As Delhi-based artists (Revue) involved for several years in the creation of community-related art projects. Through the projects, using and combining different media we document the changes in the city and study how these changes affect peoples’ lives. We also explore, adapt and create spaces for public interactions and collective intellectual and creative practices.
Drawing upon our previous experience in the Networks and Neighbourhood project (2014-2016) supported by Khoj International Artists Association, in collaboration with local people from the densely populated migrant working-class settlements of Khirkee and Hauz Rani. We had many informal and formal dialogues with local women about their notions of public space. Khirkee a semi-rural colony on the unauthorised / lal dora area of south Delhi, still retains a strong though vestigial aura of its origins despite now being fully assimilated into the city in every sense. Within the narrow two or three storied buildings with small windows and doors, spaces take the forms of balconies and staircases that angle into the lanes. Women residents are generally dominated by male family members at home, and in terms of accessing public space are restricted to street corners, parks and shops in their own neighbourhoods.
During the past one and half year project, we have observed that in diverse localities like Khirkee and Hauz Rani, where women in general have so little public visibility or are restricted to their own private spaces, the biggest initial challenge is to identify the local young women who live in the neighbourhoods who might be willing to be a part of our art project. The challenge was to make contact with them, and then to build and sustain relationships.
We tried to connect to women from diverse and multi-cultural backgrounds, and this expanded through different nodes and personal input from the participants.
Moreover, we have observed many young women often manage to create their own shared collective spaces (on rooftops, terraces, stairwells, at municipal taps, and in nearby markets, malls and beauty parlours) as nodes of community. Technologies such as internet, and associated spaces like cyber cafes, have been changing the social and professional possibilities. Presently internet-connected smart phones and social network sites have radically transformed the way we understand relationships. Unlike cyber cafes or desktop-based internet usage, smart phone has produced more mobile and intimate possibilities of real time engagement with the online/offline social world. In the present project we have been producing a magazine based on the narratives of women in the locality. Realising that most of the young women are using smart phones, we have developed an app to access the magazine on the phones. This have been our first attempt at entering, understanding, representing, and opening up conversations about the neighbourhood, or the mohalla, through mobile phones.
Visit blog: https://networksneighborhood.wordpress.com/
Project Mobile Mohalla
For the project Mobile Mohalla: Negotiating Social Ecology, conceptualised under the umbrella practice of Mobile Mohalla, we are keen further in deepening the interactions and engagements with the teenagers and young adult women in Khirkee, Hauz Rani, and nearby neighbourhoods. These women come from not only local Indian backgrounds, but also include more recent migrants from Afghanistan, Somalia, and various other African countries, and also a young transgender community. From the past engagements we have already created a core group of ten young women and men, called Khirkee Collective, who will initiate further dialogue and involve more insights, open possibilities for wider range of sharing with the rest of the community.
The project has two aspects of creating space and relationships, one is offline and the other is online.
The offline space is to explore the idea of reclaiming spaces to negotiate the changes of local ecology which accommodates the narratives of urban public and private space of different traditional families. This would be initiated through creating wall painting in the streets, local magazine, cycle rally, performances in public spaces, playing games etc.
As we have already mentioned that we have developed an app to share the magazine through smart phones, we also deploy social networking sites like Facebook, Whatsapp etc. to extend and continue the conversations in more disperse manner.
Blogs are maintained by researchers to discuss and examine the underpinning theoretical and conceptual framework of the project.
As a community engaged project, this project is a multi-nodal, multifaceted project. Revue as artists, groups of local young women and men, academic researchers are involved in this project.
Sumandro Chattapadhyay, research director at the Centre for Internet and Society, has been a close collaborator and co-conspirator in our ongoing explorations of the mobile internet as a new and transforming space of public and private interactions, and how we may engage with the mohalla via the mobile phones.
The Centre for Internet and Society, or CIS, (http://cis-india.org/) is a non-profit organisation based in Bangalore and Delhi with policy, academic, and applied interests in the reconfigurations of social processes and structures by internet and associated digital media technologies.
During this project we would like to keep collaborating with Sumandro, and have CIS as a contributing partner, which will support Sumandro’s contributions to this work.
The Mobile Mohalla project is supported by Kiran Nadar Museum for Arts, New Delhi.
Beheshta, Masooda, Razia, Sonia, Tabassum, Vidhi, Kobra, Jamal, Nargis, Nitin, Ghufran
Chetana, Nian, Sebanti