- 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.