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India Foundation for the Arts
Quarterly Newsletter Edition 26
July-December 2013
Apply: Grants

bird_bullet IFA invites proposals for Project 560: A Found Spaces Initiative, from performing artists and groups who wish to create performances in found spaces within Bangalore city. Details. Click here for the call in Kannada.
View our Finding Spaces video campaign.

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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.
ArtConnect Issue 7,
ArtConnect Issue 7,
Volume 1

Edited by C K Meena
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IFA Calendar 2014
IFA Calendar 2014
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The following events are scheduled for the next three months (event dates are subject to change):

bird_bullet BANGALORE
Grantee Presentation
March 05, 2014 | The Park, Bangalore
Yousuf Saeed &
Gautam Pemmaraju

Ismat Apa Ke Naam Naseeruddin Shah Ratna Pathak Heeba Shah

March 20, 2014 | Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore
Ismat Apa Ke Naam
A dramatisation of three short stories by Ismat Chughtai, featuring performances by Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah and Heeba Shah.

Kambakhat Bilkul Aurat

March 21, 2014 | Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore
Kambakhat Bilkul Aurat
A dramatization of three short stories by Ismat Khanum Chughtai. Directed by Naseeruddin Shah, featuring performances by Manoj Pahwa, Seema Pahwa and Lovleen Mishra.

bird_bullet DELHI

Grantee Showcase
January 31, 2014 | Mati Ghar IGNCA, New Delhi
New Models for Common Ground
An exhibition of 25 proposals that reimagine the infrastructure for culture in New Delhi. This event is being organised as part of the month-long INSERT2014 exhibition and symposium.

This year has been a time for introspection at IFA. Three of our programmes—Arts Education, New Performance and Extending Arts Practice—underwent detailed external reviews. IFA thanks the eminent members of each panel—Nandini Manjrekar, Anil Kumar H A, Ashoke Chatterjee, Shubha Mudgal, Vivan Sundaram, Madhushree Dutta and Sadanand Menon—for helping us chart new directions for our programmes. We also thank our grantees, who with their suggestions and feedback, have given us fresh insight. With the help of reports detailing the recommendations of each panel, staff at IFA will rearticulate the programmes, which will then be launched, in their new avatars, on April 1, 2014.

We also made eight grants under the Arts Research and Documentation programme, seven grants under the Extending Arts Practice programme, six grants under the Arts Education programme and two under our New Performance programme. We organised three grantee showcases in Bangalore, four in Mumbai, and one in Delhi; two successful fundraisers in Bangalore; a festival of IFA-supported films in Ladakh and a showcase of IFA grants in Singapore; six editions of MaathuKathe, our 'art addas' in office; and a symposium on arts residencies in collaboration with TAKE on Art magazine, which was set to coincide with the launch of their latest issue, themed on residencies.

On September 21, 2013, India Foundation for the Arts turned twenty. We have now crossed the Rs 18 crore mark in support to over 330 projects in almost every corner of the country...and so much still remains to be done!

IFA's Singapore Fete
Poster for IFA's Singapore Fete

We are also happy to announce that for the first time in the history of our organisation we showcased our work outside India. On November 29 and 30, 2013, IFA organised a two-day event in Singapore at The Arts House. The event was well attended and gave us a chance to share our work with an international audience. We hope to organise more such showcases in the future. Our biggest news yet concerns the launch of a found space initiative, titled Project 560, for which we received support from mobile technology giant Qualcomm®. In 2014, IFA will support six performing artists or artist groups from Bangalore to creatively engage with non-proscenium found spaces in the city, reimagine them and bring them alive through performance. This special initiative comes from our desire to engage with the city that has nurtured us for twenty years. In June, 2014, IFA will organise a festival of these performances.

Finally, in this edition of Slant/Stance, we speak to Shashwati Talukdar, a filmmaker who received a grant under our Arts Research and Documentation programme in 2011 to study the murals of the Shri Guru Ram Rai Darbar in Dehradun.

We hope you enjoy reading the contents of this newsletter. Your feedback helps us better our work and we would love to hear from you. Do visit our pages on Facebook and Twitter and share your views.

Much love,
The IFA Team

Arts Research and Documentation (ARD)

We received 134 proposals in response to our Request for Proposals. Shortlisted proposals were extensively reviewed by our external panel consisting of Anjum Katyal, Shanta Gokhale and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. As a result of their deliberations we awarded grants to eight projects.

Akansha Rastogi is studying and documenting landmark art exhibitions in India from 1947 to the present including those that were planned but did not materialise, thereby attempting to create a framework by which to address and analyse how exhibitions typify attitudes, thoughts and articulations on contemporary art.

Anand Tharaney is studying the popular subculture of automatons displayed during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai and making a film that explores the mythologies around these religious displays.

Ashutosh Potdar is critically reflecting on the relationships between theatre, history and society through the study of modes of production and consumption of natak in Maharashtra in the early colonial period.

Jothi Xavier is conducting workshops with young Warli artists and studying the impact of the Christianisation of their community on the tradition. He is also researching the execution of biblical murals in churches and institutions, thereby seeking to trace the developments of Warli art in the present context.

Khushboo Ranka is working on a stylized documentary on Hindi pulp fiction, reflecting the struggles of its writers and publishers as producers of 'low art'. The project will trace the journey of the writer through the system that enables the publishing and distribution of pulp fiction thereby illustrating the ethos of the world that produces such material.

Prakash Garud is studying the history and development of the 200-year-old Doddata performance tradition in Karnataka by tracing how it changed in response to influences from the Parsi theatre and subsequently, the Company theatre traditions.

Ratnakar Tripathi is writing a monograph length essay on Sang-Ragini, a signature theatre tradition of Haryana, which combines theatre, ballad singing, music and dance. Studying the linkages between the music industry hubs of Delhi and Haryana, the research will map the construction of this form over time, and document the processes by which they are produced, distributed, marketed and consumed in both live and recorded formats.

Simrat Kaur Dugal is studying the construction of the genre of science fiction in Hindi by shedding light on how writers have used their own understanding of both science and the potential of science to perceive, comment on and reinvent their past, present and the future. It will also look at how productions, articulations and manifestations of science fiction influence aural and visual cultures in India.

Extending Arts Practice (EAP)

We made seven grants under this programme this quarter:

Jyoti Dogra has created a devised performance piece titled Notes on Chai. The performance is a collection of snippets of everyday conversations interwoven with abstract sound explorations that together create a series of images and conversations in the everyday world and at the edge of it, encouraging the spectator to attempt to relocate his / her relationship with the quotidian.

The Desire Machine Collective is organising a series of workshops on film production and curation to train a group of 10-15 young filmmakers on how to create site-specific content that extends the cinematic form while engaging with the local cultural, political and historical context of Assam.

Nida Ghouse is exploring the history of early sound and sound technology through archival research and interviews, as well as artistic collaborations with artists, sound recordists, sound theorists, musicians, linguists, researchers and writers whose practice contributes to an understanding of sound ecologies in India.

The Raqs Media Collective invited speculations from 30 artists for the re-imagination of unused spaces and cultural infrastructure in Delhi. New Models on Common Grounds, as this initiative is titled, is part of Raqs' work as Artistic Directors of INSERT 2014, a month long event that seeks to bring the contemporary arts to reflect upon some of the socio-political issues being faced by a rapidly urbanising India. IFA is supporting two workshops, a publication, and a public exhibition as part of this initiative.

INSERT 2014 Raqs Media Collective Delhi
INSERT2014 poster. Click to enlarge image.

Ceramic artist Rahul Kumar is working on a large scale installation, which will be displayed in New Delhi at the sixth edition of the India Art Fair in the year 2014.

Navin Thomas is undertaking a book-making project tentatively titled 'Bangalore Photo City: Lost and Found', which reconstructs a 'found' history of 1960s-80s Bangalore drawing upon 2,00,000 photo negatives salvaged from a scrap yard.

Gagan Singh is making of a series of animations that will explore movement in drawing, in a site-specific context. The final outcome will be animations that make visible facets of everyday experiences in Delhi, as recreated through memory and drawing, and developed and exhibited as in-process work in the Nehru Place market.

We also undertook a study, titled Voices from the Field, on the funding available for the visual arts in India. Staff spoke to key, strategically located individuals and organisations in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore to gain insight into the broader picture of the challenges and concerns for both those seeking and dispensing funds. The outcome of this fact-finding exercise was fed into the review of the EAP programme and helped inform some of the discussions that took place at the review meeting. We welcome you to read our report here.


We launched our website on curation—— dedicated solely to the theory and practice of curation in visual arts and film. We hope that by hosting material generated over the course of the IFA curatorship programme and publishing on-going news, events and relevant content, the website will serve as a valuable resource for a growing public interested in the many permutations through which the broadly defined field of curation is understood in today's world.

New Performance (NP)

We made two grants under this programme this quarter:

Jhalapala, a Kolkata-based children's theatre group, is organising a series of workshops for the children of two patua villages Nayagram and Pingla that imaginatively explore Patua folklore towards the creation of theatre performances. The project will focus on offering the children opportunities to reinvigorate the performative element of the Patuachitra tradition.

Choreographer and actor, Shilpika Bordoloi is conceptualising a physical theatre solo piece based on the social, cultural and spiritual life of the people of Mājuli, a large, ecologically vulnerable island in the Brahmaputra river in Assam.

We undertook a second Voices from the Field study on 'Re-imagining the Role of the Funder in a Time of Austerity'. The objective of this study was to assess some of the challenges, needs, perceptions and expectations of performing artists in relation to funders (financial sponsors) and the funding process; and in particular, their perceptions of IFA. The outcome of this fact-finding exercise was fed into the review of the NP programme and helped inform some of the discussions that took place at the review meeting.

Arts Education (AE)

Last year, we awarded grants to six government school teachers trained under our arts-based teacher training initiative—Kali-Kalisu—to initiate projects in their respective schools. This year, we decided to extend our support to all government school teachers from Karnataka, including those falling outside the bounds of Kali-Kalisu. To spread the word, we disseminated our Request for Proposals through the state education department's channelised network and announcements on Vividh Bharti, in a slot dedicated to teachers. We finally awarded six grants to teachers in Karnataka.

Our second big achievement was the completion of the D.Ed Source Book for teacher training in Karnataka, which has been sent to the Department of State Education Research and Training (DSERT) for review.

Take On Art Residencies
TAKE on Residencies Symposium Panel I: Artists in Residence: Personal Reflections.
Left to Right: Tara Kelton, Krishnaraj Chonat, Christine Rogers,
N Pushpamala and Suresh Jayaram

On July 11, we organised a day-long symposium in association with TAKE on Art magazine to discuss and debate the pedagogy of arts residencies in India and their significance for nurturing a vibrant culture of arts practice. Discussions were led by over 20 artists, curators, scholars, funding professionals, and arts collectives from Bangalore, Bombay and Delhi, who shared their critical and personal reflections on the role of residencies, including their challenges and future directions. The panelists who shared their views at the event were Archana Prasad, Ayisha Abraham, Chandrika Grover, Christine Rogers, Christoph Bertram, Diana Campbell, Feroze Gujral, Geetha Narayanan, Jayachandran Palazhy, Krishnaraj Chonat, Lina Vincent Sunish, N Pushpamala, Nancy Adajania, Ranjit Hoskote, Roshini Vadehra, Suman Gopinath, Sumesh Sharma, Suresh Jayaram, Tara Kelton and Zasha Colah. To view the complete programme of the event, please visit the IFA website here.

Jyoti Dogra Notes on Chai
Jyoti Dogra performing Notes on Chai

We organised eleven grant showcases. Emphasis was placed on showcasing the work of our Archival Fellows, leading up to the announcement of the Request for Proposals under the Fellowship, which was done in the first half of July.

In Bangalore, Archival Fellows (2011-12) Ekta Mittal and Yashaswini R screened two films they had made as a result of their engagement with the Archives of Indian Labour and actor Jyoti Dogra staged Notes on Chai, a devised performance piece. We screened two more grantee films in Bangalore—I, Dance by Rajiv Rao and Sonya Fatah, which tells the difficult story of classical dance in Pakistan and Films Division India's Rangbhoomi by Kamal Swaroop, broadly based on the semi-autobiographical play of the same name by Dadasaheb Phalke.

Kamal Swaroop Films Division India Rangbhoomi
Poster for Films Division India's Rangbhoomi by Kamal Swaroopi

In Mumbai, artist Vasudha Thozhur launched an exhibition of drawings, paintings, posters, prints, books and videos realised during a decade-long project, part-supported by IFA, that she undertook with six young girls who lost several members of their families in the Gujarat riots of 2002. Our next event in the city was a talk by Archival Fellows (2012-13) Shumona Goel and Neha Choksi, about their interest in archives, and their fellowship projects that engage with the ISRO archive and various astrophysics and Jain religious archives, respectively. Next we organised two presentations of the work done by Epsita Halder and Ashavari Majumdar. Epsita is studying the narrative of the Battle of Karbala across different districts of West Bengal and Ashavari experimented with Kathak through a performance based on the story of Surpanakha. Our final event in Mumbai was a screening of the film Wall Stories by Shashwati Talukdar through which she has studied the syncretic culture of the Garhwal region of India as depicted in the murals adorning the walls of various religious shrines and homes in the region.

In Delhi, Archival Fellows (2011-12) Samina Mishra and Nandini Chandra spoke about their research at the archives of the Children's Film Society, India (CFSI). Their interest in this specific archive was driven by a desire to explore how the State, as embodied by the CFSI, imagined and represented the child from its inception in 1955 until the early 1980s.

We organised a three-day IFA film festival, The Bigger Picture, in Leh, Ladakh between August 27 and 29, 2013 in collaboration with the Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (LAMO). We screened six films at this event—City of Photos, Family Album, The Other Song, The Listener's Tale, Kumar Talkies and Pala. The festival also gave us a chance to reach out to artists and researchers in Ladakh and to talk to them about the projects we support under our various programmes. We are happy to report that this event was a big success.

In November, we organised a two-day showcase of IFA's work at The Arts House in Singapore. The event featured screenings of films by Saba Dewan, Nishtha Jain, Merajur Rahman Baruah, and Shabani Hassanwalia and Samreen Farooqui; presentations by M V Bhaskar, P Madhavan and Sunil Shanbag; and a performance piece by theatre artist Jyoti Dogra. It gave audiences in Singapore a window into the multi-disciplinary and diverse nature of the work we support.

MaathuKathe: A full house for the U-ra-mi-li film screening at the IFA office

We also organised six MaathuKathes at the IFA office. The first was a special discussion on one of the world's most celebrated performance artists, Marina Abramović, and the second showcased a performance of mentalisms by perceptionist Kaushik Bhaduri. The third saw the screening of a work-in-progress film by Iswar Srikumar and Anushka Meenakshi based on their travels across the Indian subcontinent for a project they have titled U-ra-mi-li or the songs of our people. U-ra-mi-li documents the movements, rhythms and music in the everyday lives of the people Anushka and Iswar have met along the way. One part of their journey, to Phek village in Nagaland, has been supported by IFA. For our next MaathuKathe we invited four German artists, working in various Bangalore-based arts and culture institutions, to our office. They were in the city as part of an initiative by the Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan, titled bangaloREsidents 2013. Our fifth Maathukathe was an evening of blues and rock and roll by Bangalore's own Sarjapur Blues Band. Finally, in December, we organised the screening of the film Bottle Masala in Moile by Vaidehi Chitre, a film about the indigenous populations of Mumbai from the East Indian community and their daily struggle to continue their livelihoods and keep their ancestral land.

Dear Liar Naseeruddin Shah Ratna Pathak
Poster for IFA's fundraiser Dear Liar starring Naseeruddin Shah & Ratna Pathak Shah

The Embassy Group in support of IFA brought the play, Dear Liar, featuring Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, as a fundraiser to Bangalore after a gap of over ten years. We are glad to report that this show was a big success. We thank The Embassy Group and The Park for coming on board to support this event and Bangalore audiences for braving the rains to make it to the show.

Our second fundraiser was the play Between the Lines featuring Nandita Das and Subodh Maskara on December 19, 2013. The play explores the dynamics of marriage through the story of a wealthy lawyer couple brought to the brink of separation as a result of a case they are fighting on opposing sides. We thank The Park yet again, for lending their support to this event and our Co-sponsor Godrej Properties.

Slant / Stance
Shashwati Talukdar
Shashwati Talukdar is an Indian-born academic and independent filmmaker based in New York City with more than 13 films and videos to her name. Her work ranges from documentary to narrative and experimental films, and has been screened at the Busan International Film Festival, Margaret Mead Film Festival, Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and the Whitney Biennial, among others.

In 2011 Shashwati received a grant under IFA's Arts Research and Documentation programme, to study the murals adorning the walls of religious shrines and homes in the Garhwal region of India. In particular, she studied the murals of the Guru Ram Rai Darbar in Dehradun, and their history and significance to the keepers of the shrine, art historians, restorers and devotees. She simultaneously explored how this rich repository of images revealed a history of power politics, syncretic religious practices of colonial and pre-colonial India and disparate painting styles between the seventeenth and nineteenth century. Her research has resulted in a film titled Wall Stories.

IFA: Can you tell us a little bit about how you encountered these murals and why you decided to study them?

Shashwati Talukdar: I am from Dehradun so the Guru Ram Rai Durbar was a familiar sight growing up. When I saw its' murals later in life, I was intrigued by how unusual they were; how they so closely reflected the life of people in the town. I have wanted to make a film on them for the longest time. In 2010, I worked on a project for Tasveer Ghar—a digital archive of South Asian popular visual culture—for which I studied the aesthetic of picture postcards of hill stations from the colonial era. These postcards are part of the Priya Paul collection of popular art, which have been digitised and archived at Tasveer Ghar. Working on this project further fueled my deep fascination with the history of this part of the country (the Garhwal district, now Uttarakhand).

IFA: Why do you find the murals in the Guru Ram Rai Durbar unusual?

Shashwati Talukdar: To begin with, they cover a very interesting period in our history—from the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century. This region witnessed a lot of change and continuously evolved during this period and as a result, layers and layers of its social and cultural history got deposited in this location, and what's more, they have been preserved. While in most cases, each subsequent change would have destroyed all evidence of anything that came before it, murals in the Durbar Sahib seem to have captured layer upon layer of the social and cultural life of the valley, through its many changes. Thus you find Hindu deities sharing wall space with rich merchants, peons, chaprasis, munshis and guards as well as Mughal emperors and British lords and ladies.

IFA: Why did Dehradun witness such an incredible proliferation of wall art? Is there a common thread tying all the murals in the region together?

Shashwati Talukdar: The proliferation of wall art in the region was largely influenced by the nature of the population that settled in the hills. The hills have been a popular destination for immigrants not only now, but for centuries; communities from Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, among other regions have settled here. A lot of the mural traditions come from Rajasthan and Punjab.

In addition to this, the geographical location of Dehradun—in a valley between the rivers Ganga and Yamuna—made it an important stopover for pilgrims traveling through the region. The religious imagination of the country found a canvas in the mountains, and therefore Dehradun.

Finally, Dehradun experienced colonial rule differently from the rest of the nation. The damage done here was more ecological than social. The British colonial government needed wood in massive quantities for the new railway network it was constructing and it relied on local contractors to provide it with this resource. Thus, the British rule did not disrupt the native elite of the region as much as create one. It was also not as feudal as other regions in India. Land distribution and taxation did not work in the same way as it did in other parts of the country, which was again a feature of the terrain and ecology of the Garhwal region.

Guru Ram Rai Darbar in Dehradun
Mural of a cherub at the Guru Ram Rai Darbar in Dehradun
Photo courtesy: Shashwati Talukdar

IFA: In some of your earlier conversations with us you have spoken about how the historical narrative of these murals is quite different from established narratives of history taught in the classroom. In what way are they different?

Shashwati Talukdar: These murals provide evidence that contradict the effects of historical revisionism. Take the emperor Aurangzeb for instance; Amar Chitra Katha comics and classroom syllabuses in several states would have you believe that he was an evil, rigid, religious ideologue who despised the arts and culture. But if you look at the history of the shrine you realise that the land on which it was built was granted to Guru Ram Rai through Emperor Aurangzeb's intervention. He also supported the construction of the inner shrine. In addition to this, if you look at the murals adorning the walls of the Durbar Sahib, particularly those that feature the emperor in conversation with Guru Ram Rai, who was an Udasi saint, a very different portrait begins to emerge.

If you look at the conventions of Mughal painting, the way the characters are seated speaks volumes about their social relationship with each other. In the murals, Guru Ram Rai and Aurangzeb are shown to share a close friendship. This contradicts normative narratives of popular history which indicate that the only relationship Aurangzeb was capable of conducting was one of domination. But here they are seen conversing with each other in a perfectly Mughal gentlemanly manner.

Guru Ram Rai Darbar in Dehradun
Murals of lords and ladies on the gate of the Guru Ram Rai Darbar in Dehradun
Photo courtesy: Shashwati Talukdar

IFA: Could you tell us a little about the Udasi religion? Would it be correct to describe it as a sect of Sikhism or Hinduism?

Shashwati Talukdar: The story of the Udasis is interesting. The short version is that they revere the same Gurus as the Sikhs, but also incorporate religious figures like Gorakhnath and other adepts and saints, something that would be unacceptable in modern Sikhism. Their status as being either a part or out of Sikhism has changed over time, depending on theological disputes and institutional changes within the religion. Today, you find both Hindus and Sikhs visiting the shrine. So people might formally declare themselves as Sikhs or Hindus, but they also incorporate Guru Ram Rai in their religious practice. Most of the non-local visitors I encountered at the shrine, were from Punjab and formally Sikhs. Their families have visited the Durbar Sahib for generations and it has become part of the tradition of the region to do so. While the local people who came to the shrine were all Hindus, and the Durbar was a part of their religious practice or the place they came for social and leisure reasons. It's interesting how the independent status of the Durbar makes it accessible to all and one of the most welcoming places in the city.

IFA: One part of your film deals with questions of preservation and the paucity of scholarly reflection on the murals of the Garhwal region. Could you briefly dwell upon these very serious concerns? Do you hope that your film will address them in some way?

Shashwati Talukdar: I believe that my film has only scratched the surface of the issue. Looking at the state of preservation of these paintings, the situation is quite dire. Other than the paintings in the Durbar Sahib, the others are deteriorating very quickly. The problem seems to be two-fold. Private owners of structures that have these paintings lack the resources to take care of them, while the buildings owned by religious trusts and institutions, may have the resources but lack the necessary information and cultural capital to have the paintings restored. I was also very surprised to find that there is very little quality writing on the region. While there is some good work on its ecology, like Ramchandra Guha's book on the history of the region vis a vis the changing relationship of the population with the forest, and there is some good work in Anthropology, the region seems to have escaped the attention of modern art historians. There is not that much literature about the social and historical meaning and implications of these paintings.

That said, some effort has been made to catalogue the murals. In this regard, Jagriti Dobhal's work is quite important. I interviewed her for my film Wall Stories. She completed her PhD from the local university in Art History. Years ago, she undertook the task of cataloguing the murals in Dehradun. Some of the buildings that contained the work she chronicled were demolished many years ago, and many are falling into ruin as we speak, only to be replaced by shopping complexes and car parks.

I hope my film will be a catalyst to scholars to give this region the attention it deserves, and also increase the appreciation for this living heritage before it vanishes.

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