The guidebooks created by the students are now fresh off the press!
It was a long process, scanning the pages made by the students translating and typing in Bengali, but its finally off to Mr. Dutta's binding shop on Chitpur Road for the finishing touches. In the next phase of the Action Group we hope to create many such artifacts that can be used even after the project by the participants. These products could enable participants to replicate the project or could even sold to generate revenue for local businesses.
In order to initiate the second phase of the Heritage Action Group for Chitpur Road, we are starting a three month Residency for artists, designers and architects interested in Heritage Conservation.
These cultural practitioners will work with Hamdasti over the period of the Residency to create an interdisciplinary Action Group, build community participation and collectively develop site-specific projects that create a platform for engaging with the history and heritage of the area.
To apply for the Residency email firstname.lastname@example.org with a 250 word personal statement. Deadline December 25th.
On the third day of the workshop, we continued with the work of creating guidebooks, from the perspective of the students, for their local neighborhood of Chitpur Road.
Students used a grid template worksheet to fill in information about the different aspects of Chitpur Road that they were "experts" on, for the guidebooks. Students used pictures of 18th century prints documenting life on Chitpur Road, fragments from their school newsletters and pictures from magazines to create images for the pages they made.
Finally, after finishing their collages and writing texts to describe the different aspects of life on Chitpur Road, the students left the school to go on a short field trip. We took them to N. C. Dutta & Co., located next to the Seminary, to learn about the local art of bookbinding which continues to this day.
The students were very interested in the techniques that Mr. Dutta used to bind the books. Many of the students remarked on how they were surprised by the simplicity of the process and were excited to learn that their guidebook would be bound and produced using these techniques. It was rewarding for us to see how such a simple field trip could enable the students to see the relevance of such heritage economies in their own lives.
We wrapped up the workshop by asking the students what they learned and what they enjoyed about the workshop. Some students talked by how they liked looking at the books, and others how they enjoyed learning more directly about local cultural practices. We certainly learned a lot from the students about their experience of Chitpur Road, and look forward to our next collaboration with them, during the second phase of the Heritage Action Group.
We'd like to extend our thanks to the first Action Group including teachers and students of the Oriental Seminary, Mr. Dutta and Rajasee Ray, the facilitating artist, for working with us on this community workshop!
On the second day of the workshop, we continued with the theme of culture, heritage, books, and the local neighborhood of Chitpur Road. Many of the Class VII students returned, with a few new faces, whose names our shown on the name tags below:
We began by discussing the role of books in shaping culture and the history of publishing in the Chitpur Area. We then led a discussion with the students about different kinds of books - including encyclopedias, guidebooks, travelogues, history books, and non-fiction versus fiction writing - and talked about the significance of each of these kinds of books.
Next, we discussed the idea of bookmaking. Each student was handed a worksheet to begin brainstorming ideas for the kind of information that they would choose to include in a guidebook about the Oriental Seminary (their school), as well as the surrounding neighborhood.
Finally, each student chose a different aspect of life on Chitpur Road on which they would become an expert. This included different topics such as food, schools, Rabindranath Tagore, and religion. The topics and their assignments were written on the board, as follows:
Finally, we gave them a short: homework assignment: each student was to ask a community or family member about their individual topic, to provide source material for the preparation of the Chitpur Road / Oriental Seminary guidebook.
Above: an image of the playing field, where many students play cricket, at the Oriental Seminary.
Hamdasti and the first Heritage Action Group completed our pilot workshop at the Seminary back in mid-November; however, the Hamdasti team has been traveling across India, and only now have the chance to share some of the photos and insights from our workshop. We're happy to report that the workshop was very successful, both for us and the participants.
We worked with between 15 to 20 students from Class VII, of which most students were between 11 and 15 years of age. The class was all male, and most of the students lived in the nearby neighborhood of Chitpur Road. Because the Oriental Seminary is a Bengali-medium school, we conducted all of the workshops in Bengali.
On the first day we began a discussion with the students about culture and heritage, especially in the context of Kolkata and Chitpur Road. We talked to them about what culture is, why it's important to study, and the elements of culture that comprise a neighborhood. We also discussed the particular history of Chitpur Road, its role in the Bengal Renaissance, and how different heritage economies of printing, publishing and theater shaped the culture of the neighborhood.
We also gave them a homework assignment that asked them to think about culture and heritage, both in the larger sense and within their neighborhood. Some of these questions may have been somewhat heady for the Class VII students, but we were very impressed by the students' ability to understand and discuss new concepts.
We are a Kolkata based non-profit dedicated to promoting civic engagement through participatory art projects.