Millith Karav

 

Kashmir

MILLITH KARAV is a special extension to Kashmir of the methodologies and preoccupations of the WAR STORIES project.

A research phase supported by the Kashmiri Bhawan Centre was undertaken in September 2007. A proposal has been produced and the building of the infrastructure for this 15-month project is underway.

 

26-05-2008

Az Theatre is now planning to carry out initially just one phase of the Millith Karav project.

We will undertake the participatory drama and photography project with the adult group starting work, if all the finance is in place, in late March 2009. We will finish this phase by the beginning of July 2009 with a presentation of a collectively devised and researched theatre piece and exhibition.


MILLITH KARAV: War Stories: Kashmir
Project Proposal

Mission

To contribute to the culture of acceptance, participation, peace and reconciliation in Kashmir through theatre.

Brief Description

The Millith Karav project involves a number of interrelated programmes of work. At the centre of the work is the art of theatre and an exploration of what theatre can do for the Kashmiri people particularly in relation to the recent conflict.

We will work with a group of young people (13-14 year olds) from diverse communities. They will undertake research into the experiences of their grandparents generation. We will bring them together to produce a piece of theatre.

We will work with a group of adults (over 18 year olds) who will explore characters and stories in the community. This will provide the basis for a touring production of a theatre piece.

The adult group will also have a photographic training and use photography as a part of their research. These photographs will be made into an exhibition which will tour with the theatre piece.

We will run a short course training a group in workshop leadership

We will run playwriting development programme culminating with a short course. This work will feed into the creation of the theatre piece.

We will run a short course in the setting up and development of arts societies (companies/association)

All of this will be recorded on video and photography, displayed on an internet site and communicated through the publication of printed materials

Why?

The recent period of most intense militancy has come to an end. A peace process has been started. A whole generation has grown up in the 18 years since the armed conflict in the valley began. The communities that lived in the valley 20 years ago have little consciousness of, and often deny, what their former neighbours have been through. Artistic and cultural activity has always been a very prominent part of the life of the people of Kashmir yet over the last 18 years this has been suppressed. The legacy of the conflict has been death, displacement, injustice, disappearances and this is revealed not only through grief, physical scars and destruction of homes but through deep mental health problems in all parts of the community. Through the mass media identities are imposed on the Kashmiri people. They have been left very little space to define themselves.

Theatre can be used to gather stories based on personal experience. By working at these stories through theatre Kashmiri people can once again become actors in their own drama, able to share stories that may portray conflicting truths. Through finding a form for these stories a process of catharsis can happen allowing people to come to terms with their feelings of conflict . Theatre can provide a space where stories and experiences can be shared, where the shattered fabric of the society can start to be repaired. Also through theatre practice, self esteem and confidence can be built, leadership and skills can be engendered, people can feel empowered, pleasure and fun can be had in the process of creating meanings. Theatre can make a contribution to the regeneration of Kashmiri society.

The contact with international practitioners and international sources of funding are central to the effectiveness of the Millith Karav project. It can create roots for a cultural movement in the Valley by utilising international resources and expertise. This can link the work to educational, therapeutic, and activist theatre practices from the international theatre community and can ensure the relative independence of the project.

Millith Karav can only be a part of the development of culture and arts in Kashmir. Already the society has aspiring artists and an emerging infrastructure of cultural and arts activity. The prime movers of Millith Karav need and want to work with other individuals and organisations cultural entities in a collaborative process. The traditional forms of theatre in Kashmir are unique and inspirational. The project has no aspiration to create a permanent institution or company but on the contrary it seeks to generate and establish autonomous self-reliant groups that are empowered to pursue their work in whatever medium and fashion they think fit. This will be the legacy of MiIlith Karav.


Aims and Objectives:

  • To create space for sharing and working on actual stories from the last 60 years of conflict
  • To cultivate an ambience in which the truth of people’s lived experience can be expressed
  • To link people from the diverse and dispersed communities of Kashmir and Jammu in a programme of shared practice
  • To connect through theatre the experiences of different generations
  • To carry out a programme of workshops which gives access to and develops theatre and performing arts skills
  • To cultivate, through theatre workshop practice, personal confidence, self esteem, trust and the capacity to recognise difference and the experience of the other.
  • To develop organisational, workshop leadership and production skills through training,
  • To present inspirational theatre performances derived from stories gathered from the communities
  • To develop and cultivate playwriting skills
  • To support the development of autonomous cultural groups throughout the region by means of a network which shares skills and information
  • To leave a legacy of cultural activism and organisational competence that will inspire and empower continuing theatre and arts work
  • To work with transparency and openness
  • To create a project that is autonomous from state institutions
  • To fully evaluate and document the project to ensure a legacy of good practice and creativity


Outcomes and Benefits

  • Development of theatre and the arts in Kashmiri society
  • Development of a culture of self esteem within a key influential group in Jammu and Kashmir
  • Development of culture of acceptance and reconciliation through exemplary good practice and an enhancement of mutual respect between different communities.
  • Increased understanding of the history and nature of the recent conflict in Kashmir both inside Kashmir and through future performances and video presentations in UK and other countries
  • Increased understanding of generational change in Kashmiri society
  • Production of a theatre piece which reflects the experiences and stories of the recent conflict.
  • Creation of a photographic exhibition giving a portrait of the people of Kashmir
  • Publication of new Kashmiri playwriting
  • Development of autonomous local arts organisations.


Who is involved?

Artistic Directors:
The project will be carried out by a partnership between Mask Players (Delhi) and Az Theatre (London). The artistic direction will be in the hands of Ashwath Bhatt, director of Mask Players, Jonathan Chadwick, Director of Az Theatre and Mohammed Amin Bhatt, playwright and director based in Srinagar.

Ashwath Bhatt has direct personal experience of the conflict in Kashmir. He left Kashmir Valley in 1990 with his family and returned as a visitor in April 2006 after training as an actor at the National School of Drama in Delhi and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in London. Subsequent to his training he has pursued an international career as an actor, teacher and theatre maker.

Jonathan Chadwick has led Az Theatre's War Stories Project since 2002 when companies from Algeria, Palestine, Serbia and the UK were brought together at an international festival in Romania. The work has involved collaboration with the United Nations Office of Missing Persons and Forensics in Kosovo and a programme of international performances and workshops, supported by the Arts Council England, the European Cultural Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

Mohammed Amin Bhatt started his career with the Mehboob Cultural Society in Baramulla which continues to be the artistic base of his work. His work is presented in Srinagar and throughout the Kashmir Valley. He is an award-winning writer in Kashmiri for the stage, the screen and radio with an output that was suspended from 1989 to 2004 due to period of intense armed conflict.

Advisory Group

Associates:
People to whom we have spoken during our research: Professor Amitabh Mattoo, Dr. Arshad Hussain, Dr Altaf Hussain, Moti Lal Kemmu, Waheed Jeelani, Professor Ashok Aima, Dr Meem Hai Zaffer, Sonia Jabbar, Makhanlal Saraf. Nasir Mirza, Professor of Media Studies at University of Kashmir, the Broadway Hotel Learning Circle, the Mehboob Cultural Society, Gulrez Qureishi, Indu Kilam (General Secretary of Sabzaar), Ramesh Hangloo (Pir Panchal), Atwas Group (President Ksheminder Raina) Zaffar Ahmed (Director of Information J&K State), Parvez Bukhari (journalist), Aijaz Hussain (journalist), Afsana Rashid (journalist), Muzamil Jaleel (journalist), Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal (jounalist), Murtaza Shibli (writer and editor), the principal and staff of the Bemina Orphanage, Feroze Ahmed Wani (co-ordinator of Cova), Bhawani Bashir Yasir, Khoram Pervez and Aziz (Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society), Parveena Ahangar and Mir Hafiz-Ullah ( Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons), Abdul Ghani Dar (Lecturer), Dr. Bansi L Kaul (Action Committee for the Return of Migrants), Dr. Toshcani, Rajesh Prothi (Media consultant), Man from Hurriyat Group, Shaffi Qureshi (Child Right Educational Society), Neeraj Santosi (journalist), Dr Rafeeq Masoodi (Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages), Zulfiqar Ahmed Dallow Community Centre, Luton), Mutaza Shibli (Journal of Kashmiri Affairs)

Supporters:
The viability research trip undertaken by Ashwath Bhatt and Jonathan Chadwick in September 2007 was supported by Dr Ganju from Kashmiri Bhawan Centre Luton, and by hospitality from Ashwath Bhatt's family, from the family of M. Amin Bhatt, from Abdul Majeed Dar's family, from J&K Academy of Arts, Culture and Literature, from Anubhav Kohli of Kohlees Hotel, Srinagar.

Participants:
We will be inviting participants to attend our open workshops in Kashmir and Jammu. The attendance numbers at these initial workshops may be over 100 people. We aim during a subsequent phase to work intensively with 25 young people (13 to 14 year olds). This group will interact with their grandparents generation. We will at a later phase work intensively with 25 adults who will also involve other members of their communities. Our performances and workshops in the latter part of the project will involve hundreds of spectators and participants from throughout the Kashmir and Jammu region.

Core groups

We aim to form working voluntary groups in Jammu and in Kashmir. These people will be drawn from our associates, will be well versed in the aims of the project and well connected in the different communities of which they are a part.

Co-ordinator and theatre professionals

We will be employing a co-ordinator for the different stages of the project. We will also employ acting, administrative, design, stage management and production management skills

How will it happen?

The core of the project will be a sequenced programme of creative and training workshops. This programme will be delivered in phases.

Phase One:

  • Fundraising and refining project programme
  • Recruitment and employment of a co-ordinator
  • Formation of core groups in Srinagar and Jammu. These will be three or four people in each location who will support the co-ordinator and the project
  • Organising workshop spaces, transport, logistics for open workshops
  • Marketing, advertisement and promotion of open workshops to gain maximum quality attendance at these sessions.
  • Call issued for submissions of writing for writer's workshop in August.


Phase Two:

  • Open workshops in Jammu and at three locations in the Kashmir Valley
  • Workshops will be of three types:
    • 1. Adults (over 18 year olds) Introductory. Session will familiarise participants with basic theatre making and story telling techniques and focus on use of space and listening skills. There will be an assessment of skills and capabilities.
    • 2. Youth (13 -14 year olds) Introductory. Sessions consist of basic theatre techniques, games, contact, communication and storytelling. There will be an assessment of skills, capabilities and aptitudes.
    • 3. Youth Orientation. The workshop will develop, teamwork listening, observational and interviewing skills. The participants will be given their research project which will be to investigate what life was like for their grandparents when they were 13/14 years of age. Research to continue until June Phase Four.
  • Preparation for Phase Three and Four: organising workshop space, travel and accommodation, logistics
  • documentation of Phase Two and evaluation


Phase Three:

  • 15 day workshop with a group of 25 adults from diverse communities to be held in Srinagar
  • Working on trust, truth, identity, self reflection through story telling and enactment
  • Developing theatre skills, observation, spatial awareness.
  • Basic photographic training
  • Exploration of research task: to explore the story of one or two characters from their community, to document the story and use the research process as a basis for a character study.
  • Continued preparation for Phase Four: logistics
  • Documentation and Evaluation of Phase Three
  • Selection of writers for August writers workshop


Phase Four:

  • Four week workshop with 25 young people (13/14 year olds) from diverse communities to be held in Srinagar
  • Workshop will explore the research material and create a space for the exchange of stories
  • Enhancement of theatre skills
  • Devising a theatre piece for presentation to family, friends and other (adult) participants and members of the public.
  • 5 days workshop leadership training for adults
  • Review progress on adult research projects
  • Preparation for Phase Five: logistics
  • Documentation and evaluation of Phase Four
  • Research will continue with adult projects
  • Preparation and fundraising for Phase Seven


Phase Five:

  • 3 day (in August) playwriting workshop also attended by adult group
  • 4 week exploration workshop with adult group held in Kashmir Valley
  • Exchange of stories and research projects
  • Development of theatre skills and drama workshop leadership skills
  • Devising exhibition of research material
  • Devising performance of research and character study material
  • Presentation to public of work
  • Documentation and evaluation of Phase Five
  • Preparation for Phase Six
  • Creation and design of Millith Karav web site


Phase Six:

  • 5 day workshop beginning of November focusing on setting up and managing an arts companies/societies/registered group. Legal, administrative, organisational, creative aspects of process.
  • Writing and devising theatre spectacle based on material from Phase Five.
  • Preparation for Phase Seven, casting, design, booking venues, tour organisation
  • Reviewing and evaluating process
  • Fundraising


Phase Seven:

  • Rehearsal and presentation of theatre spectacle to tour Kashmir and Jammu accompanied by an exhibition and workshops designed to gather stories, give access to theatre skills and support autonomous cultural organisations.
  • Documentation and evaluation of Phase Seven
  • Implementation of support structure
  • training and information for autonomous cultural groups
  • Follow up support for cultural groups
  • Preparation and publication of a photographic book about the project
  • Editing and production of a video about the project.


Components of the Millith Karav project

We believe that the simultaneous development of the various components of the Millith Karav project will give a dynamism to all the strands of our work and one strand will cross fertilise with another. For example the research the young people undertake will inspire the adults in their research. The adults photographic work will inspire the younger group. The work with playwrights will feed into the composition of the theatre piece. The tour of the theatre piece and the exhibition will assist the development of local arts groups. And so on. Here is a description of the components:

Adult programme. A group of between 25 and 30 adults (over 18 year olds) will attend open workshops, a15 days training workshop, do their research, then work for another month in exploratory workshops, participants may go on to perform in the theatre piece

Photography training and exhibition. The adult group will undertake a short course in photography, use photography in their research and collaborate in the composition of an exhibition

Workshop leadership development A selected group of participants will be trained in workshop leadership. This training will be a continuous aspect of the project and will be focused on the equivalent of 3 days intensive training

Playwriting development A call will be made for submissions of writing at the start of the project. A group of selected participants will take part in an intensive short course in playwriting.

Organisational and management skills development Through work in the communities and through contacts in the organisation of the tour we will bring together a group of participants for an intense period of training with appropriate follow up

Young people's programme We will bring together a group of between 25 and 30 13- 14 year olds from diverse communities, basic training in research will be given. They will do their research and come back together to work to produce a theatre piece based on their work

Volunteer core group development We will create a group of volunteers to support the work in the communities especially the young people's work

Preparation and tour of theatre piece We will rehearse, design, produce and tour a theatre piece based on the materials presented in the preceding workshops. The tour of this piece will be accompanied by the photographic exhibition and a workshop programme

Information technology and documentation We will create a web site dedicated to this work. The process and all major presentations will be videoed and photographed. We will create printed material in the form of reports and publications for more general distribution

Jonathan Chadwick

29th October 2007/updated 5th December 2007/Updated 4th February 2008