Vasudha Joshi

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year and six months

Ganjifa is an indigenous game played with circular hand-painted cards. Once flourishing in many known centres in the country, the tradition is today in serious danger of dying out. Ms. Vasudha Joshi aims to document surviving sites of this tradition, and study and record the lifestyles of persons who still paint the cards.

Ganjifa is an intrinsic part of an artistic tradition. Moreover, card games also unravel myth, legend, lore, and a cosmological picture of the world. What little exists of the Ganjifa tradition today is active in only six centres in the country and unless the game is revived these too are likely to follow the same route to oblivion.

This grant will enable research and documentation of Ganjifa as an endangered but living tradition. Additionally, Joshi will visit sites where the art once existed (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu) to ascertain reasons for its demise, unearth stories surrounding the cards, and decipher what meaning, if any, the cards may still hold. Joshi hopes eventually to broaden her research to look at other indigenous games wherein crafts, lifestyle, and divination intersect and cross-fertilise.

Joshi will collate written material on Ganjifa and visit museums and private collections to archive the tradition systematically - something that has not been until now. The grant also enables Joshi to acquire card collections, which she is keen to place with a registered Ganjifa body or museum she will identify during the course of her research.

Joshi also intends to record and video detailed interviews with surviving Ganjifa artists. She will also use Ganjifa cards to create textual and visual material for young learners and adults. An immediate outcome will be booklets to enable craft marketing agencies to retail the cards as “games”. After eighteen months, Joshi will disseminate her findings and make to a wider public. In the interim, she will formulate strategies with sympathetic non­profits to strengthen outreach, and plan activities, such as an exhibition involving Ganjifa artists.