During a crisp weekend near the end of February, I had the opportunity to attend the sixth Carnival of e-Creativity. The 3-day event was a meeting point for local (i.e. nearby Delhi), national and international creative practitioners in all fields. The first three instances of the event were held in Delhi, and the last three (including the one I attended) were held in the Sattal area, which is a freshwater lakes region in the Lower Himalayas in North India– a simultaneously scenic and chaotic seven-hour drive from Delhi. (This was my first experience of the Indian highway system, and the dance that occurs in the middle lanes that resembles a game of chicken.)
The event was held at Sattal Estate, a Christian ashram. Vijay and the staff there made sure we all had home-cooked meals, a camp-fire to sit around at night, and cozy blankets in our cabins. The majority of performances, presentations and improvisation sessions were held in a large tent on the grounds, with film screenings and some audiovisual events in a building nearby.
Shankar Barua, the founder and director of CeC, has been rallying for years against what he refers to as “the separation of head from hand” by the caste system. From my general understanding, the caste system was originally a looser system of professional classification in society, but as it became more codified, caste became strictly hereditary. Reading and writing became the domain of the Brahmin caste. This created a situation where the artisans couldn’t document their knowledge, and since the Brahmins didn’t work with their hands, they had no artisanal knowledge to document. Its only in the last ten years, with the spread of education, communication and information, that things have begun to change. As a result, in India, there is no ingrained culture of workshops and experimentation with media. Shankar has been trying to change this by creating opportunities where these activities are not only possible, but encouraged. Therefore, the “e” in e-Creativity, though it relates to electronics and experimentation, is actually for “empowering.”
Another important aspect of the event is the environment. During prior years in Delhi, it seems there was a sharp contrast between the anonymous public who turned up and the intense exchange of ideas and experiences that happened between the participants who lived and worked together closely for the duration of the activities. Because of this, the focus became about the connection between the people involved. What is interesting is that the event in Sattal is still open to the public, but because of the location and isolation, the only people who come as audience members are also quite dedicated to being there and participating as well. So not only is CeC succeeding in breaking down a cultural divide particular to India, it also succeeds in avoiding impersonal experiences common in the art world.
All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend spent meeting interesting people in an beautiful natural setting!
Below, Ami Dang (sitar and electronics), Miti Desai (design and dance), Sheela Raj and Verena Stenke in the foreground of an improvisation
Below, a sampling of some of the performances
For more, please do check out the documentation on the CeC website and Facebook page, and the work of the various participants.
I also want to acknowledge the hard work of Shazeb Shaikh, who was Co-Curator (along with Shankar), but who also took care of much, much more!