I am writing as the initiator and one of the founder-members of The Arshinagar Project, a nascent, trans-disciplinary performance research collective envisioned to work at the intersections of performance, anthropology, education, ecology and other disciplines. Our research into performance is based on an active engagement with traditional, especially mystical forms of embodied performance such as Sufi Qawwali, Baul songs, etc. Our work is also very strongly inspired by the theatri-cal and post-theatrical work of Jerzy Grotowski. More than a theatre group or an NGO, we want to be a collective or community of individuals brought together by a common vision while retaining their individual autonomy. You can find out more about us on: facebook.com/thearshinagarproject, which has a more detailed description and statement of intent in the ‘about’ section.
We have been in existence since last July (though we are yet to acquire legal status) and in this time, we have organized a host of programmes including presenting and hosting performances, talks, open mics, workshops and even a zero-budget festival. Some of the highlights of our work in the past one year are:
Mrityu Shongkraamito (Death Infected) – Based at level on an essay on Macbeth by Jan Kott, but intended to be a response to the world we live in.
The Parrot’s Education – based on a satirical short story by Rabindranath on the education system
Nei Thikanar Dak Ghar (The Post Office of Lost Maps) – an ongoing, malleable work-in-progress based on the poetry of Agha Shahid Ali’s poetry and Tagore’s Dak Ghar (The Post Office), intended to be a part of a multi-year process of dialogue, performance research and exchange with people (especially youth) in Kashmir
Fools and Princes (A work demonstration showcasing our research work on breath, rhythm, physicality and traditional singing, using fragments from three Shakespeare plays)
Spontaneous Celebrations – using elements of psychodrama, TO, dramatherapy and other modalities, and focussing on an exploration of self and identity, in their social and personal dimensions
freedomspeak – a workshop on Spoken Word poetry for college and university students, exploring notions of freedom.
To The Flame – A workshop periodically organized in collaboration with the traditional Qawwals from the Hzt. Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi, exploring through the means or embodied practice, notions of Self, Other and transcendence. This is part of a much larger proposed project entitled ‘The Flame Project’, intended to exist over a broad, continuous spectrum, from pure performance research to social action, the latter in the form of programmes for young adults, educators and youth, where through engagement with different mystical traditions, inner and outers spaces are questioned and negotiated.
Dramatic Space: Theatre as Transformation – A workshop offered periodically to actors and non-actors, using theatre as a take-off point to explore external and internal dimensions of Self.
‘Bindu – The Source’ – A workshop offered periodically to performers (actors/dancers/others) exploring breath, rhythm, physicality, organicity, impulse and trance in performance.
“Theatre, Political Awareness and the Young” – a Panel discussion on politically aware theatre for young audiences, with the participation of Probir Guha, Jean Frederic Chevallier, Debashish Sensharma and others.
FreedomSpeak – an open mic organized in association with The American Centre, Kolkata
“Bazaar of the Heart” series of walks:
A series of introspective walks organized in collaboration with Qawwal Saqlain Nizami, in the Nizamuddin area of Delhi.
“Ghosts of Shakespeare” Festival: Exploring Shakespeare through contemporary Indian subjectivities and lived experience, and vice versa. Organized on a zero budget, with the association of The Oxford Book Store, Modern Academy of Continuing Education and Proscenium’s Art Centre.
We are based primarily in Calcutta, but also have a presence in Delhi. At this stage of our existence, we must reach out for supporters, for associates, and institutional and individual partners and collaborators. I invite you to consider ways in which you can involve yourself with our work.
We do not receive any kind of institutional funding at this point, either from government or non-governmental sources, and are thus entirely dependent on the revenue generated from our programmes, or on donations. We do our best to offer all our programmes to everyone, irrespective of their financial ability, and this in turn means that most participants in our programmes attend with no or little charge. On the other hand, if we are do carry on and expand the work we are doing, in the next two calendar years, we are in need of funds to the tune of INR two million. A large part of this is required to carry on our two principal proposed projects, viz. The Post Office of Lost Maps, and The Flame Project, details of both of which can be found above. While we many never be able to raise anywhere near this kind of money with our extremely limited resources, we would still like to try our best. We have already been blessed with the kindness of many people, and we are confident that more people will see the value in our work. We request you to donate any amount starting from INR 100/-. and above. Your contributions will help us offer our programmes to one and all, without consideration for financial ability, would fund the costs of travel we need to undertake for our research-work and for performances, conferences, seminars, etc., and also support the outreach programmes we intend to initiate and sustain.
Apart from financial contributions, we urgently need help in setting up our website, and we’d be extremely grateful if someone would support us with the costs of registering our domain and buying webspace, and also help us with the technical aspects of creating the site.
We are in critical and urgent need of a workbase in Kolkata. We ideally need a space where we can rehearse as well as present performances – our performances happen in non-proscenium spaces and for small, intimate audiences, never larger than fifty. The same space would also serve as a workshop venue, and a space for screenings, discussions, seminars, etc. So if you are with an NGO and would like to allow us to use your facilities, or have access to an old house, unused commercial space, or even a room or two, and would be kind enough to allow us to work there, we would be most grateful to you.
If you are a part of an school/college/cultural institution/NGO, you could invite us for performances/workshops, or as we prefer to say, for exchanges or barters. This means that we are interested in something more than just arriving, performing and departing. We’d like to stay for a few days, get to know your community (howsoever you define that term), and learn as well as share. We are especially interested in forming human relationships far from mainstream urban contexts, so we’d especially love to hear from you if you work in places and with communities rich in traditional and indigenous forms of singing, dancing, storytelling and ritual practices.
More than anything else, we’d love you to define your relationship with us – we want to be a ‘collective’ in the true spirit of the term: a non-binding, inherently ’empty’ space, where differences and even contradictions of opinion may exist. If you are a performer, you can join us in Kolkata, or be a part of our work in Delhi, which centres around Sufi Qawwali, or be geographically elsewhere and join us from time to time. Or you could be from other disciplines, and you could create with us work that is of educational, anthropological or sociological interest. We are especially in work that helps us address youth on notions of identity and ecology. So talk to us, and tell us how you’d like to forge a relationship with us.
To initiate a conversation on any of the areas mentioned above, please write to us at:firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Warmth and peace,
on behalf of The Arshinagar Project collective