After an intense workshop in January, followed by an event at Studio 21 to clarify our thoughts and understand the ways in which we can move forward, we conducted the second round of workshops at the Oriental Seminary School in March. The students continued to work in three groups- jatra, printmaking and local histories. This time they used the skills in art making they had learnt at the first workshop to begin to express local stories.
Rajasee, Nilanjan and Purnaa's printmaking group learnt about different forms of graphic representation- pictograms, maps and illustrations, and created a series of visuals to depict important spaces within their school.
The jatra group, ventured out into the neighborhood and explored the narrative elements of a jatra script- titles, themes, character design, narrative structure etc. through scripts and posters collected from jatra producers in the locality. They then developed their own jatra stories and visualized posters for the same.
Avijna, Manas and Rajdip extended the idea of documenting local naratives to include mapping as an important part of the process. Using Google Maps, as well as by conducting strolls and drawing sessions in the neighborhood, the students documented important cultural spaces.
In the next phase of our project we will start venturing out to develop small interventions or events with the students at public spaces. We will work over the next month to develop an active engagement with local community members who will now join us as key collaborators as we step beyond the boundaries of the school.
After much brainstorming we came up with a name for our project. We desperately needed something that would quickly communicate the nature of our project to the community participants. It needed to imply participation, exploration and action and could not be as boring as our previous name- Chitpur Heritage Action Group! Here is the logo...
The faces are from old woodcuts of jatra artists, and the architecture detail is from the Oriental Seminary School, our main community partner. We also tried to capture the spirit of the 'rowak' which is a typical feature of North Kolkata's architecture, where people gather in the evenings on the front porch of the houses. It's a lot for one logo.. but we hope everyone at Chitpur finds something they can relate to in it!
On March 1, our artists, Hamdasti mentors Sharan Lal and Paula Sengupta and other guests got together at Studio 21 for the first Chitpur Revisited presentation. Sharan kicked off the discussion with a presentation on urban typologies starting with Palmanova, Italy in 1570 and ending with Brasilia, Brazil. He compared these highly articulated, planned typologies with the organic formation of Chitpur and compared how they affect the communities that live in these diverse urban spaces.
Sharan's talk, helped us contextualize our interventions at various heritage sites within the larger social and spatial relationships on Chitpur Road. It helped us to think about how our designs could augment the positive social functions of public spaces on Chitpur and perhaps even counter the negatives of Chitpur's unregulated organic growth.
The artists then presented their work in progress and we divided up our audience into feedback groups, with each group giving feedback to one project. Some of the key points that emerged was the need to involve girls from the area, the relevance of integrating technology and social media into our community based approaches and the need to find alternative stories of Chitpur by going beyond the street front into residential spaces.
Ananda Bazar Pratika, the leading news channel in the State, came for the event and did a wonderful little piece on our project that evening.
We are a Kolkata based non-profit dedicated to promoting civic engagement through participatory art projects.