Purna Sarkar

Arts Education

Grant Period: Over one year

Purna Sarkar is one of the co-organisers of Repair Café Bangalore, an initiative that promotes repair-reuse-recycle as a practice in everyday life. She is also a HR professional and a theatre practitioner. Her collaborator Antara Mukherjee is a visual artist and graphic designer. Together they have been working to bring back the idea of repairing everyday objects and reusing them, as an artistic intervention. This is the first time they are attempting to use their experiences as a theatre and visual arts practitioner to work on the idea of repair with school children over a sustained period. They will be working with the students of the Government High School, HAL 3rd Stage, Jeevan Bhima Nagar, Bangalore.

Over the last few decades the idea of repairing and reusing everyday objects is slowly disappearing with the shift in practice from repair-reuse-recycle to simply use-throw-replace old items with new ones. India is traditionally a republic of jugaad, where societies have been well equipped to squeeze maximum use out of resources through various strategies that include inventing new ways to recycle and reuse objects through repair. This has also given rise to a parallel economy of scraps and wastes that retrofit and refurbish old materials in our cities. With the arrival of late capitalism, the logic of obsolescence has started to set in the urban contexts of India, much like other western countries. Products are being made in such a way that they have short life spans and cannot be repaired. Consequently the traditional practitioners of repair are also disappearing. This process has led to increase of waste in the city that end up in landfills, and a huge notional economic loss of optimal use of specific resources given their proposed life spans. It also results in the loss of ingenuity and the cultural wisdoms embedded within the practices of repair. More recently, there has been a growing resistance to this use and throw practice in different corners of the world with a return to the repair-reuse-recycle philosophy. The challenge now in most parts of the western world is that the knowledge of repair itself has become scarce and rare with the passing of generations. However, in India it is different since multiple worlds live here next to each other – the one that holds on to repair-reuse-recycle still exists in pockets.

Bangalore has many such areas where various objects of everyday use can still be repaired for reuse. Purna and Antara are planning to make such knowledge available to school children so that they understand the relevance of the practice and become familiar with it as they grow up. They would work with the students to understand the various repairing practices that already exist in the homes of the students. They will also bring into the school practitioners of various types of repair work from the locality to interact with the students and in the process make artistic and useful objects out of the waste. These can also be developed as life skills for the students, opening up possibilities of alternative professions for them. Since the students come from low income backgrounds, the hope is that their parents will also see this as a valuable activity in school.

Purna and Antara want to work for a year with the students and at the end of the grant period they are planning to create a performance in theatre based on their experiences and learning. They will also put up an exhibition of the objects the students would create in the process. They would deposit detailed textual documentation of the process, photographs and a video of the play and the exhibition at the end of the grant. This grant is important under the Arts Education programme for two reasons. The first is that if the students imbibe repair as a practice in their lives during their school years, they might grow up realising the value of using resources to their maximum potential. Secondly, this project enables us to challenge the traditional understanding of arts and culture, and push its blurring boundaries. 

This grant was made possible with support from Citi India.