Cambridge dictionary describes Access as the right or opportunity to use or look at something and Inclusion as the idea that everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences, including people who have a disability or other disadvantage.
To me, art, design, crafts, music, dance, performances, museums, monuments and sites are ideal places to let go and be carefree. Wouldn’t you agree? Doesn’t a beautiful painting or a crumbling arch give you a high? It does to me, all the time 🙂 So why not create opportunities of inclusion where views from the past are made accessible to many, many more people? Keeping that in mind, I have embarked on a journey of unravelling some hidded stories, memories and moments from the past so carefully preserved in our museums that we have nearly forgotten their existence. This is the first of a series of small posts marking some dots in this journey.
Niyati and I took a set of workshops for the NGO Hamaara Sapna on 17th April, it was followed by a visit to the CSMVS Museum on 18th April – the World Heritage Day. The NGO, established in 2012 by Mrs Minal Bajaj, comprises of women living in Tardeo and Dharavi as its respondents. They come to the centres in these densely populated areas of Mumbai to share their joys and pain, their sorrows and laughter, and most importantly, with the knowledge that they have a home away from home. They might live in troubled situations at home but here for a few hours they can live in a trouble – free space – both physical and mental.
Isn’t that what we all need in these stressful times? A place we can call home where our duties and responsibilities are negligible and engagement with others is more.
That’s why the idea of the workshops to make them connect to their immediate environments, to soak in the rich tradition and heritage that the country they live came to me easily. If they are aware of spaces where they can be themselves then they might like to go to a museum! After all, a museum is a space of connecting to ourselves through the past. Niyati just loved the objective of the NGO, how simple it was! Why do we always think of an end to everything we do and not enjoy the process? With these thoughts in mind, we worked on the presentations, with video links and samples of textiles to illustrate our discussions. We had decided not to preach but to share. Niyati helped everyone understand colour through hands-on activities. There were giggles, jokes and a lot laughter when Niyati was making them put paint to paper, after nearly 30 years for some.
Though we were physically exhausted with the workshops, I was looking forward to the visit to CSMVS the next day. When I reached the group had already entered the museum and were happily playing with one of the interactives in the Sculpture Gallery like little children. For nearly all of them this was a first time exposure to a museum hence the joy of experiencing such a world was so pure. After leading them through the Miniature Painting Gallery where they were attracted to the natural dyes, samples and videos of making the Paintings, we finally went to the Textile Gallery. The entire group of around 60 women were so thrilled that they decided to go back home and start creating garments and other accessories for themselves and their families, against buying readymade stuff.
Before leaving, they were thankful for letting them into this world of the past 🙂 What was the most crucial takeaway from this two days? We could work together to realise that past is not something that is an untouchable entity but something that is present in our lives and will be there for us to cherish forever.
Many thanks to Ms Minal Bajaj, Ms Sheetal Bajaj, Ms Mrunal Samant, Ms Parul, Mr Akshay and Mr Vishal for giving us this opportunity and extending your space, support and help. We hope your respondents have also enjoyed the workshops and the museum visit.
This is how we found the women of Hamaara Sapna – as if they were living a dream 🙂