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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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Aagaaz, incorporated as a trust in 2015, already existed as an idea & action on the ground for five years preceding its formal registration. An arts based organization, Aagaaz creates inclusive learning spaces that nurture curiosity, enable critical thought and dialogue. It all started with using theatre as a medium to engage children from a school in Nizamuddin Basti for critical thought and dialogue, which over the past few years has now grown to become a core theatre group of 20 children who now perform publicly and work with younger children. Aagaaz is the Urdu word for ‘a beginning’.

With a year long grant from Khoj International Artists’ Studio, we have started working with both children and adults alike from the community. The children belong to the community if tongewallahs that reside on the fringes of Khirki. We meet them every Sunday in a public park, and we call it ‘Unlearning Uncentred’. With adults we are hoping to begin conversations between those most unlikely to communicate with each other, through ‘किस्से Connection’.

Unlearning Uncentred is all about play and discovery and conversations and unlearning and not about teaching anyone anything.  Through Arvind Gupta Toys, Pratham books, our theatre artists from Nizamuddin & the songs that they bring, our volunteers, colours, the children and the games that the children from the community bring along, we try to create a space where children can pick up what they’d like to discover more. Some children sit down with some volunteers for the entire durations listening to stories from their favourite books! Some hop around playing with the toys! Some sing along with children from Nizamuddin. Some get down to draw and colour their imaginations on paper! Some just like to talk! Some share with us their games and we play together! The session’s structure of providing no structure is aimed at letting children be. And when the relationships deepen in the future then more discoveries would happen! The plan is to bring more music, many stories and theatre into this space. Watch out for these little ones at the Khirki Festival later this year.

किस्से Connection facilitates conversations between unlikely individuals. The idea is for people to delve into each others’ memories and find intersections and connections with their own. In a bid to affect the culture apathy that we live in, we hope participants go back with a sense of awe for the magic of conversing with strangers.

We began unlearning, uncentring and connecting in mid-January this year and can’t wait to unravel the possibilities that music and theatre will weave into this community.