Illustration by Sekhar Mukherjee

Rolling into day four at Chitrakatha’21 which brought a wave of new guests, new topics, and energies to the table. There were many talks lined up back to back with everyone participating enthusiastically.

This is what Chitrakatha is all about, this potpourri of ideas, of people all presented in one place. It might feel chaotic, but there is always beauty in this chaos. People struggling to keep track of the schedule, scrambling, hopping from one link to another, all adds on to this experience.

As we enter the last day of Chitrakatha, there are feelings of excitement and anticipation with hints of sadness. Let’s look forward to entering the last leg of the festival and memories to take away with us.

Mumkin App, Priya Goswami

Priya Goswami is a filmmaker and the co-founder of the AI-driven app Mumkin, aimed at survivors of gender based violence. She made a short film on women from communities in India who hold the belief that Female Genital Cutting is a must and put their own daughters and granddaughters into the practice. She started this journey with the belief that since filmmaking and storytelling are a way of communicating, apps couldn’t be too far off.

The app, Mumkin was born of hearing and documenting 10 years of survivor stories, and using them to create a safe space for people in need of it. She talks about how with Mumkin the standard way of data analysis couldn’t work because every survivor lives trauma and recovery differently and that there are no yes or no answers. Throughout the process, every story was looked at as a unique one.

The app is also built in a way that can provide a level of comfort and an assurance of safety- it has a three step log-in process to ensure that not even close family members and friends can access any sensitive information about the user without consent. Mumkin is a step in the direction away from beliefs like that of female sexuality being bad or dirty. Gender based violence affects millions of people every year. Mumkin proves a reasoned advocacy on gender based violence.

Earth Story, Bhawna Badola

It isn’t a revelation that in the race of development we have been losing our forest cover, polluting our water bodies, damaging our coral reefs etc. There are some people who don’t care, some people are actually working towards mitigating climate change and then there are some people who want to help but they don’t know the platforms. Our next speaker Bhawna Badola presents us with that platform- Treecraze foundation. This non profit organisation has been actively working towards restoring the rivers of India, also making people feel sensitive and connected to our rivers so they can accept that it’s their responsibility as well to keep the rivers clean.

Talking About The Big Cats Again

Earlier, Tushar Sonkar, a graduate of NID AP who is working with the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, presented us the projects he was working on with them. Today, we had a word from the director and senior scientist of the Conservancy, Tsewang Namgail.

The Snow Leopard is found mainly in the trans-Himalayan landscape, where their work is mainly based. He talked about the various strategies implemented in the region to help the conservation of this species. As livestock was the major occupation of the people in this region, they faced livestock depredation by this species as it is at the apex of the food chain in the region.

Introducing solutions like metal fencing for the livestock, and other sources of income like homestays, starting small food businesses for tourists has greatly helped the human – snow leopard conflict in the region.

The Snow Leopard is seen as a threat and is therefore despised by communities in the vicinity of their habitat. And because it is a very elusive species, it is not actively seen a lot around. These might be the reasons for its absent role in the folk culture around. The conservancy has started collaborating with the monasteries around and getting religious authorities to preach the cause so as to propagate it better.

The conservancy has to think in terms of balancing the needs of people and conserving the species in order to implement the solutions which are the most efficient and in the best interests of all, and according to Dr. Namgail, it is going very well so far.

Not Being Sure, Gabrielle Cariolle

It was a wonderful presentation by, Professor Gabrielle Cariolle about her insights as an educator and lecturer that she has experienced till now and about all the uncertainties and the challenges that you might or might not be aware of that keeps on coming towards you in the vast creative field.

She talked more about different drawings, models and animations that she has helped her students and learned quite many new things by working on them and analysing their work. Every idea is beautiful in itself even if it is a few scribbles of pencil.

Chitrakatha sees all it’s volunteers running up and down the corridors with files, half empty coffee cups or maggie plates. There are feet stomping in frustrations, walking hesitantly towards angry team leads, or some even dancing to the rhythm of some faint music. Amidst all this chaos at nearly every corner of this building, we now have some sleeping peacefully, resting their heads on the classic pillows of all time, the folded hands. 

Late night streaming, buses running here and there from and to the college, people wearing the same clothes as yesterday just gives a testimonial to the fact that our students, wherever they might be, will always be ready to push their limits when so much is at stake. All these sleepy heads know that they will soon be woken up and assigned some other tasks. But the beauty of it lies in the fact that they get up, shoulder the task and work on it with the same energy as before.

Mythbuster By Menstrupedia, Aditi & Tuhin

Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul, both NID post graduate in New Media Design, talked about their effort to bring the conversation of taboos like mensuration, puberty among the society where its still uncomfortable to talk about such topics. They talked about different hardships they went through developing this, whose resulting effort converting into making comics for a younger audience about these issues. It was a conversational session where they took up questions from the audience and discussed it. Their aim is to help, educate and make everyone aware about such issues as much as possible and welcome everyone to the people who want to join this effort.

For the second round of ‘Back To Square One’, a round table discussion hosted by Abeer Gupta and moderated by Amitabh Kumar, we saw a new set of faces – Arun Prasad, Aarthi Parthasarathy, and Alok Sharma.

Abeer Brings In More People For Round-Table Discussion

The discussion started with Arun Prasad, a history researcher, artist and writer presenting his archive of comic books from India. He shared his journey from when he started collecting rare comics, to pursuing this in a more dedicated way, finding places and people to source them from, to storing them in the right conditions. He touched upon a lot of comics, familiar titles, inducing nostalgia and triggering memories from way back.

The second speaker, Aarthi Parthasarathy, a filmmaker and writer, presented some of her research on women in graphic narratives in India. Her research focused on the portrayal of women throughout different mediums, through time, and how they changed over time.

The last speaker was Alok Sharma, is a comic artist, who has worked across animation, films, television, radio and more. He takes us on his journey of reading comics as a child, how passionate he was about it, to growing up and finding new, different sources, and genres of graphic storytelling, and subsequently creating comics. He gives us glimpses into his documentary which he has been working on for some years – ‘Chitrakatha’, aiming to document the contribution of comic artists to sequential narratives in India. The session ended with some questions and discussions about the same. Look out for the last session of this three day event as it ends with the launch of this archive.

Video Mapping, Isabel & Her Students

Isabel Herguera and her students displayed their ongoing project on video mapping which is going to be displayed at the Henrichenburg boat lift, Germany in March. Each of her students presented their work on both animation and posters. Every student came up with their own unique concept and we had the opportunity to listen to their thought process behind it and also had a look at how it would look when it is finished, projecting the visuals at a miniature version of the structure they made.

Student Research Project (Pecha Kucha)

Tania de Leon, an old friend of NID AP and a member of chitrakatha family this time joined us with a bunch of her grad students Magali Rivera, Guillermina, Lilian Garcia, Juan Pavon and Libertad Leon who presented pecha kucha presentations synthesizing their research projects. 

Lilian started the presentation with her project, ‘The game, the toy and the creation of stories during childhood’. Childhood is not always candies and pampering, it can be a little disturbing, dark too and her presentation was all about these ominous stories like a teddy bear playing with a human toy that depicted the nature of humans without a filter, living behind tenderness and innocence. For this series she sculpted her own ceramic models. 

Materiality and its relation with uncanny valley in animation
We all have come across strange looking paintings or pictures that make you a little uncomfortable, because they are neither completely realistic nor animated, and these characters are a part of uncanny valley our next speaker Magali Rivera’s subject of research. She shared with us a series of pictures from movie scenes, instagram filters and characters explaining the subject.

Digital animation as a medium for the rescue and cultural diffusion
Cartoons are hated so much because they are so addictive, and every cartoon has a different style and language of their own. So does every culture. Our next speaker Guillermina was looking for new forms of storytelling and visual elements and she couldn’t find a distinct Mexican style of cartoon so she developed her own and used it as an opportunity, a resource for rescue and socio-cultural diffusion. 

Collaborative animation 
Our next speaker Juan shared with us the production process of making a collaborative animation called ‘SER’ where they started from observing a performance by a subject, selected the key frames, printed them, and then everyone drew them in their own unique styles that was later made into an animation.

Matrioshka, about the death and rebirth- Medusa Beauty
Our last speaker Libertad  was investigating the concept of medusa beauty denoting death and rebirth in her work which included photographs, collages and drawings, and later made stamps for linocut prints. She decided to choose the medium of printing because it also materialised the concept for her project.

Storytelling Through Indian Traditional Dance Forms

Utsa Ghosh Kundu is a Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher and choreographer, who started her session by educating about the origin of storytelling through Indian traditional dance forms in the manifestation of Natya Shastra, which is the first book written exclusively about performative arts such as dance, drama etc.

She gave a quick mythology lesson about the caste hierarchy prevalent in ancient India- the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras. All three higher castes were allowed to gain knowledge from the four Vedas but not the Shudras and hence, the lord of the lords, ‘Devraj’ Indra asked Lord Brahma, the creator of the four vedas, to write a separate Veda for the Shudras and hence Natyaveda, or Natya Shastra was composed, infused with four elements from the other 4 vedas- Literature, Gesture, Music and Emotion. The feminine part of dance couldn’t be performed by men. Hence, Lord Brahma created Apsaras. The masculine part of dance, or ‘Tandav’ was performed by Lord Shiva whilst the feminine part of dance was performed by Goddess Parvati.

As the session progressed, she acquainted the audience with the three elements of dance as mentioned in Natya Shastra- Nritta (dance), Nritya (dance and expressions) and finally Natya (dance and expressions accompanied by dramatic execution) via wonderful enactments.

Towards the end of the session, she told the audience about the two types of dances in India( Classical and Folk), Navarasa(the nine primary emotions used in Indian Classical dance: Shringara, Hasya, Karuna, Raudra, Veera, Bhayanaka, Bibhatsya, Adbhuta and Shanta), Abhinaya( the four types of expressions: Angika, Vachika, Aharya, Satvik), Mudras and Samyukta Hastas, and leg movements in Mayurbhanj Chhau.

Design in Nature, Nigel Hughes

Design is where science and art meet” was the opening line of Nigel, who shares his views on nature and design. We begin with the history of the world, how continents were evolved, broken up and formed, with an obvious mention of Himalayas ofcourse. With that comes the story of evolution of life in India, starting off with trilobytes, Whale fossils, with little tidbits of ancient Indian stories relating to the same topic. We got a look into the Nigel Hughes written film, the ocean on the top of our mountain. We get an insight into the working and functions of different parts of these animals.
“Who made you?” was the question Dolf used to ask to fossils, says Nigel while explaining Dolf’s expertise in the field of interpreting fossils.

Turning our heads to actual application of nature into design, we come to learning efficient fabrication from nature. He gave the example of the mantis shrimp who use two strategies to crack open hard shells of trilobytes. We see some gorgeous fabric patterns based on rock epidotes.

 This is where the point of the talk hits us, understanding that so many beautiful things exist maybe everyday around us. We may not have the time or intrigue to see it. But the use of these in parts of the world we couldn’t have imagined is incredible.
This is followed by an interesting Q&A round in which questions are being asked about his film, the history of Nigel being in this field, amongst all. Some philosophical questions peep their heads too and they’re answered aptly by Nigel. With some more interesting questions and equally compelling answers, the session comes to an end.

Soundscapes, Eryck Abecassis

The day ended with Eryck Abecassis, a musician and composer, talking about soundscapes. He explained what a soundscape is and what are the elements of soundscapes. We listened to a couple of entrancing soundscapes as he dissected them and told us about the different kinds of sounds used, and different experimental methods of creating and capturing those sounds. 

He also explained how one could condense the identity of a place in a few minutes through a soundscape and the session ended with a lot to think about.

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Contributors

Aditti P, Akshay P, Anisha, Ashrita, Dwit, Kritika, Nachiket, Namrata, Rati, Ratindra,Shruti, Sindhuja, Suhani, Swapnanil, Vyom

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