Programme Archives (3)
- Civil society and youth outreach
Peace-building & conflict transformation
In April, in continuation of the Keeping the Peace lecture-series begun in the previous year, we organized a lecture by Sumona DasGupta, political scientist and conflict transformation practitioner, at the MIT School of Governance, on the complexity of contemporary conflicts and the response to them. Roughly 40 students attended. Also in April, Teesta Setalvad, human rights campaigner, delivered a talk entitled Us and Them: Tracing the contours of the historical divide, demonstrating how public opinion is manipulated and communalism manufactured. She also outlined efforts in peace education. Audience: 130, mostly young adults and students.
In May, cultural activist Shabnam Virmani performed and spoke to around 100 people on Identity and her own search for the interstices between sacred and secular, modern and traditional, left and right, male and female. Dileep Padgaonkar, noted journalist and member of the group of interlocutors appointed by the state in J&K, spoke about the gaps in peace-building efforts in Kashmir and outlined the ways to a lasting peace. Audience: 100.
A Doctor to Defend: The Binayak Sen Story, Minnie Vaid’s new documentary, was screened at the Symbiosis Law College auditorium for an audience of about 80 students, activists, mediapersons and interested citizens. The screening was followed by an interaction with the director and members of the Binayak Sen support group.
In March 2012, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Gujarat riots, we organized a public lecture by noted sociologist Dipankar Gupta titled Justice Before Reconciliation. More than 120 people attended the lecture, mainly youth.
Freedom of expression/censorship
Private View, a week-long exclusive exhibition of original artworks by the legendary late cartoonist Abu Abraham, was held on the occasion of Independence Day. Open Space partnered with Either/Or, an alternative arts and crafts store, which housed the exhibition. The cartoons were on the themes of Free Speech, Censorship, Emergency and Corruption, all very relevant today. 300 visitors.
CCDS supported a panel discussion titled What Stops Us from Saying What We Want to Say at the Lekhana Literary Festival, Bangalore. Panelists were: Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Sushma Veerappa, Ashutosh Potdar and Kiran Subbiah. The event was held at the National Gallery of Modern Art.
Gender & sexuality
The Q Fest was held for the second year running in December, bringing together a weekend of film screenings, music, performance, stalls and products of LGBT businesses. An interesting discussion was held with lawyer Alok Gupta, co-editor of the new book Law Like Love—A Queer Perspective on Law on demystifying issues surrounding Article 377. Humsafar Trust Mumbai presented a reading of the seminal play on queer issues Ek Madhavbaug. 500 people participated in the Q Fest.
Right through the year OS has provided a safe space for LGBT support groups and meetings, many of which have emerged out of OS’s activities with the queer community over the last two years. QUEST Prayatna and Queer Campus, for example, hold their monthly meetings here.
Dr Raj Rao, playwright, gay rights spokesperson and professor at the University of Pune did a dramatized play reading of his two plays: The Wisest Fool On Earth & Vanaprastha Ashram at Open Space for a student audience in April.
A screening of I Am by Sonali Gulati on July 31 was attended by 70 people, most of whom took part in the discussion later on questions of identity, sexuality and coming out.
Shilpa Phadke and Sameera Khan, of TISS, authors of the recent book Why Loiter? Women and Space in Mumbai, conducted a day-long workshop for a group of 35 students, many from the Fergusson College Sociology Club. The resourcepersons led the students through a process of map making, discussion and group activities that explored gendered understandings of space/safety/threat etc. The session was hosted by the Institute for Management Development and Research, Pune’s oldest management college.
A screening of a film on sex-selective abortion, It’s a Boy, was held for 30 students of the Department of Journalism, University of Pune.
Shadow Liberation, an interactive theatre performance about gender-based violence by students from Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, was presented at Symbiosis University, in collaboration with Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. About 200 students attended.
Sustainable & equitable development
The Anubhav Journeys, a series of 4 field trips that seek to explore social justice issues experientially, were conducted on April 2,9,17, 23. Each field trip was to a place where there was a perceived ‘problem’ and where there had been a locally evolved solution. The learning happens in the discussions that participants have prior to the visit, along the way and at the site. There were between 10-15 participants for each journey, some joining in for all 4 journeys and some for one. *Sakhar Shala near Baramati– visiting the schools set up for the children of migrant sugarcane labourers, and interaction with members of Janarth, the NGO that facilitates these schools.
* Vigyan Ashram, Pabal – understanding the appropriate technology work done with rural communities.
* Dharavi – Prof Amita Bhide at TISS provided an overview of issues linked to Dharavi, followed by visits to Dharavi and interactions with activist Raju Korde and community members.
* Trek to Bhimashankar, a sacred grove and biodiversity hotpot, where participants stayed with tribal families who have launched an eco-tourism effort.
As part of the Open Space campus outreach, a screening and discussion of Goa, Goa, Gone, a CCDS film on the devastation of Goa by mining was held at the University of Pune’s Department of Journalism for a class of 35.
Creatures of the Earth, a three-person theatre performance by anti-mining activists from Pune, was staged for interns and volunteers at OS.
Architect and activist Neera Adarkar discussed the impact of globalization on the mill areas of Mumbai. 25 students attended. As a follow-up, two young researchers from PUKAR, a Mumbai-based NGO, presented their participatory research and mapping in the changing mill area of Girangaon where they live to an audience of students from the Fergusson College Sociology Club.
Cultural expression & diversity
Women on record: Vikram Sampath presented an AV lecture on Gauhar Jaan and other women recording artistes in India, intrepid women who defied convention to perform their art in the early-1900s.30 people attended.
Arshia Sattar read from her new book on Rama and the Ramayana Lost Loves and discussed its themes with a group of about 20 book lovers.
Writing workshops: In December, writer Anil Menon conducted a writing workshop over two weekends. This was an intensive workshop for 11 writers who wanted to refine their craft. In September author Annie Zaidi conducted a one-day intensive writing seminar for a group of 18 young people, students and working professionals, using her latest book The Bad Boy’s Guide to the Good Indian Girlas a platform. The focus of the workshop was on using the ‘personal’ to write about larger issues.
Performance of Iranian music by Sasan Bazgir, who also discussed the dilemmas faced by artists in Iran today. 25 attended.
In January, filmmaker Shikha Sen presented and discussed her film Anek Ramayanaat Open Space and at the Sahyadri School, as part of the Kiski Kahani project. The film documents how a group of parents come to terms with diverse versions and understandings of the Ramayana as they work towards a school play with their children.
UK-based Vayu Naidu Theatre and Storytelling Company presented Sunte Ho!, a story-telling performance on the Ramayana, as part of the Kiski Kahani project. The performances were at two public venues and about 100 people attended on each day.
Sutradhar, a storytelling workshop with Craig Jenkins creatively addressed questions of identity and belonging, exclusion and inclusion, and stereotypes and prejudices regarding the Other. Using the motif of the rakshasa, the participants, a mix of working professionals and students, those comfortable on a stage and those who had never spoken in public, presented a small public performance on the final evening.
OS resource centre and internships
We now have more regular visitors than ever before at OS; 7-8 young students and researchers come in every day to read, work, watch and discuss films or chat over coffee. OS staff consciously takes time out to interact with them. Many of these young people volunteer with us. This year we also formally mentored 6 student interns for 4-6-week internships (1 from Women’s Study Centre, University of Pune, 3 from Symbiosis Media School, 2 American exchange students from the Global Alliance Partnership). We are now an NGO partner for the Global Alliance student exchange programme, and 3 more international students are interning with us this summer as well.
Word about OS has spread amongst senior researchers (for example, Fulbright scholars based in Pune, PhD scholars researching in Pune) and the centre is regularly used by them as a work- and meeting-space. These researchers share their research at small group discussions with graduate and undergraduate students who frequent OS. Two Afghani students also regularly use our space to study and interact. It is precisely this sort of informal but insightful exchange that Open Space regulars say they enjoy.
Three OS Fellowships were awarded in this reporting period. A 6-month fellowship was awarded to Shirin Juwaley, for discussions with young people on normative ideas of beauty and social acceptability and how these are being moulded by markets and advertising. Shirin is an acid attack survivor who has undergone over a dozen surgeries. In the course of this fellowship, many discussions were held with students at Wilson and other colleges in Mumbai and also at an upscale bar. Shirin also registered a non-profit to support victims of acid attacks and other forms of violence against women, and addressed a large gathering of corporate leaders and opinion-makers (televised on a national news channel at primetime) when she won a Mahindra Rise award. However, Shirin has left the last part of her fellowship incomplete – she was to submit 25 interviews for an OS publication on the pressures young people face in conforming to impossible ideals of beauty and acceptability.
A 12-month fellowship has been awarded to Gaurang Raval, a young social activist who has been working closely with Drishti Media Collective and other CSOs in Ahmedabad. His project is about bringing together young Hindus and Muslims in appreciating films, learning the craft of filmmaking and then helping his participants make films on communal harmony and other issues of concern to them. 28 film screenings have been held in this reporting period at various colleges and public venues, and 25 young people have been trained and now form a core group of filmmakers. Four films have been completed so far by these young filmmakers.
After a long and intensive selection process for the next batch of OS fellows that began late last year, 4 fellowships have been awarded for 2012-13 to a set of diverse and talented young people:
Hamida Khatoon from Lucknow, a young Muslim girl from a poor family who financed her own education, supported her family, successfully negotiating the tensions that confront an educated, independent Muslim woman in a poor and conservative community. Hamida wants to help other Muslim girls make the same journey. She will work with underprivileged Muslim girls from different localities, engaging them in dialogue and discussion, training them in creative writing and filmmaking, helping them produce short films on their lives, aspirations and neighbourhoods, giving them a voice, fresh perspectives, and the confidence to make their own choices.
Abhinandita Mathur, Delhi-based photojournalist, who will engage diverse groups of young people in creating, enacting and making fictionalised films on the subject of love and romance, exploring in the process issues related to gender, identity, sexuality, patriarchy, influence of media and markets, tradition vs modernity, and social divides. These films will be disseminated and discussed over the social media networks and at youth venues.
Sunil Mohan from Bangalore, a young activist who has gone through a personal political journey and come to terms with his transgressive (female to male) gender and sexuality identity. Sunil wants to expand the space for human beings to be who they want to be without being boxed into categories. He will build a video archive of stories of people with transgressive identities in four southern states and then weave these stories into a play that will be performed by actors from the community and outside it, for diverse audiences in South India, building dialogue on queer and trans identity and rights.
Vishal Rawlley, a multimedia artist from Delhi and Mumbai, who will bring students of design, fashion, architecture and IT together with young artisans and tradespersons such as electricians, mobile phone repairers and signboard painters, to explore environmental sustainability and other issues that most affect their neighbourhoods and to represent these in public art and installations. The process will encourage the anti-consumerist DIY (jugaad) approach to solving community problems and will promote innovative and radical forms of collective action, including park radio, flash mobs and streetlight interventions.
Civil society and youth outreach/capacity-building
As part of our wider focus on inclusion and identity politics, OS began a sustained process of reaching out to LGBT communities in Pune this year. OS has become a safe space for exploration and discussion of issues related to identity and sexuality, with a fortnightly Queering Saturdays forum attended by 20-40 queer people and anchored by Imran Ali Khan, a young designer and writer who works with OS. We have forged strong links through sharing of resources with The Queer Chronicle, an e-zine with a wide readership, Prayatna, Birds of a Feather (BOAF) and Samapathik Trust, LGBT support/activist groups. A two-day Q Fest was organised at a public auditorium in December, attended by roughly 400 people. Film screenings were interspersed with plays, book readings, poetry and music. A discussion on Queer Identity in the Arts was held, with Ashish Sawhney (director of Happy Hookers), Sunil Gupta (photographer and gay rights activist), Shobhna Kumar (publisher of India’s first queer publishing house Queer Ink) and Arun Mirchandani (author) discussing the emergence of a prominent and visible queer presence in mainstream cinema, writing and the arts. Other forums included Ma Faiza (musician, DJ and gay rights activist), Ram Naidu (architect), Bindumadhav Khire and Apphia Kumar (gay rights activists) discussing whether their sexual identity was their main identity.
In January a group of about 30 young people gathered at OS to paint posters for the Pride Parade taking place in Mumbai, in an atmosphere of festivity and solidarity.
The Prayatna LGBT support group which has primarily members from Marathi- and Hindi-speaking backgrounds meets at OS every 3rd Saturday of the month.
Violence against women: OS and the Pune branch of Network of Women in Media organised a panel discussion, Living Without Fear, on the issue of violence against women, in response to the many recent incidents of rape and violence. Issues discussed included VAW and the law, the role of the police and special cell for women, the role of the media, why attitudes have not changed despite decades of campaigning by women’s groups, whether moral policing and controlling the mobility and clothing of women is the answer.
Open Space, Point of View, and WAVE (Women Aloud Videoblogging for the Environment) organised the exhibition The Inner Courtyardin November, of photographs by young Muslim women who have experienced domestic violence. The photographs were exhibited at Tilting Art Gallery as well as at Open Space. Three of the young women photographers interacted with viewers on the last day.
Reading Sita: In continuation of its exploration of popular culture and its influence on societal roles, stereotypes and attitudes, OS held a day-long seminar titled ‘In Search of Sita’, with readings, recitation, screenings, lec-dems and performances. Is Sita the ‘well-behaved’ woman who allows herself to be controlled by the men in her life? How have the culturally diverse interpretations of Sita/Janaki been sidelined by conservative forces in favour of the meek TV-Ramayana version? Is Sita as an icon relevant any longer? Panelists included Dr Malashree Lal (academic) and Namita Gokhale (founder of the Jaipur Literary Festival), editors of the recent book In Search of Sita, Dr Rashna Imhasly Gandhy (Jungian psychotherapist), Aman Nath (art historian who made a presentation on Sita in Victorian art), Priya Sarukkai Chabria (poet and writer), Pratima Kirloskar (moderator) and Dr Kshama Vaidya (natya sangeet exponent who has played Sita and other classical figures on the Marathi stage). Madhureeta Anand’s film Laying Janaki to Rest was also screened. Roughly 150 people attended.
Feedback: “For me the seminar on Reading Sita worked wonderfully because it touched on several ideas of the nature of identity, and I understood it in terms of not what it has been but what it is today. Sacrifice for a modern woman doesn’t mean the abandoning of her identity but the embracing of multiple identities… The seminar seemed very comprehensive in its approach to the subject matter, and was tightly bound to the ancient texts but very aware of its modern significance.” – Reshma, 30, artist and disability/gay rights activist.
Mother: Caring our way out of the population crisis: Dr Beth Osnes screened her film Mother, which talks about the world population crisis and described her work in teaching mothers to use their voices to speak up for the world’s children.
Peace, Diversity and Pluralism
Open Space organised a series of public lectures under the title Keeping the Peace this year, to focus on arenas of conflict – cultural, ecological, human rights-related, political – and the ways in which they may be resolved.
Ashok Vajpeyi, chairman of the Lalit Kala Academy, inaugurated the series with a public lecture very close to OS’s heart: the importance of building – and defending -- open spaces for dialogue through the arts and literature, and the threats to these open spaces today.
Maja Daruwala, director of CHRI, delivered the next lecture, on the efficacy of the human rights approach to conflict transformation, at Symbiosis Vishwabhavan.
Dr Eddie Rodrigues, sociology professor at Bombay University, spoke about caste as an area of continuing conflict in India. The lecture was held at Fergusson College.
Dr Linda Hess of Stanford University spoke to a packed audience about the new course in peace education that she is developing for Stanford University. The discussion was based on actual experiences in peace-keeping of both the audience and Dr Hess and probed deeply into the psychology of violence and our responses to it.
Dr Nivedita Menon, feminist scholar and political scientist, spoke on women’s responses to conflict in the family and outside it, to an audience of management students at the Indian Institute of Planning and Management.
Dr DilipSimeon, whose personal trajectory has involved being an active Naxalite to now being a committed peace activist, tried to get students to think beyond the rhetoric of Hum sab ek hain, about the violence implicit in public life and in their personal lives.Dr Simeon delivered 3 lectures in all, at IIPM, at MIT-School of Governance and at Fergusson College.
This lecture series will continue through the year, with Dr Sumona Dasgupta and Teesta Setalvad speaking in April. All the lectures will be made available for wider access on the OS website.
-- I particularly liked Dilip Simeon's lecture, practically everything about it, it was a memorable one, we still revisit it in some of the conversations that we have...thank you for all the programmes that Open Space has conducted with us, we learnt something from each of them! --Alia Farooqui, Fergusson College
Translating Bhakti: Renowned poets Gieve Patel, Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar shared their experiences in translating ancient mystic poetry – the poems of 8th century Tamil poet Andal, and the 17th century poet Akho who lived in what is now Gujarat, and the inherent ‘modernity’ in the attitudes and thoughts of these ancient seekers.
Valmiki in the 21st century: Sanskrit scholar and translator of the Ramayana and Kathasaritsagar Arshia Sattar took a week-long workshop on the many Ramayanas that exist within the Indian consciousnessand that have been reinterpreted in recent films such as Raavan and Sita Sings the Blues. The workshop sought to release the Ramayana from the unidimensional interpretation of the text by the Hindu right-wing over the last 2 decades.
Literature Across Frontiers: To encourage intercultural dialogue amongst cultural activists and as a sequel to the publication of the multi-lingual, multicultural volume Other People this year, OS presented the work of 8 poets, Indian and foreign, who have been translating each other’s poetry. The poets performed in Punjabi, Bengali, Hindi, English, French, Scottish, German and Manipuri at the Kala Chhaya amphitheatre to an audience of 50 people. This was a partnership with Sangam House Writers Residency and Literature Across Frontiers which promotes multicultural exchanges through literature.
Kumar Gandharva Darshan: OS presented a tribute to the life and thought of Kumar Gandharva, the classical vocalist and iconoclast who epitomises syncretic traditions and pluralism in music and religion, melding folk with classical, moving with ease from Kabir to Tukaram, in a concert by Pushkar Lele, a young Hindustani classical vocalist who interspersed the recital with audio-visual presentations on Kumar Gandharva’s life and work. This programme was attended by around 500 people, packed into the aisles and standing throughout the 3-hour concert at SM Joshi Hall.
Minimising biases in the law: Rakesh Shukla, Supreme Court lawyer, took sessions at ILS Law College and Symbiosis Law College on this topic. The workshops, attended by about 80 graduate and post-graduate students and faculty, explained the various ways in which bias creeps into the justice system – through the judges’ own caste, class and communal biases; through the way laws are framed – for example, the language used may be intrinsically unfair to women; and through ‘trial by media’.
Binayak Sen judgment discussion: In December, eminent human rights lawyers Vrinda Grover and Usha Ramanathan, and historian Dr Uma Chakravarthy made a presentation on the Binayak Sen case and the recent judgment at OS. Twenty young people – advocacy interns, law students, journalists and interested citizens -- attended. The presentation and discussion ranged from the legalities of the case to the need to take action against injustice as citizens.
Unique Identity Scheme (UID): More pitfalls than privileges? This workshop was conducted for students of Symbiosis group of colleges. The speakers were Dr Usha Ramananthan, Dr Ramakumar, Associate Professor, TISS, Vickram Crishna, regional coordinator Privacy International in Asia, Anupam Saraph, then chief information officer, Pune city, Lalit Kathpalia, director of the Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research and Dr Jaswant Krishnayya, founder-director of the Systems Research Institute, a non-profit think-tank in Pune. About 45 people, mostly students of law and computer sciences, participated.
Egypt: New possibilities: Dr Dalia Wahdan, Egyptian anthropologist, spoke about the revolution in her country and its historical and socio-economic background.
Students For Free Tibet: 20 Tibetan students met at Open Space to screen films and discuss future strategies for democratic action, including how non-violent strategies could be used in citizen political protest.
Multi-city release of CCDS film on refugees: On June 20, World Refugee Day, OS organised multiple screenings worldwide of the CCDS documentary In Search of My Home by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas, which looks at the problems of refugees in India through the lives of a Burmese and Afghan family in Delhi. Screenings were held at OS, at FTII, for 45 members of the Burmese refugee community in Vikaspuri, Delhi, at Pravah, Delhi, for 16 interns, at the India International Centre, with the Deputy Commissioner from the UNHCR participating. The film was also screened twice at TISS, by the Red Door Film Club, Shillong, at the Centre for Cultural Research and Documentation at Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh, and by groups in Sweden and San Francisco, who joined the campaign to screen this film through Facebook, where the film has 826 fans. The small amounts raised through sale of the film have been given by the directors to the two families profiled in the film.
Human Rights Day: On December 10, 2010, OS coordinated a multicultural celebration at Fergusson College, with Students for a Free Tibet, Sociology Club, Fergusson College, international students from various countries and many students from the Northeastern states sharing poetry and music. The students were happy that they had been brought together through the initiative of Open Space and many of them now attend each others’ programmes.
Globalisation and development
Unequal World: The impact of globalisation: This series of interactive lectures/screenings was planned from October 8-16 to give MBA students of Pune’s oldest management college, IMDR, an exposure to the flip side of globalisation, which is completely glossed over in their syllabus. The various sessions taken were:
- Corporate responsibility: Nityanand Jayaraman, leading environmental campaigner, took this session, using the examples of Bhopal, the BP oil spill and leading Indian corporations. This heated session examined whether profit and environmental sustainability can co-exist.
- The informal sector and how it supports our economic boom: Sharmila Joshi, former Senior Assistant Editor of Hindustan Times and researcher.
- What is Ethical Trade: Seth Petchers of Shop For Change explained the concept of ethical trade and ethical consumption. He described their efforts to promote fair trade in cotton.
- Screening of Nero’s Guests, which sees the agricultural crisis through P Sainath’s eyes – discussion on how globalisation has exacerbated the farmers’ woes.
- Discussion with feminist activist Ranjana Padhi on the effect of farmers’ suicides on women in the family, especially in Punjab where her research is located.
- Screening and discussion of Backstage Boys – Punjab’s Labour Goes Global, on the conditions in which immigrants work in the globalised economy.
Social exclusion in Indian society for Mahindra United World College students: OS conducted four sessions with international students of the Mahindra United World College’s summer exposure programmes, using games and discussions to help them understand the roots of inequality and the structure of caste and class hierarchies in India.
Screening of Nero’s Guests and interaction with P Sainath: A public screening of this film on the roots of the agricultural crisis was held at Symbiosis Law School. An intense discussion with P Sainath followed. The audience of about 100 comprised mostly journalism, law and management students.
Feedback from Dr Kalyani Bondre, Faculty, IMDR
Very informative, interesting and thought-stimulating. Speakers were well qualified and spoke from first-hand experience and fieldwork. The idea of showing excerpts from documentaries interspersed with the lecture was also very good. Hope to have more such lectures in the future from Open Space.
(Un)Building Blocks/Unblocking Building: Young eco-architect Sourabh Phadke demystified the process of building by getting participants to actually construct classrooms and toilets at Aman Setu school. The workshop ran over several weeks, teaching the participants that everyone can learn to construct safe and appropriate basic structures using waste and natural materials rather than cement, burnt brick and steel. The workshop was attended by 14 people aged 16-40, of whom only one had a background in architecture. The classroom, designed by the 3rd Std students of Aman Setu, and the eco-san toilets, were successfully built.
Feedback: “It will be good to have (more) workshops that bridge theories with action. The former as far as I get it, is OS's comfort zone. This calls for further introspection at the organisational level in order to find a balance if desired in the first place. Though I do understand that every thought is an action by itself. The group was great to work with!” – Sourabh Phadke, 28, architect and Open Space resourceperson.
Tree Fest: In late-July, OS initiated the Pune Tree Fest, a weeklong celebration of nature though art, poetry, music and activism. Multiple events were held at multiple venues including ‘Tree Poetry’ at the sprawling botanical Empress Gardens, where poems were read, and a drum circle and two local bands performed in a festive atmosphere with stalls put up by Daily Dump (a composting system), Either/Or, and an organic farm. An exhibition of photographs was held at the Balgandharva Art Gallery, where David Attenborough’s The Private Life of Plants was also screened. Importantly, the Tree Fest pulled together the energies and support of different groups including CSOs, the Garden Department of the Pune Municipal Corporation, the Pune builders’ association and over 300 BCom students of Symbiosis College who signed on as volunteers.
Media and creative expression
Spoken Poetry for empowerment of youth: Sarah Kay, popular poet from New York, conducted a series of workshops in Pune at our invitation, at different colleges and at a popular cafe. Sarah is co-founder of Project Voice, an organisation that uses Spoken Word poetry to empower young people, especially those from difficult or disadvantaged backgrounds. She took two sessions with students at Symbiosis Arts College and Symbiosis Law College. We then organised a performance at the popular Mocha café, where other young poets also recited their poetry. Sarah also took a two-hour Spoken Word workshop at OS, which was attended by about 25 people.
Non-fiction writing workshop: Poet and writer Priya Sarukkai Chabria took a rigorous workshop on memoir, biography, writing for the media, reviews, etc. There were 13 participants, between the ages of 19 and 26.
Blogging workshop: Neil Sequeira, founder of BUZZ Factory, conducted an introductory session on blogging for 25 participants, ranging from college students to people in their 50s, all of whom wanted to know how to maximise the impact of their blogs, ,market them, and reach more readers.
Silence is Space: Christopher Mark Taylor, internationally renowned photographer spoke at OS on the technical and aesthetic aspects of photography.
Cinema City exhibition: In keeping with our efforts to bring innovative ways of documenting our changing cities and economies, OS brought to FTII, Pune, Madhusree Dutta’s exhibition Cinema City, comprising of installations, screenings, photos and live interactions which explored the invisible city that supports the film industry of Bombay. Screenings and a panel discussion on the ‘City and the Imagination’ were also held.
Filmmaking workshop: Filmmaker Nitin Das conducted a two-day intensive workshop on digital filmmaking for a group of 18 students and young working professionals. The workshop looked at a range of issues from the technical basics to how to market your film, online resources etc. The participants also made, viewed and critiqued a two-minute music video. Feedback:
“I write poetry on social issues, and now I plan on making super-short films, something like 'moving poetry'. This might first become a hobby and then turn into something more meaningful.” – Rajashri Gandhi, second-year student, Fergusson College.
Theatre of the Oppressed: A 3-day workshop by visiting American theatreperson Trisha Wagner introduced young people to Augusto Boal’s notion of Theatre of the Oppressed, a powerful transformative tool in dialogue-building.
Publications & Films
Other People, Edited by Arshia Sattar and DW Gibson of Sangam House Writers Residency, and jointly published by Open Space, Sangam House and InKo Centre, is a multilingual and multicultural exploration of diversity. OS collaborated in this venture because it represents dialogue amongst people, languages and cultures, because it celebrates inclusion and the universal values that bring us together across geographical, linguistic and cultural borders, and because it is open to poetry, fiction, non-fiction and drama. This anthology of contemporary writing brings together the work of writers from cultures and nations as diverse as Korea and Austria, Spain and India and in languages as dominant as English and those as nationally bound as Danish.
Q: Exploring Queer Identity, represents queer concerns and explorations of queer identity in articles, stories, interviews, photographs and art by predominantly gay writers and artists. An excellent example of dialogue across borders, this OS volume features content submitted by contributors all over the world, not just in India.
Notes from a Beautiful City: In the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, while the rest of the media focused on the magnificent infrastructure being built for the Games, and later the scams that were uncovered, CCDS focused on the invisible people – mostly poor migrant labourers -- who were building this infrastructure but who were banished from the international gaze before the Games could begin. A series of stories were filed on this, and we also made two short multimedia presentations on it (http://infochangeindia.org/Notes-from-a-beautiful-city.html).
In Search of My Home: This CCDS film focuses on India’s large refugee population and the absence of a comprehensive domestic refugee law to guarantee them basic human needs and a life of dignity. In Search of My Home is a journey with a Burmese and an Afghan family and the complexities in their everyday battle for survival. Weaving their emotional stories of hope and despair, love and loss, the film uses live-action, photography, music and text narratives to tell a story that is absent from India's collective conscience. This film was made by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas, young filmmakers from Jamia Millia. The multi-city release of this film is documented above. (http://infochangeindia.org/In-Search-of-My-Home.html)
OS Resource Centre
OS now holds close to 3,000 books on a wide variety of subjects from globalisation to gender, media, art and theatre. We hold 512 documentary films on social justice and development issues and 403 world cinema and Indian cinema classics. We subscribe to 9 newspapers and 22 magazines/journals. The Resource Centre has over 100 paid-up members (which enables readers to borrow the resources); an average of 4-5 young people use the Centre every day for reading/watching or discussions over coffee (there is no charge for inhouse use of the resource centre). The resource centre has been brightened up and reorganised this year. Free wifi access has been provided for students/researchers. Programme staff make it a point to interact intensively with young visitors while they watch, browse, read, and discuss issues of social relevance.
More than 40 programmes were conducted in Pune, many of which have been intensive training programmes that ran from 2-15 days in duration. The themes that we worked with in this year continued to be broadly -- gender, sexuality, identity, pluralism & intercultural dialogue, participatory governance and sustainable development. We continued to emphasise cultural expression as a way to stimulate dialogue and understanding of these issues amongst the middle class audiences and youth we work with. A selective listing of programmes follows:
Gender & Sexuality
1. Vagina Monologues in Marathi: Vandana Khare, former coordinator of the Pukar Youth Fellowships, presented first a reading, and later a performance of her Marathi translation of Vagina Monologues, Yonichya Maneechya Gujgoshti. Both were designed to break the silence surrounding women’s sexuality. Held in auditoriums in the heart of the old city, the programmes reached out to a wide cross-section of the Marathi-speaking middle class and were extremely well received. As a parallel activity, OS conducted 5 workshops on Breaking the Silence Around Sexuality in peri-urban areas of Mumbai between September 2009 and February 2010. 54 female (college students, homemakers and sex workers) and 20 male participants (college students and unemployed fresh graduates), mainly from Thane district, participated. Many of the participants reported that this was the first time they felt they could discuss sexuality issues in a safe space. Vandana is now collating some of the narratives into a small booklet which could be used as a workshop discussion tool with other groups.
2. ‘Good Woman, Bad Woman’, an OS publication examining the impact of popular culture on gender stereotyping, by Anuja Ghosalkar and Shai Heredia of India Foundation for the Arts was released at the Women’s Studies Centre and Sociology Department, Pune University with an illustrated lecture/discussion. The faculty are keen on OS providing more such inputs to the Cultural Studies curriculum in the coming academic year, in the form of film/literature/theatre inputs.
3. Sexuality, globalisation and Indian women: Australian PhD scholar Leigh Williamson, in association with OS, has been studying the impact of globalization on upwardly mobile Indian women. Her report will be submitted to OS in the forthcoming year and will be published as a booklet examining the sexuality and relationships of young Indian women. She also conducted a workshop for OS on self-image and the role of the media in perpetuating gender stereotypes. The workshop was for college students. Workshops of this kind, examining gender roles in popular culture and everyday life, will be part of the OS campus outreach in the coming academic year.
1. Cyber-activism: 2-day workshop on cyber-activism as a tool for generating awareness, advocacy and action through the Internet. Facilitated by Frederick Noronha, leading advocate for free software/Open Source technology and co-founder of BytesForAll. Participants included representatives of NGOs, IT professionals, media professionals and interested citizens.
2. Web technology for non-profits: 4-day workshop facilitated by designer and techie Prayas Abhinav, OS Fellow from Bangalore, on Open Source software for non-profit uses. Participants included software engineers, web designers, students of computer science, law, members from NGOs and e-learning professionals.
3. E-governance: Dr Anupam Saraph, Chief Information Officer of Pune, took an OS workshop on e-governance and online communication strategies for efficiency and transparency in governance. Participants included students, journalists and citizen activists.
4. Advanced course in Right to Information: 2-day training in collaboration with CHRI, Delhi, conducted by Venkatesh Nayak and Nawaz Kotwal. 38 participants, comprising law and media students and faculty, journalists, and citizen activists.
1. Climate Change: Open Space and Janwani jointly organised a discussion on Climate Change at the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce auditorium to share the insights of delegates to the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change. Speakers included representatives from KKPKP, a waste-collectors initiative, environmentalists and alternative energy specialists/entrepreneurs and representatives of industry. A resource booklet on climate change has also been published by OS.
OS has collaborated with several colleges in the past year including:
--In collaboration with Freedimensional.org (an international network that hosts activists in art spaces and uses cultural resources to strengthen their work) and the Sangam House Writers Residency, OS organized a one-day symposium at Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, where 10 writers from different countries and India engaged ACJ students and faculty in a dialogue on freedom of expression and censorship in their countries. The writers had been brought to India by Sangam House.
--Symbiosis Law School: Lecture on Human Rights day. We are actively working with their Human Rights Cell and hope to have a formalized agreement with them for curriculum enrichment inputs in the coming academic year.
--2-day workshop on Gender and Identity at Fergusson College, Pune.
--3-week art camps titled Bridging Cultures at the Mahindra United World College, Abhinav Art College as also with students of NID and other art schools in Ahmedabad, resulting in collaboratively painted murals. The art activity was preceded by day-long orientation sessions on diversity, pluralism and the need for sharing spaces.
--Screening of Kabir Project films at FLAME Institute of Liberal Arts, followed by a concert by folk musician Mukhtiyar Ali.
--Talks by Rajni Bakshi, author of Bazaars, Conversations and Freedom, on the effects of a market-driven economy and its implications for Indian society, for MBA students of Pune University and Fergusson College.
--Lalit Kala Kendra of the University of Pune – screening of Shabnam Virmani’s Koi Sunta Hai leading up to the Kabir Festival, exploring ideas of pluralism and social justice.
--Department of Social Work of the Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth – orientation for students in development communications.
--Art workshop on peace and panel discussion on a human rights approach to terrorism at Bharati Vidyapeeth Engineering College, Pune.
Capacity-building in creative expression
Open Space has always believed in supporting, giving space to and building capacities for creative expression. Cultural expression and the arts we believe have the potential to question attitudes and prejudices, impel reflection and effect deep and lasting social change.
1. Creative writing workshop: 5-day workshop integrating the craft and genres of creative writing with field visits, observation exercises and photography. Facilitated by Dipallé Parmar-Haworth, artist, writer and poet. Participants included freelance writers, journalists, content developers, technical writers, a Vipassana teacher, a scriptwriter and an architect. The workshop was repeated to accommodate participants who had been turned away in the first round.
2. 7-day Poetry Master Class : Facilitated by poet, writer and editor of the Talking Poetry platform on Open Space, Priya Sarukkai Chabria. Designed to deepen understanding of the techniques and art of poetry writing and reading. Participants included students of literature and law as well as IT professionals.
3. 15-day Creative Writing Master Class: Facilitated by Priya Sarukkai Chabria. Participants included professionals and students.
4. All-India creative writing contest: Following the positive response to the OS-HarperCollins poetry contest last year, this year we announced a creative writing contest on the theme of Open Spaces. Over 80 entries were received and judged by three eminent judges including Editor-in-Chief of TimeOut India Naresh Fernandes, poet and writer Jerry Pinto and Priya Sarukkai Chabria. Entries came from students of all faculties, young professionals, bloggers, theatrepersons, first-time writers and professional writers. The best of the stories exploring the concept of Open Spaces will be published on the OS site and in book form.
5.Digital Filmmaking: 10-day workshop facilitated by filmmaker and IIM alumnus Nitin Das. Participants were from a variety of backgrounds, including two 19-year-old students, three doctors, and an educational consultant.
6.Meet-the-musician: An interaction with Ma Faiza, India’s most famous electronic DJ. She shared her background as a women’s rights/gay rights activist in the UK, discussed the evolution of rave music, the need to engage with one’s community and ways in which this can be done.
7. Indian epics in theatre: A workshop facilitated by Dr Arshia Sattar, Sanskrit scholar, translator of the Ramayana and Kathasaritsagar for Penguin, writer and former programme coordinator of OS. Participants clamoured for a workshop on modern Indian theatre which will be held in June. This workshop will also examine free speech and censorship.
1. Human Rights in Frames Film Festival: Open Space hosted the 5th Tri-continental Film Festival in Pune, curated by Breakthrough. The films reflected people’s struggles, displacement of populations caused by development projects, human rights violations, repercussions of war, propaganda and war, freedom of speech and sexuality.
2. Film Appreciation Workshop: An introduction to ways of looking at cinema, conducted by four leading film scholars, Ajit Duara, Samar Nakhate, Avinash Deshpande and Anil Zankar.
3. Open Space-Shamiana Film Club: Open Space initiated a monthly collaboration with the Mumbai-based 'Shamiana' film club to screen short films from India and across the world at Open Space, Pune.
4. Cities in cinema: 2-day lectures and screenings for over 250 students of architecture from different colleges, faculty members and professional architects, in collaboration with Forum for Exchange and Excellence in Design (FEED), Pune.
5. Cinema and literature: Screenings and talk by Ajit Duara.
1.The Kabir Festival, Chalo Hamara Des! An exploration of pluralism and cultural diversity through film screenings, conversations and music concerts (November 14,15,16, 2009): In OS’s biggest Pune event for this year we collaborated with the Kabir Project at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Either Or (a popular crafts store) and Symbiosis Law School to screen Shabnam Virmani’s quartet of critically-acclaimed films on the life and work of the15th century saint-poet, and the relevance of Kabir in 21st century India riven by religion, caste and class divides. The screenings at FTII and NFAI culminated in a unique music concert at the Symbiosis University auditorium that brought together some of the finest folk-classical-sufi voices of Kabir -- Mukhtiar Ali, Mahesha Ram and Pt Vijay Sardeshmukh. Over 1,200 people attended. Events of this scale are also important in bringing hundreds of new citizens into the OS network.
2. Wari: Pilgrimage of joy: Presentation of photographs and narratives by Sandesh Bhandare and Manjiri Khandekar of the annual 21-day pilgrimage that affirms cultural diversity and the spirit of voluntarism as thousands of devotees of saint-poets Tukaram, Vithoba and Dnyaneshwar walk from one temple town to another through Pune, hosted all along the way by voluntary associations and citizens collectives.
3. History of communal tension in Gujarat: Public lecture by peace activist Rohit Prajapati. The rise of Narendra Modi has been seen as central to communalism in Gujarat in recent years, but Rohit contended that the Gujarat riots of 2002 must be seen in the context of 50 years of propaganda of the Hindutva forces.
4. Buddhism, bhakti and beyond: India's great equalitarian tradition. Public lecture by Gail Omvedt
5.A market culture beyond greed and fear: Talk by Rajni Bakshi on countless initiatives worldwide to forge a new, more equitable and sustainable market culture.
6. Home-Schooling/Unschooling. Urmila Samson shared her family’s experience of stepping out of the mainstream school system and the change this brought into their family’s way of life.
Youth training: Anubhav, Journeys in a Changing India
20 young people, mostly students, travelled with OS on four weekend trips to help them understand issues related to social justice and sustainable development in India. We travelled to Hiware Bazaar, a village transformed by a dynamic panchayat where sustainable farming practices have reversed migration; to the waste-recycling units of Dharavi where enterprise thrives, to the Sakarshalas of Baramati where the children of migrant labour on sugarcane farms study, and to the biodiversity hotspot of Bhimashankar, where students lived with tribals, understanding their deep relationship with the forests and traditional conservation techniques. Pre- and post-visit briefings and documentary film screenings helped to build context and perspective. On the strength of the positive feedback received from participants, we are planning at least two such Anubhav Programmes every year.
Open Space Fellowship Programme
In the concluding year of the Open Space fellowship programme initiated in 2007, OS fellows worked in 5 cities including Lucknow, Ranchi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. The overarching theme in all the cities has been the promotion of intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity, and facilitating a deeper understanding of human rights.
In Lucknow, Navras Jaat Aafreedi, who has a PhD on Jewish cultures in India, has been prolific in output, organising 56 programmes over 22 months. His work has focused on highlighting the consequences of racism and communalism, and the promotion of intercultural dialogue. On the 60th anniversary of the Second World War in 2009 OS-Lucknow organised a Holocaust films retrospective during which 46 film screenings/discussions were held over 14 days in collaboration with the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University and University of Lucknow. They were seen by 4,000 people, mainly students, and a trilingual brochure (English, Hindi and Urdu) was distributed among audiences. OS-Lucknow also held a screening of A Mighty Heart, about the killing of Daniel Pearl. As Pearl’s parents wrote in a special message for this programme: It is especially significant for us, and for Danny's son, Adam, to see Danny's legacy supported by people from the Muslim religion, the religion of the country where Danny's journey came to a sudden halt.We live in an era where hate propagates with Internet speeds, and one can easily get the impression that humanity is losing ground to a rising tide of savagery. Adam's generation must understand that this is a misleading metaphor; that underneath the surface we have an ocean of decency and goodwill, and that hatred and ignorance are merely islands that can be conquered. Lucknow also hosted discussions on Muslim identity through the screening of films such as New Muslim Cool and Being Osama. A series of diversity dialogues were held at Lucknow University between students of Afghanistan, USA, India, Pakistan and other nations. Several lectures were organized, including one on secularism by Prof Deepika Marya of the University of Southern Maine, Sadia Shepard, American documentary filmmaker and writer, and Prof Nadeem Hasnain, Pro Vice Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University.
In Kolkata, Debolina Dutta, a young human rights lawyer, stimulated debate amongst young people through screenings, discussions and exhibitions (in collaboration with Oxford Bookstore and Seagull). She conducted intensive trainings in issues surrounding gender, sexuality, multiculturalism, identity and conflict-resolution for 29 students from different campuses, who went on to initiate the Positive Spaces Campaign in their colleges, trying to reduce discrimination against sexual minorities, religious minorities, dalits, the disabled and other marginalised groups. These young people made a 30-minute film on attitudes towards homosexuality titled Are We Talking Straight? Made by total amateurs, the film has been screened and appreciated at all the major gay film festivals in India, and also on several college campuses in Mumbai, Kolkata and IIM-A. The Positive Spaces campaign has also led to the publication of a 44-page magazine titled Positive Spaces, a collaboration between OS and Kinaara, an online literary magazine for students.
In Ahmedabad, Raheel Dhattiwalla, a young researcher and journalist, worked to bridge social divides (especially Hindu-Muslim) among youth by what she calls the “oblique approach”. She designed workshops and programmes that brought Hindus, Muslims, upper and lower caste youth together in collective activities on themes such as RTI, theatre, filmmaking and heritage walks. These walks, for instance, took students from West Ahmedabad into the old city-- with its multicultural history, pols and mosques-- for the very first time. For the first time in their lives, they set foot inside a mosque and also willingly participated in traditional rituals at the Jama Masjid, such as touching a pillar blind-folded to be granted a wish. Some of the young students who were part of that heritage walk were “amazed to discover Ahmedabad’s spiritual and multicultural foundation”. For someone like Jignesh Vanza who believed that the religion of Muslims is “Muslimism”, Deepa Mehta, whose “family tradition is to avoid Muslims” and Heena Shah who had never visited the Muslim areas of the city or had a single Muslim friend because “they can kill us”, this exercise was significant. “It is difficult to make the participants become friends in a year, but often it was the first time in 20-25 years that they had come across members of a religious group other than their own, leading to sitting and eating together and discussing their fears about the other,” Raheel writes in her assessment of her fellowship. OS-Ahmedabad also initiated a series of interfaces between civil society leaders and citizens of Ram-Rahimnagar, a unique settlement in Ahmedabad where peace between Hindus and Muslims has been kept through the worst of communal tensions. In the run-up to the general elections of 2009, OS-Ahmedabad partnered the Jaago Re campaign to get young people to vote. They made a series of short films on public attitudes to participation in governance.
In Bangalore, poet, designer and techie Prayas Abhinav worked on creating alternative spaces, both physical and virtual, for dialogue. His project was called Porous City, and it tried to create mobile cultural spaces for dialogue and interaction. Some of the spaces used included unused land and abandoned building projects. The project began with a competition and exhibition of designs for a “mobile cultural space” for Bangalore city. The exhibition drew audiences of artists, writers, journalists and others from all over the city and became an opportunity to discuss cultural spaces and scope for intervention. In August 2009, the first mobile space was set up at a construction site in Thippasandra. The space hosted a range of projects in conversation with the neighbourhood. Mathinahalli: playing with stories was a festival of exchange and mutual gestures designed to document the neighbourhood’s stories. At Mathinahalli, visitors could eat, get quick beauty fixes, get themselves sketched, learn craft and art skills and audition for a film in exchange for sharing their stories and experiences. In September, in sessions called Rewind Replay, children were encouraged to engage with forgotten traditional board games using sticks, stones etc called Navakankari, Choka bara, Aadu huli aata etc. The entire project is chronicled at cityspinning.org.
In Ranchi, trained social worker Praveer Peter’s project was the discussion of identity issues with Sarna tribal youth from rural backgrounds who had come to the city to study further. Between rural and urban cultures, and tribal and mainstream religious cultures he found this group confused and alienated. Using a handful of films on migration, displacement of adivasis and adivasi culture, he held screenings and discussions at several schools and colleges in Ranchi. We would have liked the work to go beyond this preliminary stage but it did not.