Reclaiming the Archives
In this session, all the four speakers stressed the need for indigenous communities, or adivasis, to archive and share their own stories, their own pasts, rather than have people from outside the communities do it for them. That is what would prevent indigenous communities from being reduced to data, meant only for extraction and exploitation by individuals and institutions unilaterally assuming the authority to speak for them. Adivasi Lives Matters did this by leveraging the potential of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, for which they created content through audio, video, and text. They have democratised content creation for their platform further by instituting training programmes, where members of their own community and other indigenous communities receive training in the method and the technology required to create compelling content. In this manner, they have ensured that adivasi youth are empowered to document their own communities and their own cultures as well as highlight the archiving practices that have existed in their communities for centuries.
The Living Waters Museum has similarly empowered indigenous girls from the North-East through their programme to learn the art of storytelling once prevalent in their communities and engage in creative forms of expression of their own through them. That is because, in these communities, stories are sacred, containing the roots of their identity and their deep connection with the nature around them. Their initiative seeks to introduce these stories and storytelling itself to children in the North-East at an young age, so that the children grow up with a sense of pride in their identity and their tradition.
- Introduction by session moderator
- Ashish Birulee and Hamari Jamatia (Adivasi Lives Matter)
- Minket Lepcha and Chhaya Namchu (Independent)
- Chhaya Namchu (Independent)
- Humari Jamatia (Adivasi Lives Matter)
- Story about River Teesta
- “We are living for a long time but we are dying to tell our story”
- Project documentation with girls from North East
- How do non-tribals become better allies for Adivasi Lives Matter?
- What all is written about apart from sensitive stories?
- Teesta and other connected folk tales
- Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex https://www.indigenousaction.org/accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-industrial-complex/
- Adivasi Lives Matter https://www.adivasilivesmatter.com/
- The Journey of Adivasi Lives Matter (Adivasi Awaaz) https://youtu.be/73JC8irUID0
- Youth ki Awaaz: Adivasi Lives Matter https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/adivasilivesmatter/
- Chhaya Vani Namchu’s articles on the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development website https://www.icimod.org/icimod_author/chhaya-vani-namchu/
- On Voices of Teesta made by Minket Lepcha: How a Darjeeling woman is giving ‘voice’ to Teesta river’s woes https://www.eastmojo.com/sikkim/2019/05/10/how-a-darjeeling-woman-is-giving-voice-to-teesta-rivers-woes/
- (Re)Meeting the Roots https://livingwatersmuseum.org/storylist?id=175
- (Re)Meeting the Roots: Visualising Water Heritage through Storytelling https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/65630843/northeast-storytelling-workshop-documentation-report
- Turning the Tides and Telling Stories - Minket Lepcha https://asia.oxfam.org/latest/image-story/turning-tides-telling-stories-minket-lepcha
- Video about Adivasi Lives Matter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL06DMUt7Z4&t=1180s
To Whom Does the Archive Speak?
Community representation and the need to document, archive and narrate their own stories.
The panel discussion on “To whom does the archive speak” covered three community different archives. The anglo-indian archive, represented by Sheik Mohamed Ishaq and Adira Thekkuveettil. The archive is a digital repository consisting of visual data including handwritten notes from the community. Proposals for the archive went through various iterations before finalisation. The process of archiving began through field work. In november 2018, they covered quite a few families. The second phase of fieldwork happened in 2019. Since the digitisation process took place in the homes of the families there were challenges that the team faced in terms of inadequate spacing and lighting. Website design development and management was done by archivists themselves. The website helps increase visibility and increases legitimacy.The goal for the archivists is to also include more people from the community in the process so that better representation can take place. Eventually they aim to hand-over the ownership of the archive to the members from the community.
Anahita Sarabhai and Sumitra Sunder from QueerAbad Ahmedabad, in their conversation spoke about the various layers of identity one has as an Indian and how queerness is another layer that permeates through these different layers. In particular, their conversation focused on the intersectional nature of queer identities and highlighted the importance of having an archive that was living. Their aim was to carry stories of not just queer people survivng but also thriving. The third archive represented by Sumit sisodiya was Green Hub. Green hub is an organisation that provides fellowships to students and helps them learn visual documentation and storytelling. With the growing number of students they found that they had with them over 2500 hours of footage that they realised could be used as an archive and as a tool for education. The panel addressed questions on inclusivity and better searchability at the end of the session.
- Introduction by Moderator
- Dileep Prakash, Adira Thekkuveettil and Sheik Mohamed Ishaq (Anglo-Indian Archives)
- Sumitra Sunder and Anahita Sarabhai (Queerabad)
- What stories have come to you beyond those of violence and oppression?
- Sumit Sisodiya and Rita Banerji (Green Hub)
- Fellowship and archive for Greenhub
- How is the Anglo-Indian Archive envisioned and how can it used in the future?
- How do you make sure that the collective (Queerabad) is an inclusive and intersectional space?
- Anglo Indian Archives http://www.angloindianarchives.com/
- Email id - firstname.lastname@example.org
- QueerAbad https://www.facebook.com/queerabad/
- @queerlytherealanahita on IG or email@example.com
- Youth ki Awaaz (on Queerabad) https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2018/02/queerabad-inviting-ahmedabad-to-step-out-of-the-closet/
- Scroll (on QueerAbad) https://scroll.in/magazine/890421/in-ahmedabad-two-women-are-giving-the-queer-community-a-safe-space-where-they-can-ask-questions
- Queerantine Fridays https://www.facebook.com/queerabad/videos/queerantine-fridays-sumitra-sunder/922499721495073/
- The Ladiesfinger on Lesbian suicides in Ahmedabad http://theladiesfinger.com/ahmedabad-lesbian-suicide/
- Greenhub Project https://www.greenhubindia.net
Access for the ‘Archived’
In this session, the focus was on the need to engage with communities in their own language and about their own issues. This was brought to the fore by Kavita Devi, who spoke about Khabar Lahariya, the originally print and now digital publication that she co-founded in 2002 to report on the news of villages and districts in Uttar Pradesh and in the languages of the respective areas such as Bundeli, Avadhi, and Bajjika. She spoke of Khabar Lahariya’s feminist character and, therefore, the need to have an all-women team run it, which could challenge the monopoly of men in journalism and the need to report on stories of marginalised communities such as Adivasis, Dalits, and Muslims even within villages and towns, who are otherwise not represented in mainstream news journalism. She also spoke of the transition that Khabar Lahariya has made from print to digital, which has ensured wider and quicker access to the news reported there.
The People and Nature Centre of the Keystone Foundation similarly spoke of the need to engage with the communities of the Nilgiris that they work with in their own language. However, they pointed the challenges of doing so, given that Tamil, treated as the local language of the area, was not actually so and that, to the communities there, Tamil was also the forbidding language of the state through which policies that affected their lives and livelihoods were communicated to them without any participation of their own. They also flagged the difficulty of archiving a primarily oral culture in an institution like the archive that privileges the textual and the written.
- Introduction by moderator
- Kavita Devi (Khabar Lahariya)
- First publication
- What are the real issues?
- How has the distribution and reach changed?
- View on fake news and digital divide?
- Ranjani M Prasad and Faisal Rehman (Keystone Foundation)
- On the question of language.
- On oral histories, cultural mapping and cultural geographies.
- On the question of privacy.
- Kavita Bundelkhandi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kavita_Devi_(journalist)
- An article on Kavita Devi in feminisminindia https://feminisminindia.com/2019/11/11/kavita-devi-editor-in-chief-khabar-lahariya/
- Keystone Foundation https://keystone-foundation.org/
- Khabar Lahariya https://khabarlahariya.org
Pedagogical Deliberations on Community Histories
System influences on traditional societies’ ideas of their own histories.
The panelists for the session were Sanket Jain, founder of Insight Walk Kolhapur, Amit Bhatnagar and Jaya Bhalerao who run the Adharshila school for Bhil Children in Madhya Pradesh. The session began with Sanket Jain, who is also a PARI fellow taking the audience through the activities of Insight Walk and it’s aim to provide contextual education to the children who study with them. This is achieved through offering fellowships to the women from the community they work with who then help children design their own syllabus based on their interests. As the children began discovering things, they found ways to document the things they learnt through various ways which eventually turned into an archive. Amit Bhatnagar in his remarks spoke about the empowering nature of knowing one’s own history. He went on to speak about his experiences with tribal communities who are often not aware of their own stories of resistance and strength. These stories are catalogued within universities and elite institutions and are inaccessible. History can be inspiring. Levels of self-esteem amongst tribal communities are low due to harassment and the abundance of negative stereotypes. In such a context, stories of resistance and strength from their own tribal histories can help such communities re-evaluate their perception of themselves and also help them stand up to oppression.
Jaya Bhalerao in her opening remarks spoke about how initially their work involved looking at the aspect of self-respect amongst tribal communities, this eventually branched out into taking a closer look at community histories when they realised that the children didn’t relate to the history taught to them in the textbooks. This exploration of community history eventually led to them into discovering more about the history of the village itself after coming across paraphernalia that helped them understand and identify the history of the village and the various communities that inhabited them The session moved on to address questions of power relationships and how these operate in the case of researchers who study such communities. The session also addressed questions of privacy and ownership when talking about community histories.
- Introduction by moderators
- Sanket Jain (Insight Walk, Kolhapur)
- Amit Bhatnagar and Jayshree Bhalerao (Adharshila school for Bhil Children, Madhya Pradesh)
- On history of empowerment.
- On appropriation of archives.
- On access.
- On communities identifying allies and non-allies.
- On funding.