By Abner Manzar
Published on: Feb 28, 2023
“Arrey baap re! Isme toh upar bhi dikh raha hai (Oh My God! I can see up also in this!)” said Vikas (name changed) one of the children who took part in the virtual reality box making workshop. There was a twinkle in the eyes of the children participating when they saw the result of what they had spent the last half an hour working on.
“Chal chal, saanp seedi khelte hain (come come let’s play snakes and ladders)” said Saleem (name changed), an 8-year-old to his friend. They both proceeded to the Makerspace stall of the Digital Empowerment Foundation. Pankaj, DEF’s project officer for the makerspace project, was surrounded by 15 children, all expressing their excitement over the activities he was curating for them.
The saanp seedi Saleem mentioned was the snakes and ladders game with a twist. One gets to climb up the ladder on answering certain questions correctly. “Should you make your name your password?” Saleem looked up at Pankaj and said “nahi na? (No right?)” and Pankaj smiled. Saleem proceeded up the ladder. As his friend struggled with the next one “should you share your password with your friend?” Saleem exclaimed “nahi yaar! (No man!)” and with that his friend too proceeded up the ladder. These questions ignited a sense of curiosity amongst all those watching and everyone would scream the right answer when the players would reach a question.
We had set up this stall at the Govandi Arts Festival organised in the Natwar Parekh Colony in Govandi, Mumbai. The Govandi Arts Festival is a cultural movement that celebrates the spirit and resilience of the people of Govandi through performative and visual arts. It has emerged from the need of the community to reclaim the narrative about their neighbourhood, which is much more than just a ‘ghetto’. It has emerged from the community choosing to reclaim the narrative of the neighbourhood, and to connect, create and and celebrate with the rest of Mumbai. Over the course of the past nine months 40 children and youth of Govandi have been a part of mentorship programs of Photography, Filmmaking, Theatre, Rap and Public Art. The festival was the culmination of the learnings, progress and work of these young artists.
The Community Design Agency (CDA) has been working in Govandi for several years now to try and provide people with better education and living conditions. They have developed Kitaab Mahal, where they educate children, provide them with books and involve them in activities, which would support children in enhancing their future employment opportunities. Kitaab Mahal has also become a safe space for the youth of the community to come and spend their time learning, innovating and ideating.
Art & Collectives for Digital Empowerment (A-CODE) is an effort toward finding ways to enhance collaboration among civil society organisations that are working in different sectors and advocating for a more pivotal role in the inclusion of arts in social change. The collective deals with several important issues that cut across the work of civil society organisations. Taking forward the spirit of A-CODE, the Digital Empowerment Foundation became a partner in the Govandi Arts Festival. As a part of this partnership the mentees were provided with digital tools to express their art forms such as filmmaking and photography. The six photography mentees’ works were compiled into a book ‘Aina’ published under A-CODE.
The five day art festival was filled with different activities and workshops, such as singing, stamp making, mehndi designing, acting, wall projections, etc. DEF was also given a platform to educate youth about digital literacy using the Start Kit which includes various interactive activities and games. Moreover, the audience was introduced to STEM learning and was given the training to make visual reality kits following the instructor.
“Arrey baap re! Isme toh upar bhi dikh raha hai (Oh My God! I can see up also in this!)” said Vikas (name changed), one of the children who took part in the virtual reality box making workshop. There was a twinkle in the eyes of the children participating when they saw the result of what they had spent the last half an hour working on.
The Govandi Arts Festival gave an opportunity to the people of Govandi to gain exposure to the worldoutside of their colony and at the same time it gave the world outside an opportunity to witness the talent and skills of the people of Govandi.
Through the various workshops, activities and games DEF introduced the people, especially the youth and children to digital etiquette and being safe and secure while using digital.