Living on the move

Updated: Jun 07, 2019, 08:38 IST | Snigdha Hasan |

A pop-up museum to explore migration in contemporary India and the world through conversation, film, art, poetry and food

A still from Displacement and Resilience, showing children of a displaced tribal community in The Philippines
A still from Displacement and Resilience, showing children of a displaced tribal community in The Philippines

"Are you from Mumbai?" It's a question most people living in this megapolis have no easy answers for. When do you truly belong in a city? When you own a home in it, but your residence proof still has the address of your hometown? Or, when you arrive in it for the first time but feel like home instantly? Or, is it when you finally pick up the local language just so you won't be harassed with "outsider" barbs? The human phenomenon of migration acquires new layers of complication as India becomes more urbanised, and the world, a global village.

Grappling with this phenomenon is the day-long Migration Museum at the Godrej India Culture Lab (GICL), which includes discussions, film screenings, performances and an art exhibition curated by the lab's team in conjunction with students who are a part of its leadership programme. "The idea of a pop-up museum is something we have played with since the lab came into being because not all things need to be permanent. In the context of the current theme, it almost becomes poetic because migration itself is transient," says Parmesh Shahani, head, GICL, adding, "It is an important issue today if you think of the Indian elections, Trump building a wall or what's happening in Europe. There are conversations around identity and belonging that need to be had."

Monica Laxman with ambadi bhaji, jowar bhakri featured in an ebook by Mumbai Mobile Creches
Monica Laxman with ambadi bhaji, jowar bhakri featured in an ebook by Mumbai Mobile Creches

The museum also features a masterclass by Professor Chinmay Tumbe from IIM-A, who will trace and historicise India's migratory patterns, and a performance by poet Shalim Hussain, who is at the forefront of the new wave of Miyah poetry, a form of protest poetry by Assamese Muslims of Bengali origin. We bring you some of the highlights of the museum.

A whiff of memories

Siddis
Siddis - The Lost African Tribe in India by Sanjay Austa will be a photography display of his series on the community

Memories of ghar ka khana perhaps epitomise longing for home like nothing else can. A year and a half ago, Mumbai Mobile Creches (MMC), an organisation that works extensively with children living on construction sites, initiated an interesting project. "The construction industry is the single largest employer of migrant communities in urban areas. Mumbai itself has people in the industry from 15 states of India. But hidden behind the tin sheets of construction sites, we have no scope for experiencing their food and culture. So, we decided to document their culinary traditions through recipes they associate with home," says Vrishali Pispati, director, MMC. The result is an ebook called Food Memories of Migrant Women. Panels from the book will be exhibited at the event, where two of the dishes will be served too.

Parmesh ShahaniParmesh Shahani

Dialogue on migration

Having edited the annual series, India Migration Report, for a decade, Dr S Irudaya Rajan believes that more importance ought to be given to migration research in the country. "We don't have proper statistics in place to understand the phenomenon. And when you are not counted you don't exist. Migrants are visible in the economy of a city, but not its social fabric," says the professor at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Dr Rajan will be part of a panel discussion titled Migration: Notes on a New City.

Women in transition

From a Rohingya teen who has been sold in the flesh trade over 30 times, to a Syrian bakery owner who now works as a domestic help in Tunisia, Displacement and Resilience explores the lives of women refugees bearing the brunt of purges and wars around the world. The film has been made by Afra Shafiq, Khedija Lemkecher, Erika Rae Cruz, Archana Kapoor, Chandita Mukherjee and Eva Anandi Brownstein, and won the PK Nair Award for the Best Documentary (40-60 minutes category) at the recent South Asian Short Film Festival. It will be screened in Mumbai for the first time. "Produced by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, the film features five stories, each directed by an IAWRT member, who is a resident of the country it is shot in," says Mukherjee, a Mumbai-based filmmaker and founder-member of the Indian chapter of IAWRT, explaining how the immersive approach is in contrast to parachute journalism, where stories are relayed through translators.

Other films to be screened include Mani Kaul's Arrival that examines migrant labour as a commodity, and Ghutan by students of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, which investigates internal migration within Mumbai as a result of public infrastructure projects.

FREE
On: June 8, 11 am onwards
At: Auditorium, Godrej ONE, Vikhroli East.
RSVP: indiaculturelab@godrejinds.com

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