A room of one's own

Dec 14, 2018, 12:24 IST | Dalreen Ramos

City-based artist and activist Aqui Thami is on a mission to establish a permanent physical space for women authors in Bandra

A room of one's own
The travelling Sister Library

I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman." In an extended essay - which the title of our piece is named after - published in 1929, Virginia Woolf makes a profound argument that all work of literature is indeed a male construct. The evidence comes across while scanning through the list of bestsellers and prizewinners.

Aqui Thami, artist and activist who co-founded Bombay Underground and Dharavi Art Room has been travelling to various parts of the country with a set of books - it was called the Sister Library, and set up intimate spaces for reading the work of women authors. Her latest project is turning this entity into a permanent space, which Thami is trying to concretise through a fundraiser for `80 lakh on Milaap, a crowdsourcing platform. Edited excerpts from an interview.

Aqui Thami
Aqui Thami

What catalysed the move to conceptualise this physical library?
I have always longed for a feminist library in India. But after travelling with Sister Library (SL) this year, I felt like I have to start building one. I think the community of women that I met when travelling with SL really inspired me to take this huge step.

You've raised over a lakh with the fundraiser so far. How did you go about planning this?
The money raised is through messages I send to friends on Instagram; the idea is to build a community-owned feminist library and I wish for the community to come forward to support this. In a world where everything is privately owned this will be a breath of fresh air. I request your readers to contribute online through the crowdfunding platform.

Have you decided on a space where the library will be located in Mumbai?
The library will be in Bandra since it is closer to Dharavi and thus, will be accessible to the women and children I have been working in collaboration with through the years.

Will the Sister Library operate like a traditional library?
There will definitely be memberships and borrowing. But it will also be so much more, from free schools to consciousness-raising meetings to healing circles.

What is the need for community-owned spaces in the city, and the country at large?
It's about time we build our own spaces where our voices and thoughts are not silenced. In a world where women are expected to be seen and not heard, this space will be a revolutionary force.

LOG ON TO: milaap.org/fundraisers/sisterlibrary

Bookstore wishlist
* From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii by Haunani-Kay Trask
* Ana Mendieta: Earth Body: Sculpture and Performance, 1972-1985
* Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth

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