Neuro- Dramatic Play Workshop with Sue Jennings ~Devika

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Aagaaz has embarked on a journey towards nurturing and enhancing the development of its team members. In November, Devika attended a 3 day workshop on Neuro-Dramatic Play and brought back new ideas and plenty of insights. Here is a small reflection, that highlights her detailed observations while interacting with children during this process:

The first of our workshop was a beautiful journey of self-exploration, sensory play, and rhythmic movement. We experimented with themes and ideas and put ourselves in the shoes of the children. It was an experiential session, and it would never have been authentic enough without that element. The real learning, however, started on the second day. Discussing theoretical frameworks about pedagogy or pretend play with adults could never compensate for first-hand experiences with children.

Luckily! This training involved children. I found myself in a group of 4 adults who facilitated for 3 children. Their distinct personalities made the whole process more dynamic. Vaishnavi (6-girl), Shweta (6-girl) and Shalu(8-boy) responded to the same stimulus in very different ways. I spent about 4 hours with these children in the span of two days and managed to observe various skills and patterns in the limited time period.

My first lens for exploration was- ‘Connection with metaphors’. Sue had introduced us to a rain metaphor that was used as a narrative for all our activities. Vaishnavi and Shalu didn’t show much resistance to this idea. Vaishnavi, whose play resembled that of a younger child was more fascinated with sounds, repetition and displaying her capabilities. Shalu, with his hearing and depth perception difficulties, was quite active and enthusiastic about what we brought to the table. Shweta didn’t connect to the metaphor at all and got distracted every few minutes.

Messy Play was another revealing exercise for all of us. It led to joy, energy, imagination and social play for the children and the adults. Vaishnavi was initially quite enthusiastic about the activity. She spent a long time playing with the shaving foam and liked the possibility of connecting with others through the medium. After a while, she got quite flustered and annoyed with the substance on herself, and wanted to clean it off as soon as possible. Shweta also explored the texture of the medium, tried to extend her imagination and wanted more and more for herself. Shalu on the other hand, engaged in individual sensory play, without paying much regard to what others were doing.

I was quite fascinated by the children’s tendency to adapt to the new flock of adults around them. Initially, they all operated with apprehension and curiosity which soon transformed into openness. The first indicator was visible when the children decided to include us in the drawings they were making. All three of them were particularly friendly, yet they showed different characteristics. Shalu was accepting of the facilitators, yet he didn’t seek much attention. On the second day, however, he chose to go and hug one specific older person he felt comfortable with. Shweta liked the attention and holding our hands, yet she managed to separate herself from us when she felt like it. Vaishnavi sought a lot of physical touch and affection, and constantly indulged in hugging and kissing. This led to a lot of questions in my mind about the care at their centre. However, I was aware that I couldn’t jump to any premature conclusions about attachment behavior.

Stories became a good tool to gauge listening skills and memories. Sue had narrated a story on the first day the children arrived, and we asked them to recall details on the second day. My co-facilitators and I had noticed that Shweta was particularly restless and distracted during the storytelling. My assumptions around her lack of attention were challenged, when she managed to recall important details from the story. Shalu was also quite attentive and his body language coincided with that. Vaishnavi, didn’t show signs of having remembered much from the story. She seemed to be struggling with sitting still and paying attention. What I love the most about working with children is that they are unpredictable and more than capable of shattering perceptions.

I was curious about the extent to which children exhibit initiative taking and leadership in group activities. On the first day, I noticed that both Vaishnavi and Shalu enjoyed leading the singing and dancing exercises, while Shweta found the theme difficult to connect to. On the second day her attitude was very different and robust. She seemed way more confident and enjoyed the process of initiating aspects of the work, especially while narrating the story.

Lastly, there were a lot of unique patterns that I tried to pay attention to. Vaishnavi, was particularly restless, resisted following instructions after a certain point and went into sudden outbursts of expression- especially anger. Her patience levels were very low and told more than one facilitator that they were making her dirty during messy play. She also wanted a lot of things while doing a craft activity and showed very little inclination to share. Sue had made some very acute observation about how she was involved in games such as ‘peek-a-boo’ which were developmentally inappropriate for her age.

Shweta had a fantastic memory that remained throughout the 4 hours. Her understanding of subtlety was quite impressive. I noticed this in two instances. One of them was the story recall, where she was clearly more confident than the other two. I made simple eye-contact with her when she spoke out of turn, and she always caught it as an indicator to slow down. Her drawing also showed some very interesting details and nuances. She coloured the bird in her drawing, in two different colours to signify that some movement had taken place. She also seemed to enjoy the process of mocking others, especially adults.

Shalu was expressive in his drawings and very calm at the same time. He showed very little resistance to any activities. He wanted to do the work given to him and also liked the process of displaying and showing it off. She showed curiousity and interest in other people’s drawings, and seemed to have very little competitive tendencies.
My favourite moment in the whole workshop was when the children were asked to pull apart their craft work. I could hear my heart breaking, because they had put a lot of effort in creation and ideation. The children, being their wonderful selves were actually quite open to that process. I was awestruck by their responses and felt almost sad they would have to grow up to be adults someday.

Explorations with a new group ~ Supriya Puri

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The journey over the last couple of weeks with the girls at Pehchaan has been of wonderful revelations. Exploring different avenues of social, affective and emotional domains; has been the key in decoding how individuals perceive the world and how the human experience differs from one person to the next.
Working with various modalities within the art based spectrum facilitated a comprehensive understanding of individual processes without making overt observations embedded in interpretations. One can gather behaviour and thoughts through these means without over-reaching personal ideologies as art as a construct, supersedes conscious patterns and helps to create meaning by simply being a custodian of unconscious manifestations that are brought to fore in a very organic way.
In order to bring about change, one must gauge where, what and how, can the shift be encouraged without imposing individual ideas of where it might seem relevant. The past couple of sessions have been a container of just observing, the overt manifestations, reactions as well as creating causes and conditions which sustain and persist the current way of being, without introducing structures and activities that inhibit free expression for the girls
Facilitating, or providing scaffolding for them has been the main area of focus, so that the element of social appropriateness and good vs bad do not seep inhibit natural reactions. Whenever such an instance occurs, the girls are encouraged to question the validity of norms and standards of conformity that they have come to absorb from their social environment.
To understand their coping mechanisms as well as how they view the social construct within which the operate, along with cognitive, affect, emotional and physical parameters an art based tool, called 6 piece story making was conducted individually as well as in pairs. This session gave wonderful insights about their inner dialogue and inter vs intrapsychic conflicts.
This gave us a fair understanding of what the focus of the next sessions would be, in terms of affirming and establishing immediate goals. As the follow up of the story making session, a container for object relations and improvisation was conducted which focused on using different day to day objects, for instance, a mirror, a pen or a scarf and establishing different meanings to the ones with which they are associated, originally. This  proved to be of immense assessment value as it re-affirmed the line of thought that improvisation and affective expression would be limited and it was observed that very few of them were able to use their imaginative capacity to the fullest potential. The reasons for the same are multi-layered but fall within our current understanding of all these young individuals.
Moving ahead, working with rhythms, body, movement and encouraging exploratory play would remain the guiding principles towards actively bringing about awareness of the self and the other and eventually hoping to create an ease of dialogue about concepts under the broader purview of gender and sexuality. This will be a long journey indeed, but one which both Devika and I are looking forward to undertake.

Unlearning Uncentred Restructured By Vardhna Puri

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The Unlearning Uncentred sessions have been happening as you all know for the past 9 months. It is quite a sight to see children involved in playing games, which have been designed for them from a learning objective. These months have been interesting and have given us so many ideas to move forward. Let’s call that Unlearning Uncentred- Chapter 2. We now have onboard Noopur, who works in the area of education. With this we plan to structure our program and reach out to children in our capacity. The sessions will continue on a regular basis but with tweaking, in terms of learning goals they address.

What the sessions till now have done for us is to create visibility in the community and generate a buzz that we engage with children. This month started with a field visit where the parents of the children were individually visited. A lot of the children who come to us have dropped out of school and those who are still enrolled in the formal system, are not making too much out of it.

The next step is to individually assess children on what point are they in their learning journey and how can we make it more attuned to their lives. We plan to use themes such as- ‘understanding self’ and want to gain insight into the community as a way to generate interest in learning. So one of the activities this time around was for children to talk about the places that they like or dislike; feel happy or scared in. This gave us not only a glimpse into their relationship with their community but also ideas for further engagement.

For now, we plan to create a deeper relationship with both the children and the community at large.

Khirki Music Ensemble- Journey so far.. By Anirban Ghosh

What started as an experiment in Khirki (Somehow Khoj had trust in us that we will be able to create interesting programmes with this community) today has resulted in 3 full-fledged programmes for us at Aagaaz (Unlearning Uncentered, किस्से Connection and Khirki Music Ensemble). Khirki music ensemble emerged from the need to create and engage the hidden musicians from Khirki, and give them a platform to express and collaborate with other like-minded individuals from within the community.

The first audition call was a disaster – we actually waited (somewhat like the two photographers from Jane Bhi do Yaaron – Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani who are waiting for people to turn up for the opening of their photo studio) till 4 pm but nobody showed up. We knew we had to do this and it would somehow work out, so we started finding ways to get people to join this ensemble. That’s when we bumped into Swati’s ‘Recharge ki dukaan’ where she was also running a makeshift recording studio. I started spending time and jamming with the musicians who come to record there and found some amazing rappers (Anubhav and Ravi) and a young Bollywood singer (Kumud).  Zubin (from Khoj) connected me to these two Congolese musicians (Romeo – guitar/vocals and Zoom – Bass man / vocals) who blew me with their renditions of some really hip Congolese songs. I started jamming with this group and this began the journey of creating KME with this motley crew of young musicians from Khirki.

The ensemble right now is just 5 rehearsals old, but we do believe that we will be able to put together solid performances given the enthusiasm and will of each individual. We are hoping that more people will join this ensemble in some course time, but till then, we will keep doing what we do the best – create music that crosses borders/languages/cultures and brings people together in Khirki.

Theatre with ‘The Community Library Project’, Panchsheel Vihar By Priiya

 

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There is a deep sense of kinship to be working again with a group of participants who have already been led into a theatrical journey of sharing ideas and experiences, and it provides for a pleasant challenge. These workshops become a continuation of an educational exercise through theatre and play an important part in the evolution of thought itself.  The group of kids from The Community Library Project at Deepalaya at Panchsheel Vihar are in gears for the second series of workshops with us and that has us moving.

Following the first performances that culled out of Duniya Sabki in a workshop format, the second series revolves around stories, storytelling and the storytellers. The stories that we are working on are the ones that have been read by this group of 12 avid readers over the last few months, stories that they carried beyond the books . Through a range of narrative and improv exercises, we are experimenting with the numerous ways in which these stories could possibly be told. Their choice of stories they want to tell is in itself a fascinating reflection of what appeals to these children as unique individuals.

As with most workshops, as much as planning ahead of time is essential, many thoughtful developments happen during or after the planned activities, and the dynamics of set exercises are prone to modification on a daily basis. After the initial step of sharing stories in our workshops, we are now gradually shifting our focus towards the act of narration of the stories, using various techniques involving images, machines, non-linear narratives and humanization of objects around us. In the recent workshops, most of the brainstorming sessions have been whirling towards an attempt of bringing to surface the impact of invisible characters in each child’s story. This exercise is an effective way of understanding the varied perspectives that can alter the narrative direction of the story being told. This has set in motion the process of not only thinking but also acting from various point of view. Interestingly, one of the children has chosen the guitar in her story to be the storyteller and another one is trying to make a box of paint talk, oh! it’s going to be fun.

किस्से Connection at Jashn-E-Aman By Shreya Jani

 

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On 2nd October, 2017 STEP Trust collaborated with Aagaaz and organized किस्से Connection in Lodhi Garden, as a culmination of our 12 day Peace Festival Jashn-e-Aman.

The topic of the event was ‘Bridge the Gap’, which focused on stories of navigating identities to understand issues of class, caste, gender, region, religion, and aspiration. The preparation for this event started a week before- on 25th of September when Nishant Paul held a short orientation workshop with our human books, at the Aagaaz office in Nizamuddin. We played a game called ‘Zombie’ and laughed a lot before we started to discover each others’ stories. The Aagaaz team and STEP team spent the next few days on the creation of registration forms with the audio recordings and eventually reached out to readers.

There were 10 books in total and around 25 readers who gathered on a beautiful Monday evening at Lodhi Gardens, over some tea and cake. The event started with some warm activities, followed by one-on-one book readings and a debriefing session. This intimate experience brought people from many walks of lives, together and gave them a glimpse into each others’ narratives.

Here is a reflection by one of the readers Paramjeet Bernad an entrepreneur who runs women’s vocational training centre in Uttam Nagar:
“As one of the readers, I found this concept to be an interesting and connecting experience. I discovered that everyone’s life stories are similar and every journey resonates with mine. I find such interpersonal reading has capacity to bring people together to understand the value of human life. It also brings about a sense of interconnectedness which might be helpful to bridging the gap between two communities or two people.”

Rajat was one of the human books and this what he had to say about his experience:
“As a person who loves to read, the word library is no less than an aphrodisiac. So when Shreya told me about this human library project I immediately registered for it. The theme- ‘Bridging the gap’, difficult but also interesting. It made me and my fellow books think of an incident in our lives where we overcame bias/prejudice/ignorance or any other experiences along these lines. For me it was ignorance, a life event which had recently opened my eyes to a greater reality of gender equality and one’s chosen identity. Putting my memory and lessons learned onto paper and then recording it was a unique experience. I was really excited to be borrowed. My title “She is not the man” was well received. I was happy to answer the borrowers’ questions and some of their questions gave me a fresh perspectives into things. I received healthy feedback and priceless comments. The session also got the books to interact with each other which is unique to library of human books. The whole process of human library and the interactions turned out to be an exhilarating experience for me. Thank you everyone!”

My first encounter with the Drama in Education Jams- Dikshant Sharma

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I came to know about DiE jams through a post published on Facebook.
It sounded quite interesting for it came across as a free, open space to brainstorm and explore endless possibilities.
A space to use and explore drama as an educational tool through various methods and activities, was naturally inviting.
The session turned out to be no less than expected. It was a fusion of several energisers, creative drama exercises and reflections; carried out by every individual present.
Since everyone had acquired and adopted the art in their own unique way, the possibilities to explore, and ideas generated in a single session were remarkably impressive.
To sum it up, it was an open, liberal space where one could engage with smart and like-minded individuals in order to create a methodology, thereby, applying theatre to education.
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My engagement with Aagaaz By Naveen Sharma

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Aagaaz – a ball of positivity and love, is a beautifully knitted environment by Sanyukta Saha, showering love and positivity to the world of these amazing kids and whosoever comes to this place. My association with Aagaaz wasn’t a planned one. It all started with my six-day journey to Kolkata for Raavan Aaya. I hadn’t seen the play, nor had I met the group earlier. So, directly working on the play and getting the shows done in an unknown city was a humongous responsibility. I was quite worried initially but the nervousness faded away, thanks to the wonderful group. The Kolkata leg went well and gave some great experiences.

After the Kolkata event, I wasn’t sure about my association with the group again. San wasn’t in town and four performances were around the corner. ‘Duniya Sabki’ was a part of the ‘’Not In My Name’ campaign, ‘Raavan Aaya’ had a performance in Gurgaon, and URBAN TURBAN was a part of ‘Jashn-e-Aman’ festival.

‘Duniya Sabki’ performance went well and elicited a  good response. Next, was ” ‘Raavan Aaya’ performance in Gurgaon. Since we had worked earlier on this, I expected the execution to be easier this time and did not anticipate newer challenges like – ‘Recasting’. Some of the actors weren’t available and we had limited time due to exams. We had three days, two hours each day to get things sorted. The show went well with positive feedback and some amazing food to our treat. The next show in line was ‘Urban Turban’. Since it was work in progress, nerves were different. The day was full of surprises. First, the unexpected rain and then the performance space. Nagma, Nagina and Jasmine brilliantly managed the last-minute adjustments and put up a powerful performance. It was simply beautiful to see such efficiency and talent. The conversation after the performance with the viewers added a lot to the play, surely beneficial for the team.

The major difference observed this time was in the way the kids took major responsibility and worked so efficiently. Aagaaz is a constant now and my eternal source of energy. I am sure I will visit Aagaaz more often and will reciprocate the energy that they instilled in me.

Cooperative Games with Manish Kataria By Nishant Paul

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To keep adding dimensions to our approach towards creation of the Unlearning Uncentered space in Khirki, it’s important for us to keep looking outwards at more methods of facilitation and the different spaces that already exist. We started the process last month and invited Manish, our friend and a facilitator for cooperative games, to play with us for a two-day workshop at C-5!

It became a day’s workshop eventually due to some reasons. We still had copious amounts of learning and fun in that one day! Along with the Unlearning Uncentered facilitators, the youth club members also attended the workshop. Manish has an arsenal of games which focuses on cooperation rather than competition. In the 5 games that Manish shared with us, we could see the very subtle elements of cooperation woven into them, mostly later, by reflection. We already knew some games and had played them multiple times but their different versions surprised all of us. The games stirred a different kind of energy in us.

One of Manish’s favourite games, ‘Who’s Goofy?’, has become our favourite too; it has stayed with all of us and we keep playing it at every opportunity!

We also wanted to have Manish come over to the Unlearning Uncentered space and share some cooperative games with the little children but that couldn’t happen unfortunately. We hope to be able to incorporate the elements of what we have learnt in the workshop in our own ways in the Unlearning Uncentered space

Nizamuddin के facilitators! by Devika

As we had mentioned in our last newsletter, the core group from Nizamuddin has given rise to 6 aspiring facilitators who are on a year long apprenticeship journey that will train them to lead workshops and sessions of various kinds. They are getting exposure to drama facilitation,  interacting with children learning spaces and understanding methods of conducting conversations around sexual health and body. This is an exciting time for all of us!

The kids have all grown up,
One day Sanyukta realised.
Now two of them were in college,
And our work had maximized.
We had to think of livelihoods, so
Their passions weren’t compromised.
They’d like to be facilitators!
An apprenticeship was devised.
Saddam, Ismail, Muzammil,
First the eldest were finalised.
Then Nagina’s, Jasmine’s and Shahid’s,
Energies were also utilized.
Theatre, Darpan, Unlearning Uncentred,
Were the areas categorized.
And last but not the least!
A special stipend was formalised.

Here is what some of 2 of them have to say about their experience: (translated from Hindi)

I enjoy the process of facilitation, yet sometimes when I have to experiment with something new- I feel nervous and afraid making mistakes. It’s, of course, easier to guide someone to do something that I am good at and feel confident about. I’ve also noticed that while working with the core group. I rarely feel this nervousness. This is probably because I’ve been with them for many years.”-Saddam

“When I started facilitation, I had no idea what to do. Then I tried to remember all the things
I had learnt in theatre that would be easy enough for the children to pick up. This actually helped me recall everything I had done. In addition to that, I also came to terms with my own ability and capacity to teach others how to understand and learn. I tried to think of ways to connect their lives to theatre. I wanted them to think about the episodes and incidents in their lives that could be expressed using this art form. So, I thought of activities that could help them express their inner feelings and personal stories.”- Shahid

We will come back to you with more stories and developments from their apprenticeship journeys!