Storytelling festival in Mumbai brings ancient artefacts to life

Dec 07, 2017, 11:21 IST | Snigdha Hasan

With the ongoing India and the World exhibition as inspiration, a storytelling festival brings ancient artefacts to life

At a panel discussion on the future of museums at a recently concluded literature festival in the city, one of the concerns raised was the absence of a museum-going culture in India. To this, Tristram Hunt, director of London's Victoria and Albert Museum, responded saying things may be changing gradually, and cited the long queues of school children he had spotted at the ongoing India and the World: A History in Nine Stories exhibition at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS).

Arpita Ghoshals CSMVS-inspired illustration
Arpita Ghoshal's CSMVS-inspired illustration

Keeping up with the idea of sparking a love for history among young age groups - and through them, their families - CSMVS in collaboration with Peek-a-Book Children's Literature Festival has organised a storytelling festival, Once Upon A Museum… the Endless Saga of Stories. The two-day event brings together movement artistes, children's authors, art educators, professional illustrators, improv artistes, performance storytellers and theatre practitioners to conduct workshops to help children engage with the stories behind the exhibits and gain an understanding of their historical context in a stimulating way.

Rashmi Ramesh and performance storyteller
Rashmi Ramesh and performance storyteller

"When you look at a terracotta pot in the museum, it isn't just a pretty artefact. It depicts an epoch in our evolution, when humans moved from hunting and gathering to a settled life, where they needed these pots to store grains. Stories humanise objects. And what is history but a story of humanity?" says Lubaina Bandukwala, founder of Peek-a-Book. It was these stories that prompted professional illustrator Arpita Ghoshal to doodle her visit to CSMVS and upload it on Instagram. "It is not every day that you get to see exhibitions like these. It was a visual treat, and I had to document it," Ghoshal says, adding that the museum officials spotted her posts and a comic strip workshop for six- to 12-year-olds was finalised. "In the session, we will explore how merchants travelled, the oceans they crossed, what they wore, what they traded in, all through illustrations, and weave them together into a comic strip," she explains.

Vikram Sridhar conduct sessions
Vikram Sridhar conduct sessions

Through his session, improv comedian and teacher Gavin 'Chubby' Methalaka will encourage children to build their own characters and their back stories, and imagine how they would co-exist, inspired by the museum exhibits. "Artefacts, by themselves, give nothing away. Take the Harappan girl for example. Was she a queen or a peasant? The idea is to get kids to unload their baggage through creativity," he shares. "This also opens the door for them to go back to the museum to meet their inspiration." 

When Rashmi Ramesh, a movement artiste who specialises in dance, yoga and storytelling, came across a massive painting of an emperor and his cavalcade of soldiers and courtiers at the exhibition, she knew she had found the theme for her workshop. "Children today are increasingly getting used to the idea of war and violence. I will use elements of Kalaripayattu [a martial dance form from Kerala] to help them choreograph a war piece with a message of peace," she says, adding that storytelling is one of the best ways to inspire children to think. Bandukwala agrees, "In order to express through art, you need to absorb the context and introspect."

On : December 9 and 10, 11 am onwards
At : CSMVS, Fort. register education csmvs.in
Entry : Storytelling sessions are free. Museum entry ticket applicable

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