For the next few weeks, Winding Snake’s Jenny Allan will be blogging from the arts collective’s tour of India as one of the companies chosen for the British Council and Wales Arts International’s projects to mark 70 years of Indian independence.
We’ve been in Jaipur for almost a week now and I think the whole team fell in love with the Pink City straight away.
It’s not that it’s less chaotic than Delhi – it certainly isn’t with elephants and camels competing with buses, tuk tuks and cycle rickshaws for space on roads teaming with vehicles of all shapes and sizes; children as young as four or five begging at car windows stopped at traffic; and unexpected farmyard animals rooting through piles of street rubbish – it just has more of a chilled vibe, despite the chaos, poverty, kaleidoscopic colour and myriad beauties amid unbelievable filth.
We’ve spent a bit of time getting to know Jaipur. We’ve seen some incredible sights so far, including a six-piece brass band in full military regalia crammed into a speeding tuk tuk with their instruments, bustling market places bursting at the seams with jostling people, kitchen utensils, arts supplies, and spices and block printers texturing beautiful fabrics with intricate shapes and colours.
We’ve been working with Jawahar Kala Kendra for the past two days creating a series of rangoli throughout the venue as they begin their celebrations in the lead up to Diwali. Last night we were invited to return to JKK for the final night of their international music festival and beginning of their Diwali festivities.
It was a cornucopia of Rajasthani dance, music, puppetry, physical theatre, astonishing costumes and general festivities. All things were happening at once, silk-shirted men whirled in technicolour, clacking sticks; I was pulled up to dance with a turbaned man dressed as a horse and a fabulously jewelled woman; beautifully dressed women danced with flaming torches balanced precariously on their heads and candles, everywhere to celebrate the coming of the festival of lights.
Today we have been working in JKK again, creating some initial shots for our animated film and creating more rangoli for the Diwali celebrations. We also set up squares of sand and tablets around the space for passers-by to try their hands at animation with James and Rosie.
“It’s been really great having the Winding Snake team here, especially in the run up to Diwali. Lots of people have stopped creating traditional rangoli at this time and have started to use stickers instead. Sharing this art between our two cultures is helping to remind people about the beauty of rangoli and is bringing people together.”
Sonia Vyas, JKK
Tomorrow we head to the Taj Mahal – more soon!
3. Park Life
After battling our way through the multidirectional traffic and seas of people in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk market, Amy and I finally managed to find some rangoli powders for the project, thanks to a tip off from Rajni. We jumped in an early morning tuk tuk and set a course for Sadar Bazaar.
The old city is an intense experience of sights, sounds, smells and so much life that it’s literally difficult to move. Cars, trucks, cows, tuk tuks, bicycles and people all compete for every inch of space in a melee of honking, revving, heat and shouting. Even draped in our scarves we drew a lot of stares from the local shoppers – clearly fish out of water taken by surprise in this functioning chaos.
At this time the markets are beginning to stock up for Diwali; strings of brightly coloured flowers hang from stalls and shops, cow-drawn wagons piled high with bags of colourful toys wade through the traffic and colourful tealights, paints and rangoli powders line the streets – a welcome sight after several days of fruitless searching!
From our base in Delhi’s India Habitat Centre, we decided to take our pop up animation studio and our rangoli powders to the park to meet with some local people and trade skills – you show me rangoli, we’ll show you animation, sort of thing.
The decision was an astounding success. Over several days we set up in small parks in the Jangpura district and it wasn’t long before we drew a crowd. Children from nearby slums were delighted to watch as inanimate objects came to life through animation; two women shyly created their own rangoli for us and then returned later with their young families; school children caught sight of us on their way home and created animations of their own; trendy young men were captivated, despite themselves, and were soon kneeling on the ground animating beads, ribbons, bottle tops and creating beautiful rangoli patterns.
The whole team got to meet people we’d never have interacted without this project. Language was suddenly no barrier and the day was spent quietly creating and communicating with smiles and one or two words in hastily learned Hindi or smatterings of English.
Today we head for Jaipur. More to follow soon!
2. Animation workshops in Chanter Nagar
After a few days of settling in to Delhi life, battling our way through the crowds in Old Delhi, sampling local cuisine, exploring the city’s parks and negotiating bazaars we finally went to meet with our good friend, artist Rajni Kiran Jha.
Following Rajni’s visit to Wales, when she created a giant Rangoli in Aberteifi’s Small World Theatre, she kindly invited us to visit her at her school – D.A.V. Centenary Public School – to meet and work with her students.
The Winding Snake team introduced the students to the basics of animation through a series of active, hands on workshops which saw a group of polite, nervous 17-18 year-olds transform into artists, directors and animators in the space of an hour.
We shared traditional stories from Wales (Blodeuwedd) and asked the students to tell stories from India (Rama and Sita), which we used to inspire the afternoon’s work. Working in small groups the students created pixilation, stop-motion animation, cut-out animation and working with sand.
On day 2 we returned to the school and this time we introduced the idea of animating rangoli to the students. Of course, being art students and being immersed in rangoli from a young age, they all produced their own beautiful, intricate rangoli using coloured sand or coloured grains of rice. They showed the team different techniques and ways of working with the sand, as well as introducing us to the ideas of typical Indian motifs and designs.
Using the techniques from the previous day they students brought this vibrant and colourful artform to life in such an imaginative variety of ways: some students created peacocks and flowers which unfolded magically into being on film, while others quirkily animated the Indian flag, or animated colourful renditions of Ganesh.
After a sumptuous lunch of chai, thali and the traditional gulab jamon we were treated to an Indian welcome ceremony. Five small children dressed in beautiful traditional costumes showered us with flower petals and daubed our foreheads with Tilaka. The school Principal decked our shoulders with garlands of roses and marigolds before presenting us with gifts of shawls, traditional hats and hand-made cards.
A truly beautiful and moving way to end the workshops – with some new friends made, some new skills learned on each side and a brief glimpse into a warm, welcoming and creative culture. A privilege to work with such artistic, imaginative and focused young people.
Check out our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages for more images from the workshops and examples of the students’ work.
- Charming snakes, monkey business and arting about in Delhi
Plunged into Delhi’s midnight chaos the Winding Snake team immediately found ourselves racing through streets clogged with vibrantly painted trucks, darting scooters laden with passengers, speeding tuk-tuks and swerving cars of all shapes and sizes. Everyone driving headlong, honking wildly into the nearest available space, regardless of road markings, passengers and other vehicles.
And this is how the Art that Binds team were introduced to Delhi.
Since then we’ve been exploring this incredible city, where camels stroll blithely through speeding traffic; snake charmers hypnotise more than their serpentine friends with their flutes; and where the impossible heat pounds relentlessly and trickles down your back as you whizz past a breathtaking sunset surrounded by a million other people.
The team have been scouring shops, markets and bazaars in search of materials to create Rangoli, meeting many people along the way. We can’t wait to get started with our animation workshops and the whole team is excited about learning just a little about the huge variety of art that India has to offer.
From rangoli to truck art, street graffiti to ornate religious sculpture, India is a country devoted to creating beauty in the midst of chaos. We are thrilled to be immersed in this crazy, wonderful city where so much of it is all around us all the time.
These activities are part of the Rangoli: art that binds project, funded by Wales Arts International, British Council Wales, First Campus and Ffilm Cymru Wales as part of India Wales, a major season of artistic collaboration between the two countries to mark the UK-India Year of Culture and has been developed by Amy Morris for Winding Snake Productions.
To learn more about the project please visit www.artthatbinds.org. The site is available in English, Welsh and Hindi and will gather photos, videos and stories from people in India and Wales about human experiences of art as a social conduit.
Contact: Amy Morris via firstname.lastname@example.org, 07584 290 926
Jennifer Allan via email@example.com, 07557 448 342