Women of words
India's first feminist library is now open in Mumbai. We drop by and browse through titles from women all over the world
It has been a struggle. Every time I say, 'We want to do something for the community', everyone is fine. The moment I say, 'It's going to be a feminist library', people are like, 'Oh, I don't know. I'll have to reconsider this'," artist and activist Aqui Thami tells us, summing up her journey of trying to raise funds for the Sister Library (SL).
Last year, Thami embarked on a mission to raise R80 lakh to build a permanent space for SL. Although she didn't reach her target, Thami managed to raise over R5 lakh to find a space in Bandra and cover the annual rent. We visit the space with a friend on a Friday afternoon. Tucked away in a restful neighbourhood on St Andrews Road, the library features an expansive collection of classic and contemporary works.
"I'm however continuing to raise money for a permanent space because that would mean that women who really need that space can go there," Thami says, while making sure we are seated comfortably, handing out cushions. "I'm also looking at paid internships for kids in Dharavi, who are otherwise sent to factories to work," she tells us, referring to Dharavi Art Room, where art classes are conducted for children of the community, and which she helms with Himanshu S.
And Thami maintains that she aims to keep it independent. "I don't want it to go the mainstream, commercial way. Before the launch, I had people calling me up and saying, 'The library is opening. Is that it? Is there anything else happening?' and I said, 'It's India's first feminist library. That is the happening thing!'"
The Guide picks
- Reflecting Rogue: Inside the Mind of a Feminist by Pumla Dineo Gqola: The book is a collection of autobiographical essays on feminism, which Thami brought from her visit to South Africa where she met the author.
- Facing the Mirror — edited by Ashwini Sukthankar: The first anthology of lesbian writing from India.
- Women and Economics by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A study of the relation between men and women as a factor in social evolution.
- Abortion in Asia — edited by Andrea Whittaker: A comprehensive study on abortion practises in the region and the politics of reproduction.
- How Do I Look? Queer Film and Video by Bad Object-Choices: The book is a compendium of papers and discussions where the authors analyse gay and lesbian film and video.
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