, though meant for the students, is a common place for people from all age groups and walks of life. Whether it be families of the students, teachers, the working staff or the people outside of the immediate school family. The urge to use schools as an interface also comes from a personal inquiry, which developed over last few years. I have consciously used my practice to view the education system and learning from a critical lens and I believe it is a space which has a lot of potential to house initiatives and trigger dialogue on cultural practice. 22
Building a team
Yusuf Khan (Mungaskhan) 20 years old Studies in an engineering collage Has been in the profession for 15 years
Mahmood Khan (Mungaskhan) 28 years old Practices this as his main profession Part of a group that does street plays
Mausam Khan (Maujpur) 21 years old Daily wage earner Plays in wedding bands and accompanies his elder brother in programs
Rajesh Khan (Maujpur) 25 years old Daily wage earner Sings and plays bhapang in satsangs.
Jakir Khan (Mungaskhan) 13 years old Studies in government schools Sings and plays bhapang with his elder brother and father.
Finding a workspace
Finding a workspace outside the community has never been in the rule book. But on one of my initial visits to the Mungaskhan village, the artists told me that they would like to work somewhere outside of the home space. From my visits to the house I realized that they follow a very rigid patriarchal system and none of the youngsters talk much in front of the head of the family. 28
Probably it was the need of the project to take them out of the space. We did that but with a commitment that whatever we do we plug into where the artists come from. We found a place close to their house and with a dari(rug), lots of paper and instruments we set up our official workspace.
The strength Wheel
We started the project by creating a strength wheel for the team where we could write our strengths as and when we realize them. The idea was to identify each ones strengths and work together as a team. During the course of the project, each one recognized what they were good at and made sure, they complemented each other while conducting a workshop. 29
Reflecting on their relationship with the art form
I went in with an assumption that the team of artists that I am working with, know all about the art form. What came as a shock to me was that these young artists had a limited exposure to their own art form. Until now, they had either been accompanists or were used to singing what the â€œpublicâ€? demands. What they needed was a motivation to learn more about the art form. The project needed to create a bridge between their legacy and their current practice. 32
I started with what they already knew. My task at this point was to get them to start talking and develop a curiosity about the art form instead of me telling them this is what they need to know.
Tools I used
Soughing seeds of an archive
A pot of knowledge which uses the reference from Lord Krishnaâ€™s story in hindu mythology where the pot can accommodate as much as you fill in it. It never fills up. Here, the artists could put in anything that they knew about the art form. The activity acted as a trigger for a lot of debates about the origin of certain themes, categories of songs, characteristics of different genres etc. The artists now were not just singing but were discussing what they are singing.
This resulted in a parallel process at home where the artists were now sitting with their elders trying to clear their doubts and engaging with the art on a deeper level. They started maintaining notebooks with lyrics of old songs that they are getting to know from their elders. Though informal, this exercise in the long run can result into an archive for the family.
Making the process reflective Making the entire experience a reflective process was first on my â€˜to do listâ€™. Doing this through conversations was of course very useful but not the only way to get them to think. The artists were made in charge of documenting the process with a brief that they need to photograph whatever is important to them, which they would want to take back from the project. 34
We revisited the photographs time to time to see what the artists find important and why. This gave them a reason to reflect on what they are doing and understanding in the process. The photographs also became a trigger for conversations within the group.
Making conversations visual Since two out of five artists do not know how to read and write, we tried to visualize most of our conversations using drawings, our bodies, examples and songs. This opened up newer ways for the artists to express and talk about their art form. The experience also comes handy when the artists need to get the students to respond to the music though a creative process. 35
Passing the Bhapang(parcel) To make the activities more local and relatable it was necessary to use local material and references. Passing the parcel, an age old game was modified with bhapang (their instrument) becoming the parcel. Everyone would pass the bhapang around and when the music stopped they had to contribute to the conversation. The excitement of the game got them to break out their shells and share. The activity was used for making the process more participative. This activity became a regular feature to break out of the monotony of our discussions. 36
Even though I have grown up speaking hindi, when I started working with the artists I realized that a lot of concepts need to be articulated in hindi. I started working with hindi mind maps so that I can start thinking in Hindi.
Re-imagining the artist - audience relationship
Changing demographics We worked in four schools over last three months. All the schools we chose were different on many levels so that the project can be tested in different spaces and the artists get a wholesome experience. We chose the schools based on the kind of students they cater to, the philosophy they follow, the neighbourhood they are located in and their association with the artists.
language, their engagement and exposure with folk music, their perceptions of the artist community etc. Their involvement with the audience was much more personal than they had ever experienced. Now the audience would engage with the art form much more than just seeing them perform. A lot of how they function and their lives became a part of their practice.
Having such varied audiences gave way to a lot of conversations about 41
Alwar Public School Alwar Public School is one of the most popular schools in Alwar. Most of the students who come to this school are from middle class and upper middle class families. The schools has been practicing the Project Based learning model for last two years and is open to experimenting with new methods. We worked with a team of 10 students who are a part of the music club. Choosing APS as the first school was intentional. It was a more open institution as compared to others in its approach towards education. Since the students were selected from the music club, there was a general interest and curiosity in music. This was a small group and artists had the luxury to build intimate relationships with the students. 42
Sapna Foundation This is an evening school for children from villages around Alwar. These children have had some exposure to this kind of music and have a preconceived notion about the artists. For them, the artist is just an entertainer. The reason behind choosing this space was to give the artists an opportunity to work with a group who understand their language well. The biggest challenge was to be able to overcome the assumptions and notions about how they were viewed as artists and develop a learning space around those kids. 44
Rajkiya Madhyamik Vidyalaya,Railway Station This is a government school in the neighbourhood where the artists live. In fact, two of the artists have studied in the same school few years back. The school was a way to place the project back into their space. To be able to see its relevance in their neighbourhood. The task here was to convince the principal and other teachers to let us do these workshops. Since the school is in the same neighbourhood and have students from the community, they are very critical of these initiatives that have been taken time and again to help mewati community develop. Their experience has made them believe that none of such efforts are actually for the benefit of the students. 46
Mewat Girls Residential School This residential school for Muslim girls was the most challenging space for the artists. These girls are not permitted to sing anything but songs on occasions like weddings and other celebrations. The artists are from the same community. They have grown up in an atmosphere where they are not allowed to talk to girls from their community. Also all their lives they have believed that girls from their community cant learn anything new. The challenge was to break the ice and make the students feel comfortable with men around in the school. The next task was to find an artist in each of them. It was an essential experience for the artists to develop confidence to be able to interact with girls. Also to be able to place the practice in not very safe spaces where they could question their beliefs and build their own politics. 48
It is not just their livelihood after all. One of the first critiques for any project to do with dying folk art is that after all its their means of livelihood. For me as well, that was the first assumption I made. But during the course of the project, looking at the joy and satisfaction that the artists got from the appreciation from their audience was overwhelming. The motivation that the artists got from the response at schools became the driving force for them. Every workshop the objective then, was to add more students to the project.I realized it is this sense of dignity that 50
the artists needed.A sense of acceptance from the audience. For them, to interact with children who are as enthusiastic about their music was something new. The first response came from a boy names Ajay from Alwar public school who wanted to know if he can learn the art from these artists outside this workshop space. For all of us that was our first bit of success.
A scanned copy of one of the studentâ€™s responses to the workshop
Next one month was a rigorous process of developing ideas , workshop models testing them out in different schools and refining them. Every day was a new idea, a new set of audiences, new mistakes and new insights into our own practice. With every workshop we became more confident and started identifying patterns in our workshops. Each school was a new learning experience and added to the pool of techniques and ideas to build upon for the next bunch of students. 54
Each intervention that was planned for a school was like one complete cycle of design process in itself. Starting with discussing who the audience was, the artists followed a process of research to identify what is it that they would perform, developing ideas , testing it in the school and coming back and reflecting on it which feeds into the next workshop.
Planning a worshop
A chart made by the artists tht talks about the procedure to design a workshop 55
Each activity that was planned for the students was first tried by the artists themselves, whether it is coming up with visuals for songs or using bodies to portray different scenes from a katha (story). Zakir Bhai, in fact by the end of the process had come up with his own set of instruments and chose to play those to motivate the students to make their own instruments. This not only helped them prepare themselves and give them an idea of how much time they need to devote to each activity, but got them to internalize each of these interventions. 56
Workshops for the artists
In the process of developing workshops for the students , the artists went through sessions of training themselves to develop specific skills.
Fahrukh Bhai Fahrukh Bhai, their guru came in to do a session on how to plan a jugalbandi. A jugalbandi is an act where artists with different instruments respond to each other in a synchronized manner. While working with the students, all of whom have made a new instrument, a 58
lot of time the artists themselves are not familiar with all the sounds that can be produced. How then, can one plan a jugalbandi? Fahrukh Bhai shared his experience of doing Jugalbandi for last so many years, and gave tips to the artists, as to how they can plan a jugalbandi , what kind of instrument can accompany the other.
Parul Gupta is a storyteller from Alwar, who teach spoken English to children through storytelling. She came in to share the secrets of connecting to young audience. She discussed many aspects of storytelling like language, diction, helping the kids visualize a story , modulation etc. The artists later sang a few songs with her and tried to place whatever they have learned in the context of their art form.
Vikas is a photographer and videographer from Alwar. He was with us in the beginning of the project to document the workshops. Vikas did multiple informal sessions with the artists on how to use the camera and the things to keep in mind while documenting a performance or a workshop. The artists had an access to the camera at all times and them documenting the process helped them in more ways that one.
Giving it a structure
the first workshop that the artists planned themselves. Though the way each workshop was designed was unique, while working we developed a structure for planning a workshops and conducting a workshop. The time spent on each workshop was calculated with fixed objectives for each exercise done with the students. Spending a designated amount of time on each activity helped the artists to keep a track on how much have they pro-
gressed in the plan of action for the day and helped them to not get carried away with what was happening. If we have an objective to achieve for each exercise, the activities can be more focused and the assessment of the process becomes easier. Having said that, the artists are open to parallel, unplanned for processes to take place simultaneously. 61
We finally arrived at a chart where we could plan the workshops and keep in the archives so that they can be revisited at any point. The chart consists of four basic categories- kaam (activity/ exercise) , samay (time spent on each activity) , maksad (objective) and sahi/ galat (assessment whether the objective was achieved or not) After the workshop the artists revisit the chart to see if all the objectives were achieved and if not, how can they better it in the next workshop.
Personal Stories as a way to connect
In an attempt to connect to the students on a personal level the artists talk about their personal lives through a song. They talk about the art form and the instruments while sharing instances about what made them learn the instrument or their experience of performing or making songs , their aspirations etc. For example, Mausam Bhai plays an instrument called â€˜tashaâ€™. When he talks about his instrument, he travels all the way to maujpur through his song, where he grew up. He says
he used to practice on a broken bucket while trying to scare the birds away from his fields This exercise not only helps them connect with the students and share their knowledge in an informal way but gives the students a chance to view the art from a personal lens. It suddenly reduces the gap between the student and the artists by bringing art down from the pedestal and making it easier to relate to. 63
Very often the artists used the laptop and made their own videos to practice what they wanted to say about themselves. 65
“Hum sab kalakaar hain“
The students are asked to look for objects around their space which they can use to produce sound. Each student, by the end of the day has one instrument that is theirs. This not only helps us make the workshop more participative and exploratory, but also ‘empowers’ the students as each one in the room has her own instrument just like the artists and has something to contribute to the process of making music.
When this was first tried in Alwar Public School, more than the students, the artists got so excited just to see all these objects making music. In next few months, Jakir the youngest one had his own set of instruments that he made from whatever he found around his house.
The artists use this space to talk about lay a and taan and other subtleties of music production. 67
Celebrating Local Folk Tales
Each song carries a story. The artists pick songs that the students will enjoy listening to and can contribute to the story. The performances are interactive and generally a mix of singing and conversations. The students then retell the story with visuals, using their bodies etc. This becomes an opportunity to pass on oral traditions, to pass on stories that the students hardly get a chance to listen to.
While working on this workshop exercise, the artists were introduced to a completely different way of engaging with their own music.
The stories range from something completely new to popular tales like the Ramayana or universal tales like the story of an ant and an elephant.
Many times local references come up very evidently. Here the students put sindoor on the female elephant to make her look married.
Visualizing the story gets the children to connect to the story more strongly. The exercise leads to more questions regarding the choices made, the characters and their relevance in the local context.
Local cultural practices
Very often regional folk songs talk about the local practices of the region. There are songs about rituals , festivals , people , local deities and many other socio cultural activities around the region. In the workshop the artists elaborate on a particular practice through songs and couplets interwoven with stories , myths and personal experiences. The students get to know about these practices while some of their classmates have experiences to share , through stories, visuals , role playing etc.
Alwar (Rajasthan). Every year the entire town celebrates and participates in â€˜Bharat Hari Ji Ka melaâ€™ (festival) but a very few people actually know the story of how and what got the king all the way to Alwar. Working on this workshop was a good experience, since the artists had to plan the entire series at once. Deciding, how much of the story should be finished in a day to whether to use a song or a couplet to talk about the particular instance in the story.
We picked up the story of Raja Bharat Hari, a king from Ujjain who became a saint and was buried in a village in 75
Making meaning of what is around
It is said that Mewati folk music is a genre (shiali) and anything that is sung in that genre is a part of Mewati folk culture. Many artists express their opinions on what is happening around them as a practice. Often, the themes of the songs are from the everyday of the community.
they could use. As of now, they had always been given a â€œthemeâ€? to write a song on. Here they would dialogue and debate over their world views and write songs together. The exercise resulted in a pool of new songs that artists had written themselves.
The artists pick themes that are relevant to the students and use the songs as a trigger for dialogue with the students. This brings awareness in the students, giving them a space to think and participate in the discussions in an informal manner through music. We started this process with listing down what is it that we feel the need to talk about. In our conversations it almost seemed like that the artists spoke about their art as a weapon that 77
The bigger picture
When u start working on project, as you go deeper into it , it becomes all the more difficult to zoom out every now and then and see what u started with. In my case, I knew it was important to do this, since I had a definite timeline and a definite goal to achieve in three months. For me this project was a space where I bring together what I had gained in last four years, my understanding of my practice and my relationship with the place where I grew up.
Making meaning of being an interdisciplinary designer
The first question asked wherever I went was what do I do. And for the sake of convenience I became whatever would help me in that context. I was a teacher, an artist, NGO waali, filmmaker, music instructor and what not. I wasnâ€™t any of these yet I was all of these at different points of time. For me, the interdisciplinarity of my project lied in getting different agencies to come together and work. It lied in my awareness of my changing roles and in the minutest of details of each day,
each workshop and every minute spent on the project. It is about viewing this project as a personal journey of informing my family about my practice and as a social responsibility that I took on towards my artists and the children of various schools while choosing to work on this project. It was about being able to place this project in the middle of the social, cultural and political of the lives of the artists and the town on the whole. 83
Articulating my role
Articulating what I do and what the project was about actually was a good exercise for me. It certainly helped me clarify my roles, my biases, and my intent in the project. Different people received the project in different ways. Some accused me of using these artists to win awards, some said the students might not enjoy being a part of the workshop, some said it was a great idea to do â€œsocial workâ€? and fortunately there were some who saw sense in what I was attempting to do and participated in the dialogue. 84
I realized that there are many people who are interested to be a part of the project but it needed one person who can take the initiative and keep the project running, facilitating spaces where people can come together and work. In the beginning the artists were highly dependent on me for bridging the gap between them and the students. I realized, the need to reduce this dependency. For which, one I have to make the artists themselves more independent and second finding more local practitioners who can come together and take on the job of facilitation.
Creating a network of local practitioners
Creating a local network of people thus was one of the most essential things to make the project self-sustainable. Though developing this network fully was not in the scope of the project, during the project, many practitioners and organizations got associated with the team at different points of time.
Ms. Parul Gupta Parul Gupta is a storyteller and runs English classes through storytelling for young children. She in fact facilitated one of the workshops with the artists.
Mr. Pradeep Pancholi Pradeep Pancholi is a teacher at a government secondary school, being a theatre artist he has been an active street theatre participant in Rajasthan.
Mr. Ashutosh Pednekar Ashutosh Pednekar is the current District Collector of Alwar. Mr. Pednekar, was not only interested in having these workshops in schools across the town, he also helped in organizing a conference for principals in Alwar, to share the idea with them.
Mrs. Shafia Khan Shafia Khan is the Jila Pramukh of Alwar. She envisions that this team of artists to do workshops in all schools for Mewati children.
Mrs. Suchi Gupta Suchi Gupta is the coordinator of Sapna Foundation, an evening school run for children from villages around alwar. She also runs a sister concern of Alwar Public School called Adhaarshila, a school for under privileged children.
Shiv Studio Shiv Kumar is a photographer and owns a photo-video studio at Alwar. Him and his team of videographers documented the entire project.
District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) DIET was established in 1995, under the National Policy of education by the Central Government of India. Its function is to basically provide training and research support to teachers at the grass root level and help in implementation of strategies and programs being undertaken in elementary education system. DIET hosted a conference for principals from schools across the town to discuss the project.
Alwar Mewat Institute of Education and Development (AMIED) AMIED is a non profit organization working on holistic development of the rural population of the Mewat region in Alwar district. Mr. Noor Muhammad, founder of the organization, has proposed to house the project in his organization.
Documentation of the project was a parallel process from the very beginning. One, as mentioned earlier, documentation was introduced as a tool to reflect for the artists and second, it was important because the intention was to share the work with as many people so that the model can be replicated in other spaces. The first one to take on the job of documentation was Vikas. Vikas runs a small videography business in Alwar. He has been doing wedding videography for many years, but doing a documentation project was something new 90
for him. To help him, we watched clips from different documentary films and planned each video while editing. The idea was by the end of the project, he could edit his own documentary film. But somewhere, in the middle of the process he decided to leave the project.
The next team we worked with was from Shiv Studios. This exercise not only resulted in a pool of footage from the project, but also became a space for the videographers and the artists to come together and work. The team was not only behind the camera but were helping artists learn the camera work, technicalities of framing a picture etc. In turn the videographers had the space to participate in the workshops.
Funding for the project
Though I had considered finding funding for the project as a part of my Diploma project from the very beginning, getting to a stage where I could go and ask for funding for a project like this came much later in the project. I realized that I need to do some work for the people to understand the nature of the work. I went and met Mr. Ashutosh Pednekar, Collector of Alwar, after a month into the project. He immediately got interested in it and proposed that I should share the project with the members of 92
District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), which is a Central Governement organization. At this point I realized that there are schemes in the government under which the artists can get compensation for being a part of the initiative. There are various schemes for the development of specifically the Mewati community like the Mewat Vikas Board. There are also parallel projects like the Ekta Project that can be associated with this initiative.
The project report submitted to the District Collector, Alwar 12.09.2012
Since this was a small group and we managed to create such an intimate workspace, the project managed to place itself in the middle of the personal, social, cultural as well as the political of the lives of the artists. What the artists performed now was more personal where they were talking about themselves and their relationship with the art from. Not only was the entire journey a reflective process for the artists, where they re-connected to the art form, it also challenged many of their own beliefs and practices. Their conversations ranged from marriage as an institution to dowry, to their religion, their local practices and their understanding of the society as a whole. 94
One of the most remarkable achievements of the artists was that now they were talking to women. It was a big leap for them to accept that women also have the right to sing and make music. As a result of doing workshops with girl students, they gave a chance to their youngest sister Kehkasha to come and perform with them. This act was a big step to take since the women in their house are not allowed to step out and sing. This certainly gave a new dimension to the project, something that was not planned for before.
Yusuf with his sister Kehkasha performing at Vijay Mandir 28.08.2012 95
Plugging back into the local
Sharing with the family
With Kehkasha coming with us to perform, the family already had an inlet into the process, but it was essential to take the entire project back to them. The artists shared what they are doing with their elders and women of the house. They performed for the family and practiced what they had to do for their final performance. The women and kids from the family participated in preparing props for a performance. Spending a whole day there also gave space for some rather interesting conversations. The entire family sat down and shared what they think of the project. The entire family is happy that Kehkasha got a chance to go out and perform and were excited that they are preparing more girls from the family. They would like their daughters to go out and perform till the age their community allows them to. We discussed how the workshop model can be more inclusive and where there are spaces where the women can contribute being at home. The artists identified the roles that women can play
like suggesting songs, making visuals as tools. Many of them did not know that the younger wife in the house was an artist herself and that she can paint and draw well. The artists had been mentioning about how their mothers and sisters sing wedding songs and made them sing that day. This brought up a question that was running in my head for a long time. We discussed if in this house we could keep the men and the women on the same platform and call both of them folk artists? Since both sing old traditional songs at different occasions. For a person to be an artist does he need a stage with audience sitting across or does a personâ€™s art need to be a medium of income for her to be called an artist? Though Fahrukh Bhai did say â€œyes! They can be called an artistâ€?, I think they need to ponder over it for longer. For the women though it was a completely new experience to be seen in that light.
Making space for more opportunities In collaboration with District Institute of Education and Training, we presented the project to 40 principals from various schools across the district. The invitees were a mixed bunch of participants from both government and private institutions including some members and students from DIET, Alwar. The objective was to collectively view the project and get responses on the feasibility of the project in long run. It was a good space to gauge how many people are interested and what things need to be altered before proposing it to other schools in future. - Preparing for the conference Before the presentation the invitees walked through an exhibit of whatever the students had produced in various workshops as well as a photo documentation of the all the workshops. This was followed by an audio-visual presentation of the project. The presentation uses very basic info graphics and language to talk about the project. What was important was, that each activity explained needed to clearly state its objective and the learning outcome for the students.
I used this space to touch upon larger concepts like co-creation, interdisciplinary practice, creating reflective spaces, building curiosity etc. - Post presentation discussion The project became a trigger for a discussion about larger questions like giving a platform to students beyond the school, private schools have different agendas where the parents need to be taken into the loop. We touched upon aiming to develop a collective or a club where students from different schools who are associated with the project can come together and perform. Since the conference was hosted by DIET, we also discussed how a government organization like this can be helpful in implementing a project like this. Mr. K.L Dhawaria , once of the most active members from the institution says that projects like this can become a part of the activities that are planned by the institution in government schools. He also believes that teachers who come to the teacher-training program in DIET can get involved in the project. 103
The project culminated in a public event where all the participating students presented some of what they had produced in the workshops with the artists. The event was most importantly a platform being given to the students and well as the folk artists to showcase the process and the outcome of the project. It was also a way to involve the parents of the participating students. It helped build confidence in both the artists and the students. The event was designed in such a way that with every performance, we shared with the audience the process of the workshops and the intent behind it. 104
The event was coming together of all the agencies that were involved in the project at different points of time. The artists, the students, teachers and principals of various schools, parents of the students, government officials, the local practitioners who participated in the project, the media and my family. Though it was a process oriented project, yet it was essential that the minutest of details was paid attention to for the event. From the invitations to the venue, to the certificates given to the students, each thing had a purpose behind it.
Invitations to parents and other invitees for the final public event
The map made by artists whille understnading the layout of Soochna Kendra(govt, information centre), the venue for the public event.
Designing the presentation The stage was designed in a way so that each one of the students shares the stage with the artists through out the performance. The idea was to replicate the model that we follow in workshops where each student is at par with the artists. It follows the philosophy that the artists follow while doing the workshops – “hum sab kalakaar hain” (each one of us is an artist).
Showcasing the journey We curated a photo essay that showed the journey of the artists and the students over the three months. Seeing all that has gone into the project , together was a big motivating factor for the artists. While putting the pictures together the artists shared their experiences from different workshops. Doing all this on their own also gave them a sense of ownership of the event. This time, they were playing a different role. They werenâ€™t just the artists. They were the hosts.
Certificates given to each student who participated in the workshops and presented at the final event
1st October,2012 Arun Prabha , local daily
1st October,2012 Alwar Patrika , local daily
7th October,2012 Alwar Plus, Times Of India Supplement
From the facebook profile of a student from Alwar Public School
Letter from Mr. Swapnil, a teacher in a governemnt school in alwar, in response to the DIET conference.
The nature of the project is such that there are many possibilities of taking this project forward. Some can be achieved in Alwar itself and some need some hand holding from organizations that are already in the business.
Government Support The model can run with government support. District Institute of Education and Training, Alwar(DIET) is a government organization and runs other such projects in the schools under them.
Scaling up the project
As a result of the public event and the conference at the DIET office, few principals have approached the artists to do these workshops in their schools. The artists would like to continue doing workshops in as many schools in Alwar. This can go onto becoming an alternative business model for the artists.
Existing local organizations The project can be housed under some organization that is already working in the same community. Alwar Mewat Institute of Education and Training (AMIED) is one such organization who work in the rural pockets of Mewat region in Alwar district. Recently, they have formulated a Mewat resource centre where they house artefacts crafted by Mewati women. 118
Creating a website Since some of the artists are studying and have basic knowledge of computers, they can be trained in making their own website where they can put up their work. Ranshul Fateh, a web designer in Alwar, is interested in helping the artists make this website and train them to use it.
Building an archive
The family has started building an informal archive as a result of the project.If facilitated, this can lead to an intensive process of archiving which can be housed in their registered NGO which was established a few years ago.
Producing a film A film can be produced with all the footage that has been recorded in last few months. It can be used as a model to be built upon in different contexts.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This project wouldnâ€™t have been possible without each and every individual and organization that contributed to the project at different points of time. I would like to thank all of them for putting in the effort and having faith in the project.I would specifically like to thank my family back home, for keeping my morals high and helping me making this project a success in whichever way they could. Special thanks to my mentors and friends in Bangalore for having endless conversations and giving me the space to crib and bounce off ideas through out the process. To my review panel for having faith in me and helping me find a direction whenever I got lost. Each one has played a very important role in the project however big or small that role was. In the end I would like to thank my team of artists from Alwar, for participating in the project with so much enthusiasm and rigor.
Published on Dec 21, 2012
Five young artists embarked on a journey to re-imagine their folk art in a contemporary context. Through an intensive process of sharing the...