Priya Sen

Archival and Museum Fellowships

Grant Period: over one year

The aim of the IFA-ARCE (Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology of the American Institute of Indian Studies, Gurgaon) Archival Fellowships is to give practitioners the opportunity to engage with and explore innovative ways of presenting the archive’s collection from a contemporary context. The ARCE, one of the most important audio archives, houses an extraordinary collection of more than 25,000 hours of recordings. ARCE was established in 1982, to return to India the audio recordings of Indian music stored in archives abroad as well as to ensure that copies of contemporary research remained in India. The IFA-ARCE fellowships will give the fellows access to the entire archive as well as to the library that has an exhaustive collection of books, journals, and newspaper clippings.

Priya Sen is a filmmaker based in Delhi. Her previous projects deal with the various aspects of migrations that include histories, stories, melodies, travel, servitude, slavery, bondage and conquest. For the past two years she has been following The Insurrections Ensemble, ‘a collection of poets and musicians from India and South Africa, who have been working on understanding the relationship between word, voice, expression and sound around shared social and political concerns between the two societies’.

For this fellowship, Priya would like to explore the music of migrations and she sees two points of entry into the archive’s collections. First, she would like to look at the music of indentured populations from East India and UP and its migrations to Mauritius, Trinidad and Fiji. The second would be the music of the Siddi community in Gujarat. Siddis are descendants of Southeast Africans, who were merchants, mercenaries and indentured servants. Priya proposes to engage with these collections in different ways. She would like to gather more material around the already existing collections in the archive through interviews, reading maps and books, and looking at found footage and other audio-visual forms. She would like to initiate interdisciplinary conversations around the material by inviting creative people and academics to a curated series of ‘listening experiences’ around the material at the archive. She might also look at using the local radio channels for some of this to be broadcast. 

This grant was made possible with support from the Tata Trusts.