Let’s make 2020 Accessible & Inclusive Happy :)

Terribly shiny selfie wearing ‘Neelam’ stole at Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur – details at end of post*

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year – may we all strive in our own ways to make 2020 more Accessible and Inclusive for all of us   heart emoji

Thank you for your motivation, inspiration and trust all through 2019, hoping to continue in the same path through 2020

Like me, if you ever doubt your thoughts, falter in your action, feel lost in the chaos of the 21st century, then may the words of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore lead you towards the light which will help you find your path and fight for truth again. It works for me:

Where the Mind is Without Fear 

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

2020 promises to be a unique year for #projectinterpret (the VarnikaDesigns initiative) – there will be a series of collaborations starting with monthly social media takeovers by textile designers Suyash Srivastava, Pragati Singhal, communication designer Bharat Manoj,  interior designer Riya Singhal and Assistant Curator Chelsea Santos 🙂

Suyash will be posting from Siwan in Bihar through the entire week of 13th January – don’t miss out his incredible stories on VarnikaDesigns Instagram and Facebook

There will also be many guided tours across India, of which you will be updated

For us, the focus group remains: teens, late teens and young adults – with/without Depression. Attempt will continue to create more socially and intellectually Accessible and Inclusive spaces, primarily for them but not excluding others

It is important for us to remember that Depression is not considered a Disability in India though WHO does! The Disability Laws and Policies do not take into account even the number of people with any Learning Difficulty living here, forget a misunderstood Depression

No museum or art gallery or heritage space in India has any data on its Disabled visitors. Basically, we do not know anything of the Disabled visitors. In 2020, VarnikaDesigns proposes to change that. Watch this space 🙂

The year that was:

2019 had been a year of intense activity for VarnikaDesigns through participation in two conferences and coordinating in organising one international workshop, apart from reaching out to the young adults through education

The main objective of such engagements is to extend the urgent need of museums and heritage spaces to be Accessible and Inclusive to larger audiences. VarnikaDesigns also attempts to bring together a host of experts through this initiative

The international workshop was organised by Commonwealth Association of Museums in collaboration with ICOM, ICTOP and MMT at the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, from 28 – 30 November. Have written about it in: https://varnikadesigns.wordpress.com/2019/11/26/workshop-access-inclusion-in-museums-mehrangarh-fort-museum-jodhpur/

L to R: Charlotte Spink, Sunayana Rathore, Catherine Cole, Krishna, Mrinalini Venkateshwaran, Tejhsvi Jain, Kuldeep Kothari, Bhargav Padiyar, Karni Singh Jasol, Chelsea Santos, Shubham, Giles Tillotson, Ambika Patel

Over 3 days we discussed, shared and learnt from each other of the problems, challenges and solutions to each unique situation. Prof Hans started off the workshop citing her own experiences and how she thinks we need to fight together for an Accessible society. Do we know what happens to the Disabled during and after a natural calamity???

All the speakers and participants with the Manganiyar musicians – Kuldeepji is second from left

The immersive experience at the Arna Jharna museum, built by the local communities, was definitely the highlight of the workshop. It is based on the collection of the famous Komal Kothari, run by his son Kuldeep. After Tejshvi’s session helping us plan an inclusive exhibition, the music and dance by the young Manganiyars was indeed important to our discussions. The young boys are now being taught some of the older dying music, and we couldn’t resist dancing to ‘Ghoomar’ – video on social media 🙂

DSC04771The 3rd international conference ‘Ensuring Fair Access & Inclusion in Heritage Management Processes’ held at Ahmedabad University, was organised by the Centre for Heritage Management from 6 – 8 December. I spoke on the various ways we can make museums in India more Accessible through my paper “Let’s open the doors and windows of our museums and minds” with case study of the Bihar Museum

The keynote speaker, Jaya Jaitley, who established Dastakri Haat Samiti in 1986, spoke about empathy and emotions (‘bhaav’) in creating the fabulous handlooms and handicrafts of India. With lucid examples from her decades of experience, she explained how in framing government laws and policies we do not include the intelligence, emotions and dexterity of the crafts communities. How true!

Did you know that Malaysia reaches out to Disabled children through their schools? Prof Yahya Ahmad spoke in detail how Malaysia is taking elaborate efforts in creating accessible spaces. So much to learn from for India

The 1st Art Education summit at Delhi from 18 – 20 December was the first of its kind for Art1st. CBSE and IGNCA collaborated with them for it. Their mission is to ‘change the narrative’ by including arts in the school curricula

Groupfie taken by my favourite Gond artist Bhajju Shyam, regaling Ritu, Sharmila, Charlotte and me with his on-the-spot humour

There were intense workshops, labs, exhibitions, paper presentations and many case studies. I was honoured to be part of the panel discussion on ‘Museum Education and School Education: Necessity of Convergence’ –  chaired by artist Sharmila Samant and shared with Roobina Karode, Director, KNMA, Tejshvi Jain, Founder, ReReeti, Avni Sethi, Founder, Conflictorium. All of us emphasised, through our work, on how important it is for a parallel set of creative and practical ideas to connect museums and educational institutions, without forgetting the challenges in each and overcoming them with extremely well planned programmes

The brilliant Charlotte Leach spoke about her co founded school Loka, in the heart of one of the poorest villages of India in Bihar, Sussane Buch Nielsen discussed her work at the VIA University College, Denmark, through her initiatives with the nursing community, Penny elaborated upon her work with children in UK, Timira Gupta fascinated everyone with her discussion on Akshara Foundation and their school in Mumbai, artist Lokesh Khodke spoke about integrating arts in schools, Nobina Gupta spoke about her work through her organisation Disappearing Dialogues, Ishan Khosla presented his work on developing new typefaces with the crafts communities in Gujarat, and Bhajju Shyam, the Gond artist from MP showed his amazing work for Tara Books, art galleries and a public art project in Delhi. He said he would love to have an entire Gond Art documentation for the younger generation, as their own people are forgetting their own stories

From Art1stThe highlight of the Summit was the declaration of the annual Tushar Joag award for excellence in arts education. Who else other than Tushar could have contributed to the arts even after his absence from the world but through his presence?

The best workshop of 2019 was with the Hamaara Sapna NGO’s women and children during their summer camp: https://varnikadesigns.wordpress.com/2019/11/14/their-stories-for-us-this-childrens-day/

*Selfie taken at Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, wearing a ‘Neelam’ hand block printed cotton stole designed by Sanghamitra Ghosh (Ta-2) at her grandmother, Jameela Iyer’s workshop. Jameela had introduced block printing to Dehradun when she had shifted there with her husband in 1973. Today, thanks to her, Dehradun has several studios specialising in hand block printed textiles. Sanghamitra has revived the workshop and brought in fresh new range of textiles and stationary

Thank you for following VarnikaDesigns on Instagram and Facebook – you’ll find us extremely active in 2020 😉



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