Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ankur Bal Club

Ankur, a Delhi-based NGO is working in the field of experimental pedagogy with children and young adults from working-class resettlement colonies over for more than two decades. The organisation has been experimenting on new genre public art education in various localities of Delhi for the last few years. This is reflected in of the research and artistic representation of social issues through works that interact with the community.

Dakshinpuri is the one of the centres of Ankur. It is a resettlement colony and is part of Ambedkar Nagar area that also comprises Dakshinpuri Extension Khanpur, Deoli and Madangir. It was set up in 1977 to rehabilitate people who were uprooted during emergency (1975-77). Dakshinpuri has 12 blocks and each block has approximately 700 to 750 families.
This is a working class colony where people are engaged in domestic work, skilled work like painters, construction work, factories and also people have got their own shops and general stores.
Children go to government schools, private schools as well as NGO centres.
Water scarcity and electric cuts are severe problems. Though the parks are there, they are not well maintained.

Ankur Bal Club in Dakshinpuri is active in the locality for several years. Unlike the school that instructs children to leave behind their lives and become accumulators of information, the children’s club is a space where children bring along their stories/ lived context. The children between 10-15 years find ample space to express their individual experiences and absorb those of others. It makes them more open to diverse opinions and experiences, and inspires them to view their perceptions and their understanding of the world around them in a new light.

The club activities take place in community parks, grounds, lanes and local centres, thus enabling children to assert their right over these community spaces. Public spaces are being squeezed with the particular process of urbanisation being practised, the act of situating the activities of the Children’s Club in these spaces will help establish children’s ‘ownership’ of these spaces. Children’s ownership and team spirit is an integral feature of the club. Street programs and park events are features that energise the group.

The club has got the opportunity to experiment widely with diverse or a variety of public forms in the community, such as mobile stool, sound booth, wall painting, public hearings and peer exchanges. Here children can present their experiences, express opinions, raise concerns, articulate expectations on a range of issues that affect their lives. They also shall express themselves through plays, puppets, writings, posters. etc.
One of the Public art programmes which the children of Baal club has done in recent times in Dakshinpuri is the ‘Mobile Stool’.
This programme creates opportunities for dialogue between children and people engaged in various skills within the locality who are normally invisible. A mobile stool is conceived as one of the creative medium which engages a carpenter with the young children of the club.
The Stool has an open mouth painted on its top with small doll-size cloths hung around the edges. It has detachable legs which are decorated with various tattoo designs. The table is made unique and attractive so as to catch the attention of people in the locality.
Friday Market: Initially the stool was made as a creative medium to invite and to gather the people/traveller of the locality, where they could share through a common platform.
However, gradually it has attracted a wide range of public in a floating space like the Friday market. Since a year time the children from Baal Club attend the weekly market on every Friday in Dakshinpuri and they actively carry the program through.
People gather around and have interaction with the children through several questions about the creation and purpose of the table. Parents coming with children accept their request to sit with ease and have their photograph clicked. They discuss their interactions with the school during admission and other times. Slowly the mobile Stool has turned into a mobile studio.
An interaction also happens with the shopkeepers which generates texts with rich experiences. The children have learned how to interact and document the narratives in their daily diaries. Children shared their texts with the listeners, created logs and captured the moments in a camera.
While working on such a or projects many multiple creative forms are produced. Stickers, booklets, posters etc. are produced from the content generated from the series of interactions happening at the stool. These objects are again circulated in the community for readership and comments and for further addition of content. This is an ongoing process through which a project is developed from the chiselling of another project. In this way, through stool and its circulation as mobile studio emerged the idea of mobile sound booth. Like the stool that was produced by the carpenter, the sound booth was produced by one of the metal work units in the locality. But after a brief presence in Dakshinpuri this sound booth has travelled to another locality where Ankur works. This is how Ankur shares creative processes and thoughts from one centre to another, one locality to another in the city.