Our tryst with Expressive Arts over the last 10 years has unraveled some amazing experiences. Amongst our varied ventures, our sessions at the Jaipur Literature Festival continue to remind us about the change and impact Expressive Arts can create, even in a short span of time.
This year, as JLF celebrates a decade of its existence, our long standing association with The Festival put us in Jayshree Periwal High School with 54 students from various social spheres. What started off as a theatre and arts workshop of January 9, 2017, became a special program by the end of January 23. There were a few, notably novel processes this time: Until now, our group comprised students from 5 privileged Private Schools from Jaipur and 5 NGO participants from rural parts of Rajasthan. But, for the first ever time, we invited participants from Madhya Pradesh as we looked to expand the scope of our Outreach Program at The Festival. Secondly, in order to break the polarity and binary created by Private Schools from Jaipur and NGO’s across Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, we partnered with the ICICI Foundation to put us in touch with 2 government schools in the city. This made possible for participants to explore a diversity of experiences which was an enriching experience for us as well.
The workshops spanned across a period of 8 days, where a focus was laid on basic tools of theatre and creative writing along with spaces to discuss our theme for this year, ‘Freedom to Dream’. It was tied in to The Festival’s theme this year which celebrated ‘70 years of India’s Independence’. Years of progress and development has left us with unresolved issues that we struggle with, in our current times. An effort was made, not only to classify these issues but also discuss them with our participants through the course of the workshops. The results were eye opening.
Hesitant at first and slightly confused, our participants, albeit slowly focussed on their lives to discover social and cultural norms around them that restrict their choices, ambitions, aspirations and their ‘Freedom to Dream’. More importantly however, they spoke about the need for collective strength and unity that is required to break these barriers. Within this, our participants envisaged a country, a nation that allows everyone an equal chance to dream, express themselves and an equal opportunity for success.
What started off as an exercise in self exploration turned into a larger vision that more than answering the questions we posed, left us with more unanswered questions about circumstances that people live with. This also meant that lots of myths and stereotypes were broken, ideas were exchanged and challenges were recognised. Our work, which aims specifically at bridging the gap between privileged and marginalised, was effective in breaking the perceived rural-urban divide that stemmed in the beginning of the workshops. We also discovered the need to pertinently highlight other factors such as caste and gender when we discuss something as precarious as ‘Freedom to Dream’.
An integral part of our Outreach Program is the display of an interactive performance that develops through the workshops. It binds stories with personal narratives of our participants to bring relevant ideas that have emerged in the days preceding the performances. For us, performing is never an end goal but a process within itself. Not only does this give a chance to our participants to explore themselves, it also gives a chance to audience members to raise their concerns. The sharing has been and always will be mutual. After all, the audience too, are school students and community members who belong to the age group our participants come from. Many of our participants told us how the workshops and performances were a cathartic experience, and the fact that it helped so many others open up was magical for them.
Our performance ‘Freedom to Dream: Sapnon Ki Udaan’ has reached out to more than 3000 vibrant minds in Jaipur. Travelling from from schools to communities and making its way to the festival grounds; it helped create a space that is inclusive and accepting.
We would like to thank Teamwork Arts for giving us this opportunity and Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 for providing us with a chance to connect with young minds across the country. A special mention goes out to Pratham Books and ICICI Foundation for helping us co-create and expand this platform.
A Report on The Outreach Program will be ready for public perusal soon. We will be putting up a link on the website and our social media page for anyone interested in knowing about this more.
Thank you for always believing in us and being with us! Watch out this space for more.