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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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16 June 2014

Hamida Khatri, a visual artist, joined the residency from Karachi, Pakistan. As an artist, Hamida works with the human forms with the procedural outcome of puppet making. For the Gram Art Residency, her initial proposed project was to work closely with the families residing in Paradsinga village. Hamida wanted to introduce the art of puppet making to the villagers not only as a means of entertainment but also a means of profession. Initially her idea of sustainable model was to teach the art of puppet and doll making in a way to embed this skill into the work profession. Through this workshop the artist wanted to create way to earn a livelihood, to generate customers, to expand businesses, to enhance childhood experiences, to gain profits and success, but largely to give them a language in which they can speak of and about culture and local histories. Being in the residency at Gram and living at Paradsinga Hamida during the first few days could be seen moving around, observing and getting use to the daily routine life in the village. For her the people, food, environment, smell of the streets and the clouds were experiences in in themselves.

And then arrived the transformation stage when her proposed project started to feel irrelevant to her because she thought she had no exposure to such a culture. Because of her fascination and practice in puppetry work, her idea to develop a project that focused on eco-toilets became more intriguing. The moment while looking at the beautiful scenery and colorful houses, her eyes halted at the sight of an old man defecating out in the open. Hamida says it was surprising for her but at the same time a perfect queue to educate the villagers about eco-toilets.

She collaborated with another artist, Rohit O. Bhaiya. They came up with the idea of using the spin wheel game which is a common game played by children all across the world. Since they wanted to grab the attention of the villagers; hence it was the perfect activity to start off with the project. Her final work was a large scale silhouette puppet which was depicted using Eco Sani Irri toilet.

Hamida says that ‘People saw and became curious about how the mechanics worked and what the imagery depicted. It was entertaining but at the same time informing the people about the use of eco-toilets. What the process speaks is that human feces and urine could be used separately as soil and fertilizers without spending a single penny in buying the chemically driven farming products. The thought behind the large-scale puppet was to target the farmers of the village. Previously, I had conducted a survey and found out from the farmers that on a yearly basis they spend around Rs. 30,000 – Rs. 60,000 (Indian Currency) on farming products. The use of eco-toilets was instigated to inform these farmers about the one-time investment and plenty of readily available soil and fertilizers for their fields. This thought worked on two ends, one talking about ecology-sanitation and the other irrigation.’