Tag Archives: jaipur literature festival

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Expressive Arts in the Pink City

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.

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Freedom to Dream: Yuva Ekta Outreach @ JLF2017

Today, as we stepped on stage at Jayshree Periwal High School, it was amazing to see this group of 54 young adults from diverse areas like Kumbalgarh, Mount Abu, Bikaner, Janwaar and Jaipur come together as one unit, united by dreams and aspirations.

This year, the JLF Outreach Program has been centred around 70 years of India’s Independence with its theme, ‘Freedom to Dream’. It all started on January 10, when these young students from various socio-economic backgrounds came together, not knowing what to expect from this process. What began was a full scale roller coaster ride with physical and emotional ups and downs, demonstrating the true strength of expressive arts as a medium of empowerment.

Each and every performer today spoke their heart out, making this performance ever more interactive. The scenes depicted were culled from real life stories of our participants, reflecting those of our audiences as well. The connect was instant, breaking barriers and inhibitions as they stepped on a stage for the first time ever. This was the result of 7 days of intensive workshopping and encouragement for many to come out of their shells and take centre stage.

Our workshops started with basic theatre warm up exercises that helped everyone break the initial tension. We shared our intent and each day was a step forward. Through activities like the mirror exercise, group triangles and guided meditation, we managed to seep into deeper layers that were necessary for the full exploration of this theme. Each day ended with different groups performing on key issues discussed during the day. None of the groups formed were ever the same, allowing participants to mingle with each other, understand and acknowledge individual differences.

Through the last 8 days we have opened avenues, expanding the canvas of one’s dreams. While some presented scenarios where subject and career options defined one’s aspirations, we also had those who want to break caste and gender based barriers that prohibit one’s mobility. Each of these components equally represent a nation that has a long way forward on the route to inclusive development. What we have also discovered in these last 8 days, is the journey our nation has taken so far. No matter where we come from, we have unraveled innumerable possibilities to influence change collectively. That’s the strength that the Indian diversity inhabits.

All these threads come together in our play titled ‘Freedom to Dream’. Our performances have started today, January 18, 2017 in Jayshree Periwal High School and Jayshree Periwal International School. Over the next 5 days we will be reaching to 8 more schools and a community in Jaipur. We are also very excited to perform on the Festival Grounds on Sunday, January 22, 2017.

We aim to continue in this direction, and in the process look forward to facilitating many such interactions where young, vibrant minds get a chance to speak out their minds and express themselves.

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10 Years of Youth Outreach @ Jaipur Literature Festival

The largest free Literary Festival in the world, the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival is one of the most exciting, stimulating platforms for an egalitarian exchange of books and ideas, bringing together some of the greatest thinkers and writers from across the world! From Nobel Laureates, Man Booker prize winners to local language writers and debut novelists, the magical lure of the festival attracts audiences from different parts of the world every year.

A highlight of the demographic population that JLF attracts is the large number of young people who throng to the festival grounds, thirsting to receive from some of the best literary and political minds! Keeping this in focus and hugely aware of their intent to give back to the city that plays host to them, Teamwork Arts – the organizers of JLF, run a Youth Outreach program every year, parallel to the festival.

The Yuva Ekta Foundation, a not for profit Trust working at the intersection of Youth and Governance, has been facilitating the Outreach program for 10 years now. With a core Vision of Equity and Social Justice, the Outreach program seeks to integrate Rural youth in Rajasthan with their more privileged Urban counter parts, thereby creating opportunities of mutual learning and creative exchange.

Each year a new theme is chosen, and using the Social Arts as a medium, the participants are encouraged to explore and ideate with young people from different realities with whom they will spend the next 10 days, thereby providing further food for thought.

The Outreach began with the launch of JLF in 2008, with the theme ‘Hands on Habitat’  -  a conservation program that aimed to preserve and protect the natural resources of country, with the intent to secure a sustainable future for its citizens. This program empowered a new generation of individuals to clean up and care for designated areas, to protect and improve their natural reserves.

In 2009, the Outreach focused on ‘iPartner Citizenship’ Workshops, where the Foundation connected with a group of 50 young people from private and government schools as well as NGO institutions.Spread over two days, these workshops ignited the spark of social connect within the participants and encouraged them to actively participate in community issues, as equal partners.

The Year 2010 focused on ‘Being Human’, where amidst the color and glitter of the Festival 60 young people came together for 6 days, to share, learn and sensitize each other, as they explored different facets of Humanism.

_dsc0300Dilip Simeon, a firm believer in the Gandhian principle of non violence, shared his journey as young political activist, who committed to the Naxal cause in the early 70’s because he believed in their ideology of fighting for the rights of the landless labour. The debate was further enhanced through the presentation given by Ornit Shani and Frederik Gauteng from Jerusalem, on the Palestine Israel conflict. The highlight for this year was a one hour session with renowned Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, who shared his experiences on racial discrimination as a young student in London, and how it inspired him writing “Telephone Conversation”.

2011 carried forward the theme ‘Being Human’, wherein the focus was on ‘Building Bridges’ between people from vastly different walks of life and the workshops ended up making each individual connect with the lost little persons within themselves.

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Along with the workshops exploring the theme using theatre and the Arts, the participants got a chance to interact with Gulzar Saab, Alex Belloss, Mrinal Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Javed Akhtar, and Sudheesh Pachauri in their sessions.

Our theme for 2012 was ‘Democracy Dialogues’ . Through role plays and other games, this platform saw a diverse youth group express their differing ideas on how they understood democracy and its relevance in their lives. This became an opportunity to share and learn as the rural youth talked about engaging with the Panchayat and other rural democratic institutions while the urban youth drew upon their school education to talk from a national perspective.

dsc02122The Outreach programs were conducted within the Festival grounds, in a venue specifically marked for Young Adults. This year, the venue was christened “SAMVAD” – a place for discussion and dialogue.

SAMVAD also became an exhibition space for photographer Kulwant Roy’s work between 1940 and 1960, with images captured the formative period of Indian democracy. Curated by Aditya Arya of the India Photo Archive, the exhibits focused on the leaders of the Indian national movement and their engagement with the people.

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Participants also attended sessions in Samvad with renowned personalities; prominent among them were Gulzar and Prasoon Joshi, who discussed the role of imagination in the age of television  and a panel discussion on Dissent and Democracy led by Tarun Tejpal, Dayamani Barla, Ayesha Jalal, Aruna Roy and Sunil Khilnani .

The theme for 2013 was ‘Myself, My World- a Search for Identity’, a quest for exploring a sense of self as well as the circles of influence that impact our lives every day.

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This was one year in which we included web registrations into our group of Young Adults and our numbers swelled to a challenging 80 participants!

Divided into groups, they explored issues of Self with relation to their Family, Community and the World, using tools of Music, Theatre, Art and Creative Writing. Each group worked with a new tool everyday leaving behind an abundance of Creative Expression!

2014 focused on ‘Freedom of Expression’. Changing our format for the workshops this year, we met our participants six days prior to the festival at Jayshree Periwal High School, when 60 young people made their way to a basement, to begin a journey that explored the finer nuances of Freedom of Expression. They came from places in Rajasthan as far off as Baran, Abu Road, Bikaner and homes on the outskirts of the city, to share experiences with privileged young people from prestigious public and IB schools in Jaipur.

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These workshops were a reality check for the school participants to come to terms with the fact that bonded labour was still prevalent in our country. That despite the technological advancements they were familiar with in our metropolitan cities, there are large chunks of our country where inequity and social injustice are rampant.

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‘Azadi ki Udaan’- our first street play evolved through intensive group work and was performed at the festival grounds for a wide audience.

 

img_2477The activities towards integration continued during the 5 days of the Jaipur Literature Festival, through one hour long Art workshops every morning, during which the participants further developed the theme of Freedom of Expression.

img_2592This year saw an interesting line up of speakers at the FORD SAMVAD tent ‐ from Master photographer Dayanita Singh to dancer and choreographer Astad Deboo, creative thinkers and story tellers Anita Roy, Jerry Pinto, Paro Anand and Anand Neelakantan, the amazing mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, the inimitable Prasoon Joshi and Sufi Gospel singer, Sonam Kalra added to an enriching experience.

_mg_8472 In 2015, we explored the theme ‘Gender Justice’ using theatre. Once again we met our participants six days prior to the festival at the Jayshree Periwal High School, to explore issues of Gender Stereotypes through role plays and creating scenarios. The participants shared personal experiences of discrimination they had personally faced and together explored possible solutions.

img_5198Six days of work culminated in a street play titled ‘Naya Nazariya – Moving towards a New Perspective on Gender Justice!’ that was performed at the Diggi Palace grounds for festival audience.

The theme for 2016 was ‘Finding Me’, where we explored everyday situations, complex relationships and attempted to understand the identity crises young people everywhere face.

thumb_img_0049_1024Using role plays and scenarios, the participants shared the challenges that they face on daily basis. The school groups from Jaipur presented scenarios that focused on issues like bullying, peer pressure, the choice of subject streams like Science, Commerce and the Humanities, in Senior School. These were interspersed with slices of life from the village children, who spoke about how most decisions are taken for them by their parents, about the conservative mind set still prevalent in their society including the discrimination between girls and boys.

thumb_img_1904_1024This was another year of Firsts! The play that evolved during these 6 intense days titled ‘Finding me – Meri Pehchaan’ was then performed in 8 schools across Jaipur, during the days of the Festival. At the post performance interactive sessions, it was amazing to see how deeply the audience connected with us and was inspired to share their stories honestly, many speaking up publicly for the first time!

thumb_img_1652_1024The play was also performed at Bandhali Dhani, Khonagoria Gaon District Community Grounds. Our interaction with this audience, primarily a conservative Muslim community was a bit more intimate. Hesitant at first, young people and parents from the community shared their feelings with us about the need to bring about change in their lives by being more progressive in their outlook.

img_2666The play was also presented at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival Grounds The audience enthusiasm reinforced the universality of the issues that the play addressed.

We are back in Jaipur this year with the theme “Freedom to Dream”.  As we plan ahead for our workshops commencing on 10th January, the last 9 years have left us with heartwarming memories of young girls like Foranta Devi from Tilionia, who stayed bashful and shy in her ghunghat for the first 3 days of the workshop, but on the final day was on stage, singing confidently about the importance of educating girls in her village.

A sentiment echoed by the Muslim girls from Digantar fiercely narrating their ongoing struggle with their families and community, seeking permission to continue their studies beyond Class 8, an eye opener for many present.

Walls of Rural/ Urban, Privileged/ Marginalized dissolving, perceptions changing about the “other” as they break boundaries, reject stereo types, even raise their own aspirations listening to their peers – it has been a fascinating learning for all of us as we shared their journeys and connected them to each other through love and trust. As one young student sums it up for us – “If there’s anything better than being loved, it is loving!”

 

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Finding me – Jaipur Diaries

The finding me workshop has been one of the most amazing things that I have ever experienced. This has truly changed the way I look at life drastically.

Ten days ago, when I entered the workshop, I did not believe in the fact that we, the youth, had the power of affecting and influencing people and encouraging them to be the better people that they are. This workshop has made me aware that people of my age face all kinds of problems. That mine are not the most important. That I am not the only one. It has taught me that everyone in this world, no matter what their caste, creed, color, shape, size; are the same. That we all think alike and experience the same things.

When we set out to spread this message to the youth, the feeling was wonderful. I realized that helping someone else overcome their flaws or plain accepting themselves and others as they are, is the best thing one can do.

I have realized that we, the youth, can make a great impact on the world, to make it a better place for you and for me.

- Simran Jain from Jayshree Periwal High School was one of the participants of the Youth Outreach workshop at Jaipur Literature Festival 2016

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Finding Me – Jaipur Diaries

A new experience is always a delight but I must say that this one was the best. The 6 days I spent at the workshop were a great step to find myself and  it made me aware about social problems and made me more confident and also I was able to understand that one person is enough to change things.

Being a part if this programme changed my perspective towards others and myself. I usually set prejudices for people but now I am beginning to realize that we can never judge a person without knowing him or her. Also, I realized that the most important thing in life is knowing who you are and accepting yourself with all your flaws.
 

When we interacted with students from different schools , we realized that many students were able to relate their lives with the scenes of our play and they said that we inspired them. This comment made me understand the power that we, the young generation possess and if we are determined we can definitely change all the ill practices around us and make the world a better place.

- Malya Sharma is from Rulmani Birla Modern High School and she was one of the 47 participants of our Youth Outreach workshops at Jaipur Literature Festival, 2016