Ekta Mittal

Project 560

Grant Period: One year

Ekta Mittal is the co-founder of Maraa, a media and arts collective in Bangalore. She works as a researcher, filmmaker, facilitator and curator in the field of community media, gender and migration. She was a recipient of the Archival and Museum Fellowship from IFA to research at the Indian Labour Archives (ILA) in 2011-2012. Following her research she made a film titled Down the Rabbit Hole that explores the landscape of the ILA in an attempt to converse with materiality in all its textures, patterns and forms. Her work through Maraa cuts across class, caste and gender. Maraa has been facilitating and building capacities for people’s media including community radio, in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. They work with adolescents and women in rural India to prevent sexual violence and discrimination. They also produce short films on caste-based occupations like manual scavenging, bonded labour as well as survivors of rape. They help non-profit organisations develop media strategies and conduct gender and sexuality training workshops with them.

Bangalore has achieved a mythical status in the story of India post liberalisation in terms of urban growth. A study conducted by TV Ramachandra and Bharath H Aithal from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science in 2016 suggests that the city's built-up area has increased by 632% since 1973. While there are other issues and factors associated with this growth, there is clear indication that it requires huge amounts of labour to build and run this behemoth. Bangalore has also been at the forefront of employment, so large numbers of people from across the country have migrated to the city. However, in the neo-liberal economy stories of labour always remain concealed or ignored. In case of Bangalore, it gets doubly suppressed under the tensions of the local-immigrant binary. As part of IFA’s Project 560, Maraa aims to create a year-long series of curated artistic and cultural engagements in Bangalore titled BEVARU/SWEAT: Labour Records. The project aims ‘to curate a set of activities in a concerted attempt to recalibrate the aesthetics of politics in Bangalore – to make the subterranean and invisible labour visible again.’

Over the 12 months Ekta wants to work with atleast two workers groups in the city, and more if possible. She has already been in negotiation with the migrant workers engaged in building the Metro, the powrakarmikas and safai karmacharis, and the garment workers. The activities planned are broadly divided in five broad categories:

  • Bevaru Talks: A series of conversations with leaders of workers, who can speak of their own experience, provide a larger picture of the community and their relationship with others in the city
  • Bevaru Talkies: A series of screenings of international and regional documentary and fictional films in different locations like labour colonies, community halls and the Venkatappa Art Gallery for the general public to understand the scale, similarities and differences of labour, labour movements and labour history
  • Bevaru Walks: A set of devised walks where the worker is at the centre of the narrative and the participants encounter histories based on real life events and discover new ways of experiencing the city through their lens
  • Bevaru Concerts: A series of concerts with less popular and young worker poets and musicians who have subverted, provoked and engaged in struggles of labour, gender and caste, in creative ways to provoke a dynamic and diverse discourse on labour
  • Bevaru Zine/newsletter: Two editions of a multi-lingual zine dedicated to stories, poetry, ideas, and debates of workers where they will write and be part of the editorial board. Students will also be encouraged to interact with workers to  produce work reflecting on their interactions

Ekta with help from Maraa will also conduct other activities like football matches, poster and pamphlets exhibitions etc. The works produced under this project will be documented and published on the Bevaru Social Media Pages (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and will be published under the Creative Commons License on a simple website for Bevaru. All the activities will be hosted in public spaces – parks, labour colonies, markets, bus stops, and public spaces like Samsa open air auditorium and Venkatappa Art Gallery.

Keeping with the broad aim of Project 560 to explore multiple stories of Bangalore through artistic interactions, this project focuses on the stories of labour that remains invisible and silenced in the narrative of urban development. It has been IFA’s attempt to make the marginalised voices of labour come alive through its grants across research and practice. Our earlier grants to Bhagwati Prasad who worked on the stories of labour and their tools in the Delhi/ NCR region, and Sunil Shanbag who worked on the histories of mill workers in Mumbai are testimony to our commitment.

Ekta and Maraa have been working with various workers’ communities for a decade now and are widely respected for their work. She is aware of the struggles of organising these activities and the difficulties she might face to make the invisible visible. She is passionate about their work and more than prepared to take the challenge. The Grantee's deliverables to IFA with the final report will be audio clips, video documentation, photographs, exhibition design, copies of the zines, and publicity materials produced for the engagements. The activities are well planned and the budget is realistic.