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India Foundation for the Arts
Newsletter Edition 33
November - January 2016
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Hello Readers!

We are back with many exciting engagements showcasing the work of our grantees, events – including a city-wide, found spaces festival in Bangalore – Project 560, 2015, and updates on grants and initiatives, between November, 2015 and January, 2016!

India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) in this period welcomed many new grantees and their diverse projects under our programmes – Arts Research, Arts Practice and Arts Education, along with our Archival and Museum Fellowship. The projects included, twelve under our Arts Research programme, two under our Arts Practice programme, six under our Arts Education programme, and two Archival and Museum Fellowship. Please read on to know more about the artists, researchers and curators, who bolster our commitment to support distinct, varied, and significant narratives from across the country!

We also organised grant showcases to bring the work of our grantees to many different spaces, and engage with multiple audiences. Our monthly MaathuKathes, which are addas for conversations on the arts, where we welcome an artist or scholar who is not an IFA grantee to our office, have provided a space for animated discussions and passionate debates. We hope to continue these engagements and interactions that help us understand the shifts and developments of the arts in the country, and connect to new publics, committed to the arts.

Please do visit our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

We hope you enjoy the contents of this newsletter.

You can write to us at with any feedback that you may have.
We would love to hear from you!

The IFA Team

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Arts Research (AR)

We are pleased to introduce the grants made under our newly rearticulated Arts Research programme. The Arts Research programme supports scholars, researchers, and practitioners to undertake research into the various histories and expressions of artistic practices in India, and encourages projects in Indian languages other than English, to contribute to discourse in particular language contexts.

Our Request for Proposals (RFP) sent out earlier this year, received an enthusiastic response. The grants made reflect the meticulous investigations undertaken by a panel of experts – comprising Sadanand Menon, Nilima Sheikh, Lakshmi Subramanian and Sanjoy Hazarika – into each of these projects. These grants, exhibit the range of subjects that are of interest to scholars, and practitioners, across the country, and display critical enquiries, rigour of examination, and observation of minutiae, that is necessary for research into these practices.

Do read on to understand our excitement for each of these projects!

Grantees at the IFA Office, Bangalore

Sanjay Kak, veteran filmmaker, received a grant for research on press photography as an emerging artistic practice in Kashmir. He will work with a remarkable generation of contemporary photojournalists, in an excavation of this cultural phenomenon, as it chronicles twenty-five years of endemic conflict in the valley.

Jayakrishnan Subramanian, also a filmmaker, received a grant to develop a modern, metaphoric interpretation of classical Tamil poetry, and achieve an artistic depiction of the desert landscape of Palai in Sangam literature. His exploration will foreground the context of Tamil workers, who have migrated to the Middle East.

Ashok Maridas, Sanchayan Ghosh and Anuradha received grants to explore the ties between cultural forms and communities, which have hitherto been unexplored or undocumented. Ashok received a grant for a film, which will capture the musical journey of a community called the Savita Samaj, whose story has remained untold in spite of being musicians of the Nadaswaram over centuries. Using the instrument as a visual metaphor, the film will explore the socio-economic issues that are influencing sweeping changes in the lives of community members. Sanchayan, received a grant to research the visual arts, and other cultural forms, associated with the idea of representing the landscape of the Rahr (red soil) region of the district of Birbhum, West Bengal. Through the processes of archiving these practices, the project will engage in workshops with various scholars, and practitioners of the region, to understand methods of documentation as collective recollection. Anuradha received a grant for research into the progressive transformation of the raagini in Haryana, through the expressions of women and Dalits. Exploring the effects of this transformation on the social structure of Haryana through the 19th century reform movements, and the freedom struggle, the project will focus on the experiences of participation, and the acceptance of women, Dalit writers, and practitioners of the art form.

Two grants were made to Kruti R, a researcher who is learning the traditional practice of Yakshagana and Usham Rojio, a researcher, for research into traditional performative forms, and their processes of evolution. Kruti received a grant to examine the differences between the performances of 'prasangas' in Yakshagana that are presented for shorter durations, and those that continue through the night. She will study how this variation in time, affects pedagogy, the training of 'Bhagavatas'/(disciples), and actors, and the conceptual and aesthetic concerns of the form as it is performed and viewed today. Usham received a grant to research the aesthetic theory of the Anoirol – an ancient Meitei text on the art of movements. The enquiry will emphasise the critical need to read Manipuri dance by the principles of discourses in its own indigenous context, rather than homogenisng it through the prism of texts like the Natyashastra, foreign to the form.

Zubeni Lotha, a photographer, received a grant to study the construction of identity by representation, through photographic images. The project will focus on the photographs of the Konyak Nagas by ethnologist Christoph von Furer- Haimendorf, which is responsible for creating the archetypal Naga stereotype.

Sarita Sundar, a designer, received a grant to research one of the kshetra kalas – the Poothan Thira, a ritual and performance based art form of the Mannan community in North Kerala. Using an auto-ethnographic approach, the researcher will create biographies of ten objects deemed significant to the art form, gleaned from conversations with ten community members.

To conclude this invigorating string of projects, we are excited to introduce the work of Roma Chatterji, Aishika Chakraborty and Santhosh Kumar Sakhinala. Roma, received a grant to examine the ways in which modern forms of storytelling such as animation and the graphic novel and their traditional counterparts in the folk and tribal arts, are turning to each other for new modes of expressions, subjects, and audiences to expand their practices. She will focus on the works of the Chitrakar community of Medinipur, West Bengal, and the Pradhan Gonds of Madhya Pradesh. Aishika received a grant for research into the history of contemporary dance in Bengal, through the journeys of feminist dancer-choreographers – Manjusri Chaki Sircar and Ranjabati Sircar. Focussing on the social, political, and personal histories of the dancers, the study will explore their interventions in the practice, as they drew from medieval inheritances, colonial legacies, and postcolonial promises, to create new languages for dance. Santhosh, received a grant to excavate the discursive formation of pedagogy in arts schools in Hyderabad, forged by the individual journeys of artists trained at different art schools across India. The attempt is to understand the arts practice of this region, and its history, without participating in its national narrative and challenging the same.

Ashok Maridas, Zubeni Lotha, Sarita Sundar and Roma Chatterji's grants were made possible with support from Titan Company Limited.

Arts Practice (AP)

The Arts Practice programme at IFA, underwent a review 3 years ago, and in its latest avatar seeks to push boundaries, and articulate new territories through experimentation, critique, and explorations in practice.

In keeping with this spirit, contemporary dancer and choreographer, Preethi Athreya received a grant for the creation of a performance that explores the functioning body, set against a purely performative or productive body, through the act of jumping. Preethi and a team of ten people from diverse backgrounds in the arts, fitness and sports, seek to understand, and engage with this body outside the frameworks of the performative, competitive, or aesthetic. As the description synopsis to her performance piece succinctly ruminates, how does the body respond to and internalise gravity? Preethi's performance piece, Conditions of Carriage, opened on November 28 at SPACES, Chennai and on December 01 at the YMCA, Chennai. The floods in Chennai reached our shores as a scheduled third performance was cancelled, but we were overwhelmed to see that audience support remained steadfast!

From the poster for Conditions of Carriage, a performance piece
by contemporary dancer and choreographer Preethi Athreya, Chennai

In this period, a grant was also made to theatre practitioner, Deepika Arwind, who received a grant for the creation of a performance themed around narratives of the hair. Titled A Brief History of Your Hair, the performance draws upon personal, historical, political, and gender narratives of the hair, and uses humour, playfulness and fantasy to unpack questions of identity, androgyny, gendered beauty, and the way these ideas relate to each other across cultures. The performance is expected to premiere in March 2016, in Bangalore.

Arts Education (AE)

IFA with support from the Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore, and in association with the Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT), organised an art integrated capacity building training program, from December 21 to 23, 2015, in Kundapura, Karnataka.

This capacity building programme, Kali – Kalisu (which translates as Learn – Teach in English), helps educators continue their life-long quest of learning as an integral part of teaching. Forty-eight teachers from Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, and Hassan districts attended the conclave, which sought to understand the differences between 'Art Education' as a curricular area and 'Art' as the basis of education, while integrating different art forms within the curriculum.

Participants and their work, from the recently concluded Kali-Kalisu workshop at Kundapura

The two day session, led by master resource people, identified from earlier capacity building programmes, included, drawing/sketching sessions; improvisational, and theatre process exercises; screening of documentaries; brainstorming sessions on integrating the arts in curricula; and performing poetry, Kavya Vachana, accompanied by music and songs.

These sessions are meant to provide a supportive environment for mutual explorations in the arts and education, as one of the resource people at this session noted, "Through this regional training programme I hope to create a platform for teachers to share their work, discuss with specialists from the field and also help network to continue their practice"Kamath, Byndoor.

We also made six grants to teachers during this period, do read on to know more about their proposed plans for their schools, across the state!

Gangadhara Naik, received a grant to design a series of workshops for the sixth grade students of the Government Higher Primary School, Gandhinagar, on appreciating the forms of poetry known as Chutuku, Kathana and Ashaya.

Ganapathi Hoblidhar, assistant teacher at the Government Higher Primary School, Baindur, Udupi, received a grant to organise a series of arts and afterschool programmes, as extended engagements for students, between the fourth and ninth grade, who have migrated from other states. Using Yakshagana, poetry, dance, theatre and forms of visual arts, the project seeks to encourage self-directed learning while dealing with displacement.

Gururaj L, special teacher in drama at the Government High School, Jahagir Gudadoor, Koppal, received a grant to extend his earlier project, where students across grades in the school will work towards a folk theatre performance. While the students will learn various art forms from local artists and communities they live with, this project will bring together the entire school – the teachers, parents and school administration – to strengthen the relationship between the school experience and community lives.

Lakshminarayana T, an art teacher at the Government Urdu High School, Devara Jeevana Halli, Bangalore, received a grant to create a supportive environment for the eighth and ninth grade Urdu speaking local students, to develop positive self-identity through studying their own histories, and cultures through the literary arts, music and visual arts. The non local students will also be encouraged to participate, in order to appreciate the culture within which the school functions.

Subbulakshmi S, an art teacher at the Government Higher Primary School, Thonachikoppa, Mysore, received a grant for integrating 'Talk Story', a storytelling process, by which students and teachers, as learners from the first to the seventh grade, will incorporate their personal life experiences with the content of study in classrooms. This will enable them to grasp the meaning and relevance of the curriculum to their everyday lives.

Vanitha R, an assistant teacher at the Government High School, Kuruvinakoppa, Kalaghatagi, Dharwad, received a grant to build a pedagogic process for students between the eight and tenth grade, through the principles and application of design practice, using materials from textbooks, vibrant art forms in the locality, and the natural environment where the school is located. This project seeks to instill the ability to think through problems, and seek solutions using the discipline of design.

All our grants made under the Arts Education Programme, were made possible with support from the Goethe Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore.

Archival and Museum Fellowships

This is a stimulating period for our Archival and Museum Fellowships, as we look forward to the first exhibition engendered since the fellowships, with their current mandate, were started in 2014. Due to open this February is Abeer Gupta and Suchitra Balasubrahmanyan's curated exhibition with the Decorative Arts Department of the National Museum, which will re-stage the museum's collection of brocade saris, from Benaras.

Furthermore, decisions to make two fellowships, to Shubhasree Bhattacharyya and Priya Sen, to work with the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology of the American Institute of Indian Studies (ARCE), were taken. The ARCE is an extraordinary audiovisual archive that houses more than 25,000 hours of recordings, and includes all contexts of music production, such as recorded Indian music, dance, and performance of all kinds, from classical music traditions to regional traditions from all over India, popular music from film music, to Jazz in India.

Shubhasree, a researcher and documentary filmmaker, proposes to engage with 'work music' practices in India, which is scattered across genres like agricultural songs, boatman's songs, grinding songs, and more. The challenge of her research will be, to construct a framework into which these genres can be categorised, and create 'listening experiences' for an audience that is unused to listening. Priya, a filmmaker and researcher, would like to investigate the narratives, and conversations around oceanic routes, especially, the music of the Siddhis in Gujarat, and the music of the indentured populations from East India and UP, who migrated to Mauritius, Fiji and Trinidad. Her interest in studying the 'deeply entangled histories' of migrant populations, stems from her previous projects, which have dealt with histories, stories and melodies of migration, travel, servitude, slavery, bondage, and conquest.

The Archival and Museum Fellowships were made possible with support from Tata Trusts.

Project 560, 2015

The second edition of our city-wide found spaces festival in Bangalore – Project 560, 2015, partnered by Citi India, was an exhilarating and rewarding experience. With a seminar on December 10, the festival opened to audiences in Bangalore, across the city, from December 11 to 13, 2015. Encompassing the many different spaces, stories, and people that call this cosmopolitan city home, Project 560, reflected the many different facets of the city.

The seminar on December 10, saw our Project 560, 2015 grantees – Archana Prasad, N Mangala, Prathibha Nandakumar, S Ramanatha, and members of the KLATSCH Collective – present their various projects, and take us on a journey through their artistic processes respective projects. Additionally, invited artists Pa Madhavan, Tushar Joag and Manas Acharya spoke about their engagement with cityscapes, in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Grants from Project 560, 2015, Bangalore

For the festival, the grantees explored the breadth of Bangalore's wartime history; its culinary landscape; stories of the people who contributed to the growth of a particular locality; recovered an old landmark from the yellowing pages of history; and reflected on the lives of stalwarts who contributed to the arts in the city. Dance, theatre, installations, poetry, songs and music in Kannada, were accompanied by the smell of fresh ghee dosas, and filter coffee, engulfing one in a sense of belonging.

S Ramanatha's theatrical performance, Rangajangamana Stavara, inspired by the life and works of theatre legend B V Karanth, opened to overwhelming audience support, as B V Karanth's former residence in Girinagar swelled with the number in attendance. The performance skillfully interspersed this exploration of Karanth's practice and music, with anecdotes of the thespian in action, and artfully showcased some of Karanth's most beloved characters on stage.

There was strictly standing room only, at N Mangala's multi-sensory artistic experience, Ghamaghamaabhavana, at one of Bangalore's old restaurants, the Vidyarthi Bhavan, located in Gandhi Bazaar. Literary stalwarts like D V Gundappa and Masti Venkatesha Iyengar were resurrected by present day actors, while contemporary cultural luminaries, like Subbaraya Vishnu Murthy (Su Vi Murthy) and others, shared anecdotes from their journey. Peppered with memories of the space and her people, the performance, and installations succeeded in capturing a conversation between the past and the present.

ondu plussu, ondu lessu – a poetry performance, a photo exhibition and an installation at the site of Coffee House, Coffee Board, by Prathibha Nandakumar, provided an invigorating setup to explore the city's coffee culture. Dramatised readings from her collection of coffee house poetry, set a flurry of relationships in motion, as lovers fought, and friendships were made over cups of coffee served by attendants, who had worked in the space over decades!

Anuradha Venkataraman's dance and theatrical performance, Stories Unearthed, at the Government Museum, enquired into the many wars, and their symbols, that have shaped the city. From the canons of Tipu Sultan and the possible horrors of nuclear war, to the tales of a bereft mother and a grieving widow. The performance threaded its way around the museum space, and brought it alive, to new audiences.

Archana Prasad's installation, Malleshwaram Calling, attempted to capture some of the narratives and stories that represent a rapidly changing locality like Malleshwarm, through recorded interviews of its residents. The telephone booth installation set up under the Yashwanthpuram Flyover, functioned as a story-telling machine that brought back Bangalore of the 1950s, in the current space.

The KLATSCH Collective set out to make a series of multi-disciplinary artistic interventions in Chikpet's 100-year old Mohan Building, called Myself Mohan 1909, through engagements with the multi-layered narratives of the space. Their project, with tremendous and generous support by the community of shop keepers, tea sellers and hawkers, who currently inhabit the Mohan building, took one on a biographical journey of the Mohan building. Time had ravaged Mohan, but with help from KLATSCH and the wonderful atmosphere of ownership from its current inhabitants, he came alive in a flash of audio installations, graphic paint, light installations, and more!

Do visit our online gallery for an exciting round up of the events. Read more on Project 560, 2015 in the media, and don't miss out on NDTV's coverage of the festival in their Art Matters programme!

Project 560, 2015 — Curated Arts Walks

IFA launched curated Arts Walks in Bangalore city, as part of Project 560, 2015, partnered with Citi India. This series of curated walks, for residents by residents, began in August 2015 and will continue up to March 2016. These 'Arts Walks', explore broad themes like Bangalore's artistic traditions/practices; artist biographies revolving around their work; neighbourhoods that have nurtured the arts; histories of arts spaces such as music halls, theatres, cinema halls and film studios; arts institutions; public sculptures and installations; and architecture, in the city.

The first Arts Walk was conducted in Hanumantha Nagar and was curated by Suresh Moona, noted historian, and chronicler of Bangalore's past. An area with a unique balance of natural beauty, and rich history, Hanumantha Nagar was ideally suited to examine Bangalore's connection with the arts. The next walk was conducted in Malleswara (Malleswaram), and was curated by Prof Srinivas Murthy, a professor at MES College and local resident of Malleswara. A small hamlet turned into a suburb, and soon an extension, the walk explored Malleswara's unique cosmopolitanism, courtesy of its diverse inhabitants.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Arts Walk in Ulsoor, part of Project 560, 2015, curated by Prof Sathya Prakash Varanashi, Bangalore

We also conducted an Arts Walk in Ulsoor, with Prof Sathya Prakash Varanashi, an architect involved with eco-friendly designs and heritage conservation, and the present Convenor of INTACH. Ulsoor, an urban neighbourhood with a historic heritage proved to be the perfect backdrop, to study the relationship between architecture, personal rituals and customs, to understand this historic space in a modern context. Avehi Menon and Archit Guha, from the Centre for Public History, Srishti Institute of Art, lead the next walk with a curated soundscape through MG Road. The soundscape, composed of the memories of people through recorded oral narratives, spoke of a longer history of the arts in this space, when restaurants, bars, cinema halls, photo studios, and several other establishments nurtured the arts.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Arts Walk on MG Road, part of Project 560, 2015, curated by Avehi Menon and Archit Guha, Bangalore

Do visit our gallery to view images from our walks.

Do follow us on facebook and Twitter or check our website for regular updates on these walks and more from Project 560, 2015!

Project 560, 2015, is an IFA initiative partnered by Citi India.

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We organised and participated in a several events this quarter – grant showcase in Delhi and Chennai, a panel discussion on gender and performance in Bangalore, a film festival in Kolkata, and more.

IFA partnered with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA), New Delhi, to showcase Wall Stories, by IFA grantee Shashwati Talukdar, on November 27, 2015. The film, which explores the intriguing history and culture of the Garhwal region in the Western Himalayas, through mural paintings found in the area, opened to a packed audience, followed by an enthusiastic Q&A session with Shashwati.

Promotional material for Shashwati Talukdar's Wall Stories, film screening at FICA

The performance piece, Conditions of Carriage, by contemporary dancer and choreographer, Preeti Athreya, which sought to explore the body as a functional unit, in contrast to a purely performative or aesthetic identity, opened on November 28, 2015 at SPACES, Chennai and on December 01, 2015 at YMCA, Chennai.

We partnered with Theatre for Experiments in New Technologies (TENT), Kolkata, for the Little Cinema International Film Festival on experimental cinema, to showcase a set of IFA supported films, and a panel discussion on video and production, between December 03 and 09, 2015. We showcased six films, O Friend, This Waiting by Justin McCarthy and Sandhya Kumar; A Very Old Man with Winged Sandals by Yashaswini Raghunandan; Down the Rabbit Hole by Ekta Mittal; Every Time You Tell a Story by Ruchika Negi and Amit Mahanti; Breathed Upon Paper by Ayswarya Sankaranarayanan and, The Common Task by Pallavi Paul and Harveet Singh Rahal (aka Sahej).
This grant showcase was made possible with support from Tata Steel.

We continued our engagement in Singapore, at the Arts House, with a showcase — Interpreting Tagore, with IFA Grantee, choreographer and dancer Astad Deboo, on December 04, 2015. Astad Deboo, pioneer of modern dance in India, enthralled the audience with his interpretation of Rabindranth Tagore's poetry.

Interpreting Tagore, a performance piece by dancer and choreographer Astad Deboo, at the Arts House Photo Courtesy: Amit Kumar

IFA participated at Protean Frames: International Conference on Contemporary Discourses of Feminism, a conference organised by Christ University, Bangalore, with a panel on gender and performance, on January 12, 2016. The panel included two grantees, Sharanya Ramprakash and Deepti Priya Mehrotra, and Programme Executive Sumana Chandrashekar, who shared their experiences from their respective vantage points as a theatre artist, a political scientist, and a ghatam player and Carnatic music vocalist, moderated by Arundhati Ghosh.
Deepti Priya Mehrotra's project was made possible with part support from South Asia Women's Fund (SAWF).
Sharanya Ramprakash's project was made possible with part support from Voltas Limited.

IFA in collaboration with Rangayana, Dharwad, presented a grant showcase on January 30 and 31, 2016, with presentations by Prakash and Ranjani Garud, and Sharanya Ramprakash; and two performances of Doddata and Yakshagana. These presentations and performances explored the traditional forms of Doddata and Yakshagana, respectively.
Sharanya Ramprakash's project was made possible with part support from Voltas Limited.

Promotional material for the grantee showcase at Rangayana, Dharwad
Photo Courtesy for Sharanya Ramprakash (right panel): Suresh Babu

We organised three MaathuKathes, conversations in Kannada, with Praveen Kumar and Prakruthi Kumar, Anuja Ghosalker, and members of the Freedom Jatha – a collaboration of members of Jana Natya Manch, Delhi, and The Freedom Theatre, Palestine. Praveen and his daughter Prakruthi talked about their adventures as wildlife photographers, and led an engaging session exploring the artistic, aesthetic and technical dimensions of wildlife photography in India. Anuja introduced us to the entirely captivating – Lady Anandi, a performance text, which explores the personal story of the actor-writer, who is haunted by the ghost of her maternal great grandfather – a female impersonator in Marathi Theatre, in the late 1800s. Sudhanva Deshpande and Komita Dhanda from Jana Natya Manch, Delhi, and Faisal Abu Alhayjaa and Osama Al Azzeh from The Freedom Theatre, Palestine, talked about the successes and challenges of Freedom Jatha – an artistic collaboration and performance piece – that travelled across the country, exploring the role of the arts in cultural resistance.

From our MathuKaathes (clockwise) - The Bangalore Harmonica Club, Paul Mathew (Cheruvannur Diaries), 
Sarbari Gomes and Ajay Cadambi
Clockwise: Photograph from Praveen Kumar, and Prakruthi Kumar's adventures in wildlife photography;
Anuja Ghosalker performs from her text Lady Anandhi; a packed audience
listening to Freedom Jatha members

Upcoming Events

The following events are scheduled for the next three months (event dates are subject to change):
bird_bullet MUMBAI  
  Grant Showcase: Presentation and Performance

February 23 & 24, 2016
This grant showcase will include presentations on February 23, and a performance of 'Akshayambara' by Sharanya Ramprakash on the February 24.
The presentations will be by IFA grantee and artist Sumona Chakravarty, on Chitpur Local, a community based arts project that sought to re-invigorate a once vibrant community of the arts, in Kolkata; and IFA grantees and artist collective, KLATSCH, on their project Myself Mohan 1909 – re-discovering a 100-year-old building and its community, in Bangalore, as part of Project 560, 2015.

bird_bullet BANGALORE  
  GRANT SHOWCASE: 'Akshayamabara'

March 14, 2016
A grant showcase featuring a theatrical exploration of gender in Yakshagana, by IFA grantee and theatre practitioner, Sharanya Ramprakash.

bird_bullet NEW DELHI  
  curated exhibition on brocade from benaras at the National museum

February 25, 2016
Abeer Gupta and Suchitra Balasubrahmanyan's curated exhibition with the Decorative Arts Department of the National Museum, which will re-stage the museum's collection of brocade saris from Benaras, to make the museum a more dynamic space.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive our updates. For more details, write to

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bird_bullet IFA launched Catalyst – Arts an Inspiration for Excellence, in November, 2015. Catalyst is a unique initiative, which brings together 8 eminent artists, who will share their experiences about their pursuit of excellence, at corporate venues. As part of this initiative, we have partnered with corporate houses, including Biocon Limited, Sasken Communication Technologies, Centum Electronics Limited, and Titan Company Limited. The last few months have seen artists Atul Dodiya, Nandita Das, and Romi Khosla conduct sessions, talking with their individual journeys, in these spaces.

Nandita Das at the Sasken campus, Bangalore

If you would like to know more about this initiative, or partner with us, please contact:

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We have an interesting set of publications to offer which include postcards featuring our grantees' work, books and back issues of our magazine ArtConnect. You can avail of special anniversary discounts on Limited Edition collections. All the proceeds from the sale of publications go back into grantmaking.
To know more, write to

IFA POSTCARDS Set 1 Beyond the Proscenium Embroidering Futures: ArtConnect Limited Edition
Introducing our first ever set of IFA POSTCARDS!
Own one today!
Suggested contribution:
Rs 200
For details, write to
Beyond the ProsceniumReimagining the Space for Performance
Edited by Anmol Vellani
176 pp., Rs 300, US $20
Click here to buy online.
Embroidering Futures:
Repurposing the Kantha

Edited by Ritu Sethi
192 pp., Rs 400, US $30
Click here to buy online.
20 years: Limited Edition - Set of 9 ArtConnect back issues
Buy Now at Rs 700 only
Click here to know more.
To buy ArtConnect, write to
Buy both and get a discount of Rs 100!
Click here to know more.

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Afrah Shafiq, received an Archival Fellowship from IFA, supported by Voltas Limited, to work with the cultural history archive at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta (CSSSC). The archive contains a wide variety of visual materials from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Bengal that includes books, journals, popular paintings, prints, posters, hoardings, advertisements, and commercial art productions. Afrah's research will culminate in a series of short videos that will portray stories of resistance of women in the nineteenth century, loosely themed around 'Women and Impudence/Cheeky Girls'.

Afrah Shafiq lives and works in Bombay in the field of documentary, mixed media and visual art as a researcher, designer, editor and on production. She has a special interest in animation, illustration and collage. When she is not at work, she makes glass mosaics. Some of her work can be seen on

IFA: How did you identify the visual materials that you wanted to work with, what inspired you to work with this collection? How did the research at the archive shape the narrative of your video?

Afrah Shafiq: My interest in working with visual material in an archive was pretty much centred around the idea of a collage, or the act of looking at a variety of material and making your own meaning out of it by the way you bring them together. What felt fun about it, was that not only will there always be a particular pattern or story that will emerge for you if you work with one set of images over time, but that even if a hundred other people work with the exact same set of images, the stories will always be different. And this is something I saw as emerging very distinctly in our time at the archive as well, going by the conversations with the other fellows who were also working with the collection at CSSSC over the last year, where we would be interested in the same image, but for very different reasons – and that was quite interesting to see. The fact that the visual collection at the CSSSC archive is so diverse in form as well as period, felt for me like it lends itself well to this collage approach – almost as if you are given a pile of magazines and newspapers – some are sport, some are wildlife, you have some architecture, some fashion… it gives you more leverage and room to create your story. Similarly at the archive there are lithographs, photographs, paintings, sketches, film posters, and magazine illustrations – the range is very diverse and it is this diversity that made me want to work with the collection.

I actually went in with a very broad idea, that of cheeky girls. That I would somehow try to locate in the archive, women who were impudent, who refused to conform to whatever expectation that was laid upon them at their time… This was more of an indication of the kind of region I am looking into, and not specifically a researched or structured story. I was also planning to look carefully at the general visual representation of women in this archive and see what that image revealed to me, and to play with that existing imagery – tweak, re-alter, change context – to create this image of cheek. So the narrative of the video, or the outcome of the fellowship was to take shape entirely based on what emerged through the research at the archive.

Floating Women by Dharmanarayan Das Gupta

IFA: What has been the most interesting discovery? Is there any particular visual source that helped centre your work?

Afrah Shafiq: I spent about a month at the archive and it took some time to develop a methodology for myself. First I was going by collection, or period and trying to get familiar with the history behind the images… but that started feeling really overwhelming since there literally is a sea of things in an archive and its easy to drown. Finally what I decided to do was to just look through every image in every collection – and when an image "spoke" to me – to just put it aside. As random as this sounds, after days of doing this when I went back to have a look at the images I had put aside some very distinct patterns emerged. I think this was the first most interesting discovery while working at the archive… that the images automatically grouped themselves into four distinct categories. There were intimate all women groups – doing various things like collecting water, or dancing and performing or lying down in each other's laps, or chatting. Then there were images of women and books – sometimes the women were into their books, sometimes they were rejecting the books, other times the books being used to lecture or school them or just as objects of show. The next one was of women alone and insular, in reverie and day dreaming – mostly looking out of windows or into space. And the third category, which was personally the most exciting one, was of women flying or floating. This category was made up almost entirely by the most fanciful works of Dharmanarayan Dasgupta which were just absolutely beautiful in their fantasy of women, and cityscapes and lovers. The thread and narrative of the work that is being made from the material in the archive is drawn directly from these four categories.

IFA: You have a very interesting working title, could you please unpack it for us?

Afrah Shafiq: The working title of the video is Sultana's Reality. It's a short account of a history of women and books that starts in the andharmahal as a site of women's popular form of entertainment that was definitely cheeky and outrageous. Historically, there was an attempt to shut down this practice of song, dance and games by the British as well as Indian reformists through the introduction of an education that was meant to cure women of their lascivious tendencies. There are stories of women who resisted this refinement on the one hand, and took their new found education to an unintended level on the other… and one direct result of this is that women started adding their voices to the existing books through their own writing, and with it they added their many imaginations of the world and their place in it. One such very popular imagination that does this is a piece of early writing in the country, Sultana's Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, which most of us are familiar with. And in fact if one looks into the life of Rokeya, one can almost see a similar trajectory as the story assimilated from the images in the archive – where she was born into the purdah system, where she was educated but only meant to read certain books, where she studied other subjects secretly by a candle at night after everyone was asleep, and finally ended up writing a piece of her feminist utopia. So on one level the story of the women in the video that I am working on can be equated to the story of women around the same time and in similar contexts as Rokeya Sakhawat. However, the structure of the video also makes a few references to Sultana's dream – and in fact the opening of the video is directly drawn from the opening of the story, and this is another reason why I wanted to connect the video title to that piece of writing.

Work in progress by Afrah Shafiq

IFA: Do you think these fellowships instituted by IFA help bring these collections alive?

Afrah Shafiq: Absolutely! Most of these archives are like treasure troves with so much khazana in them that is of use not only to scholars and academicians but also to artists and practitioners who have an interest in working with archives. The only way that the collections can breathe and still exist in a lived form today is through these interpretations and through making newer work from this existing material… My time at the archive was amazing; I would find at least one image that blew my mind every single day so I feel so lucky to just be able to look through all of this stuff and to have the liberty to make something with it.

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