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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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Khoj’s engagement with the Community of Khirkee has been growing in an organic and sustainable manner, responding to the feedback and reactions of Khirkee’s residents following participation in programmes held over the course of the year.

Our collaboration with the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi (SPA) has led to a longer term project, ‘Khirkee Future Commons: A Community-Space Design Challenge’. Through interdisciplinary workshops on Community Space Design for less-catered to communities; students and recent graduates of SPA are developing innovative amenity designs for Khirki Extension and its immediate neighbourhood. Through the workshops, the students hope to improve upon the daily lived experience of Khirkee’s residents. This will be done with the input and participation of independent artists, designers, architects and other experts. The first phase of the project is nearing its completion — with the students ready to submit their designs to an Independent Jury, who will select a winning project for implementation.

Taking off from the 2016 edition of Coriolis Effect, Swati Janu and Malini Kochipillai will be carrying out a yearlong engagement in Khirkee through their projects, Migration & Memory Cards: The Khirkee Storytelling Project and Khirkee Awaaz respectively. Through Migration & Memory Cards, Swati hopes to create a digitally told collective narrative of the community within Khirki Extension, recording oral histories and giving voice to marginalized communities by amplifying the language of the subaltern through the underground networks of media file-sharing and consumption in informal communities. Over the duration of 2017, the project aims to co-create hyper-local media content with the migrant communities around Khoj through a recording studio. Malini Kochupillai on the other hand, has started Khirkee Voice (Khirkee Awaaz in Hindi) — a community newspaper based in the Khirki Extension neighborhood itself. Continuing the spirit of community understanding and celebrating diversity, Khirkee Voice is a quarterly publication that aims to continue to bring stories, both ordinary and extraordinary, from the multiplicity of cultures and communities that call the neighborhood of Khirki Extension home. Bringing together personal stories that speak of contemporary tragedy, aspirations and celebration through articles and features that bring together art, culture and life; Malini’s project, in the process hopes to help create a collective consciousness within Khirki, illustrating the neighborhood as a place of unique richness and limitless possibilities. Printed both in English and Hindi, the newspaper hopes to reach a wide audience by using a network of local news vendors to distribute copies to neighborhoods in and around Khirkee.

One of the most rewarding surprises of the past year was the success of the Bharatnatyam classes and creative workshops that Sr. Project Manager, ATSA, Juee Deogaokar and filmmaker, Naina Bhan took with the young Afghan girls of Khirki and Haus Rani. Juggling between school, long hours of tuition and extensive domestic responsibilities, Khoj has grown to become a safe third space for these girls to let loose and find their creative selves.

“Teaching dance has always been a joyous and satisfying experience for me. It was five months ago when a group of 7-8 Afghani girls living in Khirkee came to me and insisted upon learning dance. The enthusiasm, interest and drive of these girls was so real that I felt the need to commit to teaching them. In the beginning, the girls assumed that I would be teaching them Bollywood dance, but were thrown into a complete state of shock when I demonstrated some of the basic steps and movement sequences of Bharatanatyam — of which I am a trained practitioner. The girls asked me more than a few questions to understand what exactly Bharatanatyam was and what was expected of them as students. The class seemed like a challenge initially because it demanded body coordination, flexibility and strength. However, as the class progressed the girls adapted to the rigour and became more engaged with dance — they have started to recognise and appreciate the beauty and grace in the form and have begun to demonstrate the same through their bodies. It is magical to see how their desire to be beautiful, confident and free in themselves has come alive within the span of a few months.”

Juee Deogaokar