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Themes @ Koota

Curating immersive experiences about the world around us.

We live in an increasingly fragmented world, where information comes from every direction and the lines between fact and disinformation can easily blur. To help people understand what is useful and factual, we believe it is essential to present the different threads of an idea or thought, allowing people to weave their own narratives. This is the spirit behind Themes@Koota – to broaden understanding through sharing on diverse topics. Community participation is the driving force to take this idea forward.

Each theme we identify is meant to run for a month, with exhibitions, talks, films, workshops, and other activities designed to engage with different aspects related to that theme. Content is curated for various age and interest groups, with opportunities for discourse across groups. Experts from the community help curate the program with an emphasis on integrating ideas across disciplines.

Spin A Yarn : November 13th – November
28th 2021

Spin a yarn was held over 3 weekends and consisted of interactive sessions, concerts, performances, panel discussions and some hands-on practical experience of hand crafting. It spoke to the participants as consumers, development practitioners and engaged with questions of culture, aesthetics, inequality, livelihoods, work and sustainability. The 3 weekends were not strictly divided thematically, but had the following dominant themes interwoven;

Theme 1: History, aesthetics, heritage, culture and economics
of textile making in India,

Theme 2: Consumption, Identity, Style and Fashion

Theme 3: The craft /Technology of making of cloth- the people,
the skills, techniques and processes

Theme 4 : The way forward: Sustainability, Livelihoods and the
choices in the face of climate change

The entire month took on the spirit of celebration, with the Vimor Handloom Foundation and their exhibition “ Looms of Memory”. The “Saree Walk” through the exhibition excited many. Our hands- on sessions began with spinning workshops on the first weekend, weaving on the second. Crochet and quilting added to the colours and textures of the month!! An exhibition by Nool Koota, a community group that meets over yarn, adorned every corner of Koota.

Talks by Anita Ratnam, Suresh Jayaram and Uzramma gave us a deeper insight into the historical and social context of our clothes.

The highlight of the theme was “Unbounded- Not just a Fashion Show” which brought together members of the community, to curate, choreograph, dance, drape and much more. Practising late in the evening, huddled over piles of sarees and fabric, losing one’s inhibitions and breaking boundaries were some of the vignettes of the process. Beautifully choreographed and flawlessly executed – the fashion show has become our benchmark for a community event. Exploring the story of cloth, through weaves, colours and textures, questioning gender stereotypes and
celebrating this craft tradition, were the themes of the fashion show.

The month closed with a concert by Shabnam Virmani, who shared the philosophy of Kabir through poetry and song.

Spin A Yarn was curated by Benson Isaac. Benson is passionate about all things craft and among many crafts, textiles have a special place. Benson has talent to tell stories that weave different threads and make a beautiful picture that leaves you in awe and makes you think. Spin A Yarn was well thought out and put together by him.

An event of this scale does not get implemented without a team, and what a team of volunteers we had – Sreedevi Ajayan, Sandeep Nanu and Divya Raghunandan.

The Fashion Show was a piece by itself! Conceptualised and directed by Preeti Singhal, Arunima Choudhary and Divya Raghunandan. Coordinated by Sreedevi Ajayan, Hemantha Kakani and Rajani Bhat, we had a cast of twenty people, each
of who gave their heart and time to the event.

We also had young members of the community document the program, through photographs and writing. Read their accounts here.

Our Place in Space: March 13th to March 28th, 2021.

The sky above has always prompted a sense of wonder and magic in all of us, which has only grown over time. The more we discover, the more there is left undiscovered. Since the beginning of time our imagination has been stoked by the patterns and phenomena we observe in the skies, which we have used to build stories, navigate our way across the vast universe, and explore questions about who we are in the context of this mysterious universe.

The program was designed to inspire interest as well as stimulate the amateur astronomers among us. The host of experts within the community presented sessions and engaged with the audience.

We had a surprisingly large number of astrophysicists within our immediate community who stepped up to share their knowledge. What was difficult was simplifying concepts to explain to the lay audience and making complex ideas relatable. Collaborations with organisations like Think tac helped in curating content for the young. Think tac created a moon box, which explained the phases of the moon and was a constant draw over the 15 days.

Another challenge was to bring in the perspective of science as art. A couple of performance-talks and a play reading, and collaborations between an artist and scientist mesmerized our audiences.

Rekindling a wonder for all the universe has to offer and learning some facts that were beyond imagination were the stars of the theme.

Prajval Shastri, an astrophysicist actively involved with outreach programs in the science community, led the curating of our program. Her ability to articulate complex ideas and patiently persist until the listener has understood – is what stood out for all of us.

PT Sreekumar, an astrophysicist with the Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore also pitched in wholeheartedly with books, posters, resources and ideas. We were able to exhibit some rare memorabilia from his archival collection.

Dipankar Malik, Procheta and Proteep Malik were the other scientists involved in our discussions, who held some of the sessions.

Apart from the scientists we had a lovely group of theatre and science fiction enthusiasts who conceived a quiz and play reading, and art sessions. For those two weeks in March, Koota took on a festive look with glowing stars and lights and a dazzling astrophotography exhibition.

Keep an eye out for exciting themes we have in the works: Textiles, Architecture, and a Lit-fest

WildMalhar @ Koota: January 16th to February 14th 2021.

WildMalhar @ Koota was our first thematic series, and what an exciting 5 weeks of activity it was! Numerous experts and enthusiasts generously contributed their time and energy, leading to an extensive program. We explored the definition of wildlife, what it means to us, and how we impact it, aiming to offer perspectives on nature as a source of inspiration, conservation, development, and the passion and love for wildlife. Different weeks were dedicated to birds, snakes and insects, ecology, and the role of wildlife in art and literature.

Week 1 – An introduction to wildlife – looking at the big picture and diverse perspectives

Week 2 – The World Above- Birds

Week 3 – The World below – Snakes, insects, and other life

Week 4 – The role of wildlife in art, craft, and literature

Week 5 – Ecology and Wildlife

35 events spread across 5 weekends was quite the undertaking and a resounding success!

Bringing together various wildlife interest groups within the Good Earth Malhar community, the birders, snake lovers and expert ecologists brainstormed with the activists and the artists to plan a program that would inspire the uninitiated while appealing to wildlife enthusiasts.

Inspiring a love for wildlife was balanced with the need to build awareness around human-animal conflict and the larger conservation debate.

Discussions included how respect for nature was a part of most traditional cultures and told through their stories and art – and whether photography might be the modern version.

We were fortunate to have the expertise and energy of Sandeep Nanu, Chayant Gonsalves and Sangeetha Kadur – each of them experts and passionate wildlife enthusiasts who brought their vast knowledge and enthusiasm to bear.

Sandeep Nanu is an avid birder, people person and excellent organiser. As the curator, he put together the diverse calendar, ensuring that each event told a story and also included different audiences.

Chayant Gonsalves, our resident expert, is an ecologist who was tasked with orienting the audiences for the various sessions towards the big picture. He has inspired many to take an interest in wildlife.

Sangeetha Kadur is an artist specialising in wildlife illustrations and artwork. Having been in the field for a large part of her life, she helped us identify appropriate resource persons and shared her knowledge with attendees.

We had a broader support team from the community who helped with logistics, technology, and encouraged participation. Thank you Vinay Narayanaswamy, Prakruthi, Naresh, Satish.

We also had young members of the community document the program, through photographs and writing. Read their accounts here.