THE DARA SHIKOH FELLOWSHIP
Inspired by the intellectual pursuits of Dara Shikoh, a Mughal royal who tried to find a common ground between religions in unique poetic and literary forms, the Dara Shikoh Fellowship is an attempt to drive academic and cultural discourse in a region vitiated by years of cynical political dialogue. Envisioned as a platform where students from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh can interact with a diverse range of scholars, artists and teachers, the Fellowship cross pollinates the cultural, economic, artistic and scholastic influences to reinvigorate the artistic scene within the region while simultaneously contributing to discourses around art and culture across the world.
Who are you?
I have just finished my degree at SOAS (in South Asian Studies) and have been selected as one of two Dara Shikoh Fellows for 2017. The fellowship organisation have agreed to provide expenses once I am in India, however not the international flights, which are particularly expensive during Summer. Though I am working towards the cost of the flights myself, I am finding it difficult to raise the full amount on my own. This project combines my former life as an actor with my previous experience as a teacher *and* the fruits of three years studying South Asia.
MY PROJECTMy project will use the ideas of theatre practitioner Augusto Boal and his idea of the "theatre of the oppressed" to:
-create a piece of theatre that involves young people across Kashmir using drama techniques familiar with Western practitioners but inspired by the poetry, ideas, experiences and activism of young people from the region.
-hold a series of workshops either with the same group or with multiple groups of young people to introduce them to the conventions of acting, theatresports, or even with reciting some poetry in front of an audience. These workshops could potentially focus on one aspect, ie; making a drama piece based on the conflict in the region OR could engage with multiple themes such as gender, caste, masculinity OR could be based on neither but be participant driven.
-work alongside theatre practitioners in the region, notably those working with the genre of Bhand Pather - a traditional folk theatre commemorating the lives of Rishis (Islamic sages) or more contemporary figures, in a satirical way.
Where will the money go?
Funds will go towards my return flight to India and the Indian visa cost. Any extra money, I will be happy to put towards production related costs for our final performance at the end of the fellowship.
Young people in Kashmir very rarely get exposed to extra-curricular activities outside of their regular schooling. Even their regular education is often interrupted by civil strife and political turmoil in the region which often sees schools shut down for extended periods of time. When I think back to my own schooling, I was always amazed and inspired by visiting theatre troupes of performances that I was privileged enough to see. Working alongside local theatre practitioners, I think this will be an amazing opportunity for children and young people to process their thoughts and experiences in a way they never have the opportunity to do.
Here is the link to the fellowship website:
Here is the link to Bhand Pather:
And finally, some more information about Jammu & Kashmir: