Unlearning Uncentred Restructured By Vardhna Puri

img_20171015_170305_hdr-1

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

 

7e310a95-428a-49ae-83ba-467c7efdff54

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.

Cooperative Games with Manish Kataria By Nishant Paul

21728074_1785290711500595_2167642503106794782_n

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

Youth Club! A new group in the making By Sanyukta Saha

Each week a group of young people gather at C5 for a couple of hours of drama and play. The sessions are being facilitated by me and the six core group members who are now a part of the facilitator apprenticeship programme. The youth club began on the 13th of August with ten young people from Nizamuddin basti, Kale Khan, and Sundar Nursery.

We are happiest about four of our erstwhile Aagaaz members coming back to us. They had to leave because of their family’s objection to them doing theatre – it took them two years, but they fought the battle and are back! The rest in the group are friends of the Aagaaz core group members who have been hearing about their friends’ experiences and wanting to be a part of Aagaaz. Nishant and Devika are also bona fide members of this club.

We had plans of beginning youth clubs in different parts of the city led by the Aagaaz core group members, to create spaces for thought and dialogue through drama. The space created itself in Nizamuddin, as adolescents kept walking in to ask if they can join. We want to take this group on a journey similar to that of the core group’s, and they will be the ones leading the process, closing the first of hopefully many loops.

Six of the core group members led the second session of the youth club, facilitating various exercises that led to improvisation. We have also begun exploring the inner dialogues of the new members through image theatre. Although the core of the youth club’s engagement will remain drama, they too will engage in conversations around their bodies and relationships through Darpan.

The new members, when asked about their expectations from the youth club,  said they wanted to meet more often and for longer, and create plays together. We are hoping to begin working on a play with this group by the end of this year. The core group will be leading this production.

Reflections from the mentors’ workshop on Viewpoints by Gunjan Gupta

img_20170729_115547

Viewpoints is a philosophy translated into a technique for
Training performers
Building ensemble
Creating movement for the stage

Viewpoints is a set of names given to certain principles of movement through time and space; these names constitute a language for talking about what happens onstage.

It is points of awareness that a performer or creator makes use of while working.

There are Viewpoints of Time and Space. Time related viewpoints are:
Tempo
Duration
Kinesthetic Response
Repetition

Space related Viewpoints are :
Shape
Gesture
Architecture
Spatial Relationship
Topography

It had been brought up in the previous meetings that Aagaaz mentors need to be better acquainted with each other. There was a need for a time and space where they can indulge in some activities to work together and improve group dynamics. Aagaaz mentorship program is also looking at distributed leadership. This workshop was aimed at increasing awareness of self and leadership. The possibility of a group working in a way so that an apparent leader is not followed, was explored.

This session was attended by : Devika, Priyam, Nishant, Kanika and Gunjan

We started with walking in the room, remembering five things:
Soft focus
Relaxed arms and shoulders
Golden band over head pulling upwards
Strong feet
Open heart

Then, we did Sun Salutations. The most important to keep in mind was to do it as a group where no one is leading. We did another activity where we were supposed to walk in a circle and doing actions together as a group. Like, turning together. This group was really in sync with each other and we were not focusing on the task but on being able to sense the group. As a result, we did not complete the task, which was beautiful. Later, we talked about various viewpoints, everybody was curious about Topography so, we did an activity based on thinking about two people whose depiction we could show with the movement of our feet. Everybody shared what their pieces were about. We concluded with an activity where one person goes out and  rest of the group is led by someone who does an action repetitively. When the person outside comes in he or she has to guess who the leader is.
Everyone discussed their observations. To conclude, we discussed Aagaaz program. Lack of attendance was discussed and how it can be observed. We felt a need for mentors and mentees to meet at the same time. May be a picnic, a potluck or decorating the space together can be planned in the month of August.

Duniya Sabki- A module in progress.. by Devika and Nishant

‘Duniya Sabki’ was initially a much loved poem by Safdar Hashmi. Soon, it became Aagaaz’s most celebrated play that managed to effortlessly showcase the talents of the young theatre artists from Nizamuddin.
Currently, it has transformed into a workshop module that is giving so many adolescents and pre-adolescents a platform to tell their stories. Devika and Nishant have been a part of ‘Team Aagaaz’ for a while now and have been observers in the workshops. We would like to share snippets of their conversation about this emerging module and the value it holds.

Devika: Hi Nishant! So, we’ve been observing Duniya Sabki workshops and it’s now developing into a module that Aagaaz wants to take to spaces. It’s become an opportunity for our core group to collaborate with other people and it’s also allowing us to ask questions of the world.
Why do you even think we are doing this in the first place?

Nishant: I think we’re doing this because there is a need for us to raise these questions of how the world is not equal or why is there so must injustice around. The primary objective has been to just question these things and raise a certain kind of awareness.
This is really not about giving solutions to anyone but creating awareness that is coming from the participants themselves. It is not theoretical in nature.
Why? Is because these spaces barely exist in our current world. There are no spaces for people to discover or even confront the discrimination they face or subject others to.

Devika: Also, discrimination is stereotyped in certain ways. We see discrimination with just one face of either ‘gender discrimination’ or ‘caste discrimination’. Especially children, including the ones we have worked with, they belong to both elite spaces and non-elite spaces. They are all being fed the same narratives due to availability of media and popular culture. So, it is important for them to look at discrimination, injustice and consider perspectives that emerge from their own points of view.

Nishant: Yes! From a localized point of view.

Devika: Also, for them to understand that this is something that in not only abstract but also existent in the personal realm.

Nishant: And that is what makes a difference. Having an interactive workshop rather than a lecture about discrimination, is way better tool to use.

Devika: As a theatre workshop, what do you think this has really helped with or likely to help with even in the future?

Nishant: Sanyukta keeps saying this one thing that I really find fascinating. If you limit people through some kind of style, like theatre- In that limitation they have to find ways of expressing whatever they feel. I think that further enhances their experience also. Additionally, there is creation of a space within a space where you can express it verbally as well. So, forms matter and people are generally used to listening to things that are communicated in words but not expressed through bodies.

Devika: Also, I think theatre as a medium opens up an opportunity to understand ability and inability, especially of the body. To be able to see and analyse yourself in a different way and to use performance and projection of voice as tools to actually evaluate your own comfort zones. And I think that itself is an agent in opening up ideas, stories and personal anecdotes that lend themselves quite beautifully to this workshop.

When we look at the techniques that we have used, the general culture of the workshop, what are some of the elements you feel we can take forward?

Nishant: There is one fundamental thing we take for granted- the lack of hierarchies. It is a very open space where everyone also gets the feeling of- Ok! There is a instructing facilitator but there is also an internal facilitator in each of us. I think that is very important. Keeping the space equal often helps people to express what they are thinking.

Devika: Bringing children into a space as facilitators and enabling them to work with people their own age, breaks their perception about who a learner is..who a teacher is..It opens up the opportunity to actually accept that we are learning all the time from each and every person.

Nishant: The space that get opened up in the process helps us raise questions about- who is in control? Who is the perpetrator?

Devika: Also, I think coming more to theme of this whole thing, which is of course- Duniya Sabki based on Safdar Hashmi’s poem. The whole concept of understanding power, equality, inequality and discrimination helps explore newer perspectives. The culture of the workshop itself opens up this question- Is the world really everyone’s? Kya duniya sabki hai? So, how do you think that potential to instigate the thinking process around this idea.

Nishant: Listening to poem carefully and observing the dynamics between Akbar and Birbal can lead to a lot of realisations. People may start experiencing resonance with the characters and it may be an interesting method of introspection.

Devika: I think also to realise that as a performer I can tell my story, that itself is empowering. To know that this is not a ‘picture perfect’ representation but a platform to tell ‘my story’ which might also be ‘our story’.

Where do you think this can go? What do you think we can do with this module now?

Nishant: I think it can definitely be taken to schools that are open to let us come in and facilitate. Also, organisations that want us to work with them. At the moment, we are primarily working with children and adolescents but there is potential to work with college students or even older adults, I feel.
I think it will evolve and go in all sorts of directions. It’s also a great opportunity for the children from our core group who are training to be facilitators.

Core Group Members Talk…

19225044_1387538484676407_4359001106063017544_n


SHAHID:

मैं आगाज़ के बाकी बच्चो के साथ जून के महीने में DPS, श्रीनगर में एक Theatre Workshop co-facilitate करने गया था | मैंने वहा पर बहुत सारी बातें सीखी पर सबसे अच्छे से सिखा और समझा  के लोगो की सोच उनकी शक्ति होती है मैंने यह भी जाना के मै अपनी आज़ादी को अच्छे तरह से इस्तेमाल नहीं करता हूँ | अपने उम्र के और छोटे बच्चो के साथ काम करके और Facilitation करके मैंने यह नया सिखा की हर तरह की सोच को साथ लेकर चलना आसान नहीं होता है | पाँच-छ दिन साथ में Theatre करने के बाद वहाँ के बच्चों ने मुझे कुछ ख़ास बातें बताई जो मेरे दिल को छू गयी |

ZAINAB:
हम जून महीने के अंत में कोलकाता में हमारे नाटक ‘रावण आया’ के shows करने गए थे | मेरा role वानरों के तीसरे leader का था | कोलकाता में हमने चार shows किये थे | मुझे बहुत अच्छा लगा, उसका एक reason है | मेरी acting काफी improve हुई उधर, नवीन sir ने काफी मदद करी | मैं अपनी acting के बारे में छोटी छोटी बातों का ध्यान रखने लग गयी थी | ऐसा पहली बार हुआ के बार ईद हम सब ने घर से बाहर मनाई | वैसे तो हम सब आगाज़ के  दोस्त ज्यादातर साथ में ही ईद मनाते थे निजामुद्दीन में पर कोलकाता में भी अच्छी बीती, बिलकुल अलग experience था |
‘रावण आया’ अब हमारे group का हिस्सा है और किसी भी चीज़ की जितनी भी बार करते है हर बार नयी-नयी चीज़ें सामने आती है और हमने उसके चलते improvement आता है | मुझे life में हमेशा theatre करना है और ‘रावण आया’ अब उसका part hai तो वो भी आगे करते रहना चाहती हूँ |

Kya Duniya Sabki Hai- Drama and performance in DPS Srinagar- By Sanyukta Saha

19060160_1384087835021472_2764348075946475604_n

What became a gorgeous workshop and performance in Srinagar in the 2nd and 3rd week of June, began with a chance meeting with Sunanda Dhar while Anirban and Sanyukta were traveling through Rajasthan in December 2016. Sunanda and her family have been working tirelessly into creating a space full of music, drama, visual arts, and stories for the DPS Srinagar community. She has been single handedly creating the Special Education Department in the school.  A few more meetings in Delhi and we knew we were traveling to the valley for a couple of week with many of the young Aagaaz members for a Duniya Sabki workshop.

When Sanyukta started working with the group it was difficult to get the children to come in for workshops regularly. From there to now traveling together as a group for most of Ramzaan and Eid (for shows in Kolkata) in the month of Ramzaan was a big ask!  It was heartwarming to feel the trust we have developed with the families of the core group.  There were many tears shed as we embarked on our journey. For the families it was a leap of faith to send their children to Srinagar (at a time when the media is rife with unfavourable news from the valley) for so many days. We were in a train, together, for the first time. It was also the first time ever that Zainab had boarded a train. Made me think about the many things we take for granted in terms of children’s experiences – there have been so many references to train journeys made in the last few years, without having realised that some have never actually experienced one.

After Udhampur what followed of course was new to most of the group. We were traveling through an absolutely unknown terrain to our destination, and I have to day that I am in shock at the negligible number of episodes of altitude sickness (yes, I am using a euphemism here). It is also surprising (yes, after all these years I am still surprised at the magic of drama – each time!) how easily the first day of the workshop created an absolutely equal space between the participants from DPS and the Aagaaz members. The workshop was facilitated in two batches by Sanyukta and Priiya and 6 of the Aagaaz members were co-leading with each group. Nishant and Devika were to observe the workshops, and Anirban spent the first 3 days of the workshop with us to help with sound design.

After traveling for more than 24 hours we reached Srinagar amidst rain and and cold winds on the evening of the 8th. Even as we settled into our dormitories and rooms and sipped on chai, we were informed that the next day (also the first day of our workshop), a bandh had been declared in Kashmir. We were unsure about the number of participants attending, and planned with a lot of space to be spontaneous.

The next morning, as is always, there was much awkwardness in the space before we began the workshop. We had decided to do away with formal introductions and just played. By the time we wrapped up the session and sat down to reflect, we realised that the space had automatically transformed into one of play, genuine curiosity and friendships. The next few days were spent working on voice, body and exploring the theme of Duniya Sabki. Friendships deepened as the participants and facilitators exchanged stories through images of feeling disconnected from the world they live in. We were surprised at how little we expected themes like bullying, falling in love, trouble with parents, feeling unheard, and struggles with academics to feature during the workshops.

On the second last day, we performed 2 shows for students and a show for parents in a span of two and a half hours. From Safdar’s words about the world either belonging to everyone, or not belonging to anyone, we moved into narratives about transgenders, bodies that are differently abled, falling and failing in love, depression and suicide, bullying, nepotism, and the relationship between gender, state and the military. To riveted audiences children from Nizamuddin Basti and DPS Srinagar performed with their energies absolutely in sync to tell stories to change, ACTing to change.