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India Foundation for the Arts
Quarterly Newsletter Edition 25
April-June 2013
Apply: Grants & Fellowships
IFA invites proposals from:

bird_bullet Performing arts groups and individuals under its New Performance programme. Details. Watch a video of grantees Saji Kadampattil and Martin John Chalissery talking about the process of applying for a grant here.

bird_bullet Artists and curators under its Extending Arts Practice programme. Details. Watch a video of our Programme Executive Rashmi Sawhney talking about the process of applying for a grant here.

Learn about the Arts as you support them. Become a Friend of IFA. As a Friend, you will be contributing directly to philanthropy in the arts and encouraging the presence of the arts in public life. It starts at just Rs 3,500/- a year and your donation is tax-deductible. In return, you will receive exclusive access to IFA events, the ArtConnect magazine, and our annual report.

Buy Now!
IFA Publications
Beyond the Proscenium
Beyond the Proscenium: Reimagining the Space for Performance
Edited by Anmol Vellani
176 pp., Rs 300, US$ 20
Click here to know more.

Embroidering Futures:Repurposing the Kantha
Embroidering Futures:
Repurposing the Kantha

Edited by Ritu Sethi
192 pp., Rs 400, US$30
Click here to know more.
Embroidering Futures:Repurposing the Kantha
ArtConnect Issue 6, Volume 2
Edited by C K Meena
Click here to know more.
To subscribe mail:

IFA in your city
You wouldn’t want to miss IFA in your city. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive our updates. All events are public and free, unless otherwise stated.

The following events are scheduled for the next three months (event dates are subject to change):

bird_bullet BANGALORE
July 11, 2013 |
1 Shanthi Road

TAKE on Residencies
A symposium that presents reflections by artists, curators, organisations hosting residencies, and funders to deliberate upon the pedagogic possibilities, expectations and challenges of residencies. Details.
bird_bullet MUMBAI
Vasudha Thozhur

July 11-31, 2013 | Sakshi Gallery & Project 88
Beyond Pain: An Afterlife
Vasuda Thozhur, a visual artist from Baroda, received IFA grants to conduct a series of workshops in post 2002 Gujarat. Paintings from this series will be on display at both venues. Details. To know more about Vasudha's grants click here.

Vasudha Thozhur
Grant Showcase
July 18, 2013 | NGMA
Vasuda Thozhur
IFA in association with The Mohile Parikh Center present, a talk by Vasuda on her experience teaching the girls who participated in The Himmat Workshops.
July 25, 2013 | To be confirmed
Archival Fellows: Shumona Goel and
Neha Choksi

A presentation by Shumona and Neha about their archival research projects. Also, meet EAP Programme Executive, Rashmi Sawhney, to learn more about the Fellowship.
For details write to rashmisawhney@

On May 31, 2013, Anmol Vellani, Founder and Executive Director, India Foundation for the Arts, retired from office. Anmol worked with the Ford Foundation for nine years, holding responsibility for grant making in the performing arts, folklore and philosophy in South Asia, before he joined IFA in 1995.

“I've known Anmol for many, many years as an actor, as a visionary, as a person who has supported artists and their art,” said theatre director Bansi Kaul, a former IFA grantee and dear friend of Anmol’s, on hearing about the change of guard. “There are very few practitioners who have vision. It is because of him that networking between theatre groups across the country was possible. Behind the silence of his quiet smile there has always been a mind that cannot be kept from being active without a pause. And that is probably what has given IFA its identity.”

Staff at IFA bid Anmol farewell and wish him all the very best for all his new ventures.

Arundhati Ghosh & Anmol Vellani
Arundhati Ghosh and Anmol Vellani

IFA’s very own Arundhati Ghosh assumed office as Executive Director on June 1, 2013. After a decade in the corporate sector, Arundhati joined IFA as its first fundraiser in 2001. She has completed 13 years with the organisation in various capacities.

We welcome Arundhati’s leadership and look forward to joining her on this new adventure.

There’s so much to announce that we don’t know where to begin! We awarded 21 grants and four fellowships last year. Under our Arts Education programme, we awarded grants to Kali-Kalisu trained government school teachers for the first time! We announced a Museum Fellowship under our Curatorship programme and launched a new community engagement initiative called MaathuKathe, which in Kannada means 'conversations'. Finally, in Slant/Stance, we catch-up with Ekta Mittal, a filmmaker and one of the first recipients of our Archival Fellowship, for which she collaborated with Yashaswini Raghunandan to conduct research at the Archives of Indian Labour (ILA).

Arts Research and Documentation (ARD)

We awarded seven grants under this programme last year.

Mohankrishnan Haridasan is studying the work of K Ramanujam, an artist who lived in relative obscurity at the Cholamandal Artists Village (an artists’ commune founded by painter K C S Paniker in Chennai), leading to an animation film and an interactive website.

Ashima Sood is studying the community tradition of kirtan singing through research into five kirtan mandalis located in South Delhi. Her project will attempt to understand gender, caste and socio-economic compositions that are reflected in the aesthetics of kirtan mandalis and how that in turn shapes the experience of community for its participants.

Mousumi Roy Chowdhury is researching the works of Kalam Patua, a patuachitra artist, towards the creation of a book that traces his journey from being a practitioner of the traditional form to an artist whose work is displayed in contemporary art galleries.

Yousuf Saeed is curating an online archive of printed images from popular Urdu literature produced in the first half of the 20th century. Yousuf’s research will examine when and why Urdu went from being a language reflecting the cultural plurality of North India, to one associated with Islam.

Ruchika Negi is studying a shawl painting tradition from Nagaland called Tsungotepsu through which she is examining the visual, material and social cultures of the Naga tribes. She will also explore how traditions reinvent themselves to ensure their own survival.

Image from Iswar Srikumar's project on the music and rhythm of work songs/sounds performed by the inhabitants of Phek village, Nagaland
Photo: courtesy Tarun Saldanha

Iswar Srikumar is making a film on the work songs, known as Li, sung by the inhabitants of Phek village in Nagaland, while they harvest paddy. These songs have no lyrics; they are vocalisations, grunts and sighs that are transformed into polyphonic melodies. This research is part of a larger project to document and share everyday music and rhythms from across India.

Amrita Gupta Singh is creating an online archive, which documents the visual cultures of the Northeast, focusing on contemporary arts practice in Shillong, Guwahati and Silchar, by examining ‘regional modernisms’ that arise from their geographical proximity to, and cultural affinity with, South and South East Asia.

Extending Arts Practice (EAP)

We made three grants under this programme last year.

Indrani Baruah, an architect and visual artist, received a grant to build a habitable raft and undertake a two-week-long journey down the Brahmaputra, with local artisans, boat-builders, musicians, and artists to perform, share and document vernacular knowledges and arts practices.

The Goa Centre for Alternative Photography (Goa-CAP) is continuing its work in encouraging young artists to experiment with alternative photographic methods. IFA has supported them for the third consecutive year by way of the ALTLab 3.0 residency, which in addition to four photographers, also hosted an art writer this time.

We also supported Suresh Kumar G to initiate a collaborative project with young artists to document the work of 180 contemporary visual artists in and around Bangalore, chosen in alphabetical order, through a series of 13 minutes videos. These videos will be uploaded to a website; circulated to regional art schools across the state in the form of a monthly DVD magazine and screened every two weeks in Bangalore.

Under our Archival Fellowships, which EAP jointly administers with the ARD programme, we supported two artists.

Shumona Goel is studying vintage educational film footage at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) archives, produced as part of the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) programme which was established jointly by NASA and ISRO in 1975-76, to impart a ‘modern and scientific outlook to rural India’.

Neha Choksi Archival Fellowship
Observatory staff member Senthil filing freshly-discovered sunspot drawings on
paper discs from 1903, for the Kodaikanal Observatory archive
Photo: Neha Choksi, 2012, courtesy Kodaikanal Observatory, IIAP.
Neha Choksi is conducting research across various science and Jain religious archives in India for a multi-part art project titled The Weather Inside Me, tracing the history of science and weather, and solar observations in India from pre-colonial to post-colonial times.

Last year, we instituted Museum Curatorial Fellowships, which will provide emerging curators with an opportunity to engage with the collections of public museums, and enable new frameworks for thinking about objects and their contexts, histories, and audiences. These fellowships have been initiated with the additional intent of providing support to museums as they try to transform their spaces from sites of passive education to exciting ones that bridge the contemporary and the historical.

We gave out a fellowship to Shriniwas Agawane and Deepti Mulgund to undertake curatorial work at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, towards an exhibition, which will travel around Maharashtra in a specially designed bus.

New Performance (NP)

We made five grants under this programme last year.

Performance artist Inder Salim received a grant to orchestrate a series of performance workshops, called ‘harkats’, across different cities in the country, towards exploring imaginative processes of performance making.

Musician and sound designer Saji Kadampattil received a grant to study the poetry of Malayalam poet Kadamanitta Ramakrishnan Nair and the ritual folk performance form, Padayani, towards the creation of a new performance piece.

Sadhana Centre for Creative Practice Martin Chalissery
The specially modified bus that will fuction as a travelling performance space
Photo: courtesy Sadhana Centre for Creative Practice, Thrissur.

The Sadhana Centre for Creative Practice, Thrissur, received a grant to research the history and evolution of the bus as a mode of public transport in Kerala, leading to a performance, which will be staged on a specially modified bus, that will then tour across Thrissur district.

We also supported dancer Preethi Athreya to create a new solo, multi-media performance piece titled light doesn't have arms to carry us. Based on the structure of a rich, percussive piece of music, composed for the piano, she combines movement, text and mime.

Finally, we supported a residency for six emerging choreographers from diverse dance backgrounds and regions organised by The Gati Forum. This is the third consecutive year for which the residency received IFA’s support.

Arts Education (AE)

We are proud to announce our first-ever set of grants to government school teachers in Karnataka. After three years of administering Kali-Kalisu, our teacher training initiative organised in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore, we encouraged trained Kali-Kalisu teachers to conceive exciting project ideas. As a result of this process, the following teachers were awarded grants:

Gururaj L from Gudadoor (Koppal district) received a grant to empower students to creatively link their process of learning in the classroom with local folk-art traditions that they are immersed in.

Prajna Hegde from Mantagi (Haveri district) was supported to engage her students in a process of exploring a text from the school syllabus by interpreting it through local art forms.

Madhukar M L from Gumballi (Chamarajanagara district) built his project around the rich traditions of folk art forms that celebrate the lush natural habitat of Chamarajanagara district, where the school is located, thereby addressing the environmental concerns of the region.

Chitra V from Managundi (Dharwad district) received a grant to address the gap between high and low performing students in her classroom through theatre.

Apart from this, we also awarded grants to two Kali-Kalisu trained teachers to transform their schools into ‘Kali-Kalisu Model Schools’ in Karnataka through a year-long plan of arts-based activities.

With his grant Mallesha M, a drama teacher from Kalghatgi (Dharwad district) will create awareness about the social and cultural issues that surround the school and the community, with emphasis on female absenteeism and child marriage.

Ganapathi Hoblidar, a special teacher and a Cluster Resource Person from Tallur Cluster, Baindur Block (Udupi district) received a grant to improve learning abilities among students through the arts and to revitalise the local Cluster Resource Centre by making it a hub for local arts and cultural activities.

We recently concluded a series of workshops as part of the Department of State Education Research and Training’s (DSERT) arts education training programme, held in Bangalore, for in-service teachers across the state. We also conducted a nine-week arts education course, the first of its kind, with first-year B.Ed. students at the Regional Institute of Education (RIE), Mysore, as part of our engagement with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).


This quarter we launched a new community engagement initiative titled MaathuKathe, which in Kannada means 'conversations'. MaathuKathe has been conceptualised as a platform for visiting and/ or Bangalore-based artists, scholars, activists and critics, to perform, make a presentation, or just talk about their work, and is organised every month at the IFA office. We seek to broaden our engagement with our city and open up our office as a space that enables conversations on the arts.

The ghatam chamber concert. From left to right: Ananth Jayaram, Sumana Chandrashekar, Sukanya Ramgopal, RP Ravishankar, Joe Anthony, Ganesh Murthy

We organised three MaathuKathes— the first featured ghatam exponent Sukanya Ramgopal who performed a ghatam chamber concert with five of her students; the second, filmmaker Kamal Swaroop, who spoke about his book Tracing Phalke; and the final event featured womens’ rights activist Seno Tsuhah, who spoke about the significance of addressing issues of creative expression alongside those of development. All three events were well attended.

We organised four grantee presentations in Mumbai, showcasing the work of Aditi Chitre and Vidyun Sabhaney. Aditi, a filmmaker, spoke at two venues, about the storytelling workshops she organised with the children of Chizami, a village in Nagaland. Vidyun, a comic book writer/artist spoke at two venues about her comic Chilka for which she collaborated with Japanese Manga artist Shohei Emura and about her IFA supported research to study three visual storytelling traditions in India—Patachitra from Bengal, Kaavad from Rajasthan and Togalu Gombeyatta from Karnataka.

We also helped organise the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Roadshow in Bangalore in collaboration with Creative Scotland and British Council. The Roadshow consisted of a panel discussion, featuring Arundhati Nag, Founder, Ranga Shankara, Mukund Padmanabhan, Senior Associate Editor of The Hindu, Kath Mainland, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and Dana MacLeod, Head of Arts, British Council (Scotland). They spoke to artists in Bangalore about taking their performances to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, one of the largest performance arts festivals in the world.

Finally, we brought the play, A Walk in the Woods, featuring Naseeruddin Shah and Rajit Kapoor, to Bangalore for the second time as a fundraiser. We are glad to report that this show was very well received. We thank Godrej Properties and The Park, Bangalore for coming on board to support this event and Bangalore audiences for making this event a triumph.

Slant / Stance
Ekta Mittal

Ekta Mittal is a filmmaker and co-founder of the Bangalore-based media and arts collective, Maraa. She is also one of the first recipients of IFA’s Archival Fellowship—an initiative that seeks to energise state run archives by encouraging practicing artists to engage with their collections.

For her project, titled Art in Labour, Ekta conducted research at the Archives of Indian Labour (ILA), situated within the V V Giri National Labour Institute in Noida, in collaboration with filmmaker Yashaswini Raghunandan. This is a continuation of their work on the project “Behind the Tin Sheets” which began in 2009, and has already produced two films – ‘in_transience’ and ‘ presence’ which delves into the inner worlds and fantasies of migrant workers in Bangalore. The fellowship was an opportunity to access other kinds of material on labour and migration and culminated in two more films, ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ and ‘A Very Old Man with Winged Sandals’.

IFA: Could you tell us a little bit about your impetus behind undertaking a project of this nature? What are the factors that compelled you to understand and document the lives of migrant labourers?

Ekta Mittal: Yashu and I are old friends; we did theatre together, nearly fourteen years ago. In 2009 we started working on a film project titled Behind the Tin Sheets. This was our response to our city under construction where the city collectively saw felling of trees, displacement of people, influx of migrant workers at a large scale, without consent. The violence of the transformation was something which was hard to come to terms with. We wanted to make sense of the present tense and decided to converse with workers behind the tin sheets, who were in Bangalore temporarily to build the Metro Rail. We figured that their insights would perhaps help us make sense of this transition, since their lives were in more ways than one transient.. We spent time talking to them about their memories, desires, fantasies and dreams…about what it meant to come to an unfamiliar city from faraway places. We had built some strong relationships over time, and decided to make a film that tells these stories against the changing landscape of the city. This project allowed us to delve into the fantastical realm, moving beyond facts; beyond the predictable binaries of the worker as hero or victim; beyond conventional notions of the city as old, green Bangalore or IT city. We have since then meditated on how cities create desires and at what stake, and whose stake these cities get built. Through the stories of workers that emerged through long conversations, we discussed haunting as a social phenomenon in the context of a growing metropolis where the worker’s presence and absence is almost ghostly. We experienced the nuances of longing and separation, which we sensed in conversations with workers; an embedded feeling of estrangement and melancholia, residues of loneliness that manifest in different ways for workers.

This process translated into the making of two films— in_transience (24 minutes) in 2011 and presence (17 minutes) in 2012. The idea was to produce films that focused on different themes of haunting, love and longing, memory and desire.

IFA: How did your engagement with the ILA begin?

Ekta Mittal: In 2010, I was invited to attend a workshop on Creating High Impact & Sustainable Digital Initiatives in India, organised by the not-for-profit, online academic library, JSTOR, where I met several archivists. One of the presentations at the event, titled, Digital Archives of Indian Labour by Bhaskar Kowshik, caught my attention. Bhaskar was responsible for the digitisation of material in the Archives of Indian Labour and the construction of a new multi-media interface for public access. I was intrigued by his presentation and met Bhaskar to know more about the Archive. It was around this time, that we discussed the importance of organising our own material and perhaps sharing it with the Archive. We were also personally interested in labour history and migration - how patterns of labour had changed, how the political economy affected labour, how workers adapted to the changing landscapes in villages and cities, the personal trajectories of workers, etc. We were curious to explore the contents of the Archive as an extension of our work on migration. Coincidentally, this was when we found out about IFA’s Archival Fellowship and we applied. The next thing we knew, we had won the Fellowship to activate the Archive.

Accessing the Archive was a whole new process for us. Of course, there was bureaucracy at many levels, but we were encouraged to access all materials. We were overwhelmed by the material at the Archive and it’s almost ironic that very few people who work closely with labour and labour issues are even aware of its existence. We felt that we had stumbled upon a gold mine, hidden away from people. This would not have been possible without support from Bhaskar; he helped us navigate through the archive – from getting permissions, to finding material that we were interested in.

IFA: Could you tell us a little about the Archive? What kind of a space is it?

Ekta Mittal: We had all these romantic notions about the space before we went there—of an old building that smelt of old books; a place where we could rummage through histories of labour, and in their pages meet workers from a different time; a kind of museum with extinct devices to glance at positives and negatives; a place to go through thick files of newspaper clippings and reports and brown boxes filled with postcards, letters and telegrams. When we got there, we were amazed to find ourselves in a tiny room with accordion almirahs, which were kept locked. Sharmaji, a man of strict discipline, who maintains the archives, unlocked the rusty cupboards to show us how he had organised the material. He also showed us the scanning room where we met the team of the Digital Archives of Indian Labour. They welcomed us warmly and pointed us to a couple of hard disks containing some of the material they had finished working on. There was a huge empty room next to the scanning room in which we discovered large black and white prints of labourers from different parts of India. As filmmakers we did not know where to start!

Dhansar Open Cast Mines, Dhanbad, Jharkhand. Photo: courtesy Javed Iqbal

IFA: So how did you succeed in sifting through the material at the Archive?

Ekta Mittal: When we returned to Bangalore we went through the Archive virtually. The website was informative, but we realised that it was hard to translate the material at the Archive cinematically. What we read were accounts of union leaders, struggles, protests and movements, which were very insightful. We finally took to the oral histories, since we felt they would suit our medium and provide us with an entry point to familiarise ourselves with the Archive. We also wanted to explore the possibility of using these audio files as part of a travelling kit, which we planned on making at the end of the project.

Bhaskar sent us 181 transcripts of testimonies, interviews and conversations. From these 181, we selected 10 pieces with leaders who revealed strong convictions and who spoke about their trials, tribulations, approaches and opinions, with pride. We also looked for people who were telling stories of the times they lived in. The people we chose were A K Rai, Kannibiran, Stanley Chaudhary, KTK Thangamani, Ranen Singh and Subanna. All the narratives we listened to paid more attention to the content of the speech rather than the voice of the speaker, but as we discovered, these voices in themselves are what reveal different sides to the speaker’s personality. It is in their voice that you hear their convictions and confusions.

Shramik Basti, Nanda Nagar. Photo: courtesy Archives of Indian Labour

IFA: What else did you find there?

Ekta Mittal: In total we made five trips to the Archive and whenever we could access the digital archive we spent time searching for all kinds of visual material—posters, postcards, banners, photographs. We were fascinated with the size of images, textures, colours and cameras that were used to take these images. We looked at handwriting, and it allowed us to imagine the face of the person whose thoughts we were sharing. As we dug deeper, we found material from pre-colonial times all the way up to the 80’s, post emergency. All through we found records of incredible people who struggled, protested, resisted and committed their lives to the movements.

IFA: What were the challenges you faced in your engagement with the archive?

Ekta Mittal: Our time spent at the Archive sparked a number of questions concerning the preservation of content versus its access and the degree of artistic license allowed in interpreting the material contained in the Archive. Our first concern arose from our difficulties in navigating the Archive, and the nature of the content itself (largely text) which made us wonder whether focusing on preservation had affected the accessibility of the information contained in the space. Our second concern arose from our encounter as filmmakers with the space. We wondered if the Archive could be a site for a new imagination where the artist could perceive the Archive and arrive at a whole new set of meanings and interpretations without necessarily engaging with the content as it is in the Archive. These questions set the tone for our engagement with the material and culminated in two films—Down the Rabbit Hole and A Very Old Man with Winged Sandals. While the former explores the landscape of the Archive and attempts to create the personhood of the worker and the leader before India was liberalised, the latter is a film about union leader Comrade Anil Kumar Rai’s ideas and philosophies. A K Rai played a key role in organising workers, farmers and adivasis to fight for an independent Jharkhand.

These films will be used to activate the Archive and encourage artists and researchers to access and create works from the Archive, thereby widening the imagination of the space.

IFA: How has this process enriched your own artistic practice?

Ekta Mittal: The Archive has informed us tremendously and this project has been a great learning experience. We continue to be excited about textural tonalities that informs us about a different time and space, which can lead to multiple possibilities. The process of discovery was challenging and fun; sometimes there was an inclination to be drawn to visual material given our affinity to the image, but as we listened to the oral histories, our perspectives took different bends. This engagement has led to some fantastic ideas, both in form and content, which we hope to pursue. We know we have only scratched the surface; there is much to discover deeper underground…

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