The first History for Peace quarterly newsletter of 2023 is here!

January, February, March 2023

Opening the year with a workshop in Ahmedabad based on our Somnath Hore module; a lesson plan based on Bhimayana (Navayana); a fresh classroom resource on the Bengal famine of ’43 and Chittaprosad; and three excellent sessions from the last quarter for you to catch up on at your leisure—for all this, news of upcoming conferences and much more, take a look at the first History for Peace quarterly newsletter of 2023!

Click here to read the newsletter.

Self-Portrait of the Other: Translating for a Globalised World | Naveen Kishore

Kishore giving his acceptance speech for the Cesare De Michelis Prize in Venice, May 25, 2022 / Photo copyright © by Stefano Marchiant

We publish what we want to publish. What we want to publish is what we find meaningful. Often this appears to be out of sync with trends around us. Our choices are to do mostly with freedom, on one hand, and the human condition on the other. Everything that rings a bell under these headings is worth considering. Across cultures. Across languages. Borders. Ideologies. The unknown author gets as much space on the shelf as the known one. We see ourselves as a part of a world community. So we openly share ideas, connections, thoughts, resources with other publishers. Principles that respect translators and authors with equal courtesy.

Ours is a practice that will always remain fragile. Our openness to ideas makes us receptive to all that is new and untried. Especially in these times when culture is slowly but surely being hijacked by forces that are anything but benign. I feel watched in a way I never have before. And I am afraid that a technology that I do not understand is both spying on me and entertaining me. I am under surveillance even as I am seduced by it. The all-pervasive “They” of our lives. The “They” as State. As a state of mind. As a powerful presence that will have its way. “They” as Corporation. “They” as newspapers. As television. As theatre and cinema. “They” as Media with a capital “M.” “They” as power that knows no boundaries. “They” without conscience. Yes. It is like listening to music that is both hypnotic and evil. That attracts. That refuses to let go of my attention.
I listen to the songs but do not understand the words.
The space for our songs is not as free as it used to be.

-Naveen Kishore

Read the entire piece here.

A History for Peace workshop in Ahmedabad!

After Santiniketan and Kolkata in 2022,  we open this new year with our Somnath Hore workshop travelling to Ahmedabad!

About the workshop:

Towards the end of colonial India and the birth of a new India, Somnath Hore, one of India’s foremost painter-sculptors was assigned by the Communist Party of India (the party at the helm of mobilizing peasant movements at the time) to go with a sketchpad and his diary to closely record these peasant movements. What emerged from that experience are two of his critical works—Tebhaga and The Tea Garden Journal. His lifelong works continued to be fiercely political yet intensely personal as he responded to moments that tore through the nation’s fabric—with face and voice to countless people for whom the movements were a dailiness and an inescapable reality.

Arthshila and History for Peace—an initiative of The Seagull Foundation for the Arts are pleased to facilitate an interactive workshop where we will engage with his sketches and his notes in exploring questions about people’s movements historically: Why do movements begin? How does one record the lives of people who make these struggles? His art was well and truly embedded in the turbulent society of his time and thus an honest window into that world.

Register here by 6 January 2023.

‘Educate, Organize and Agitate’: A  lesson idea

We recently conducted an in-person workshop at The Seagull Foundation for the Arts based on engaging with the book Bhimayana as an introduction to the life and work of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as well as towards understanding caste more critically. 

You can read a report on what transpired, here.

Based on the structure of the workshop, History for Peace has now developed a lesson idea for you to try out/draw from in your classroom!

Click here to view the lesson idea.

The Idea of Democracy| Ludhiana:

Romila Thapar in conversation with Arvind Narrain 

Performing the Goddess

Photographs by Naveen Kishore

An exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum
16 August – 11 December 2022
Free admission. Gallery 213

Photographer, filmmaker, and founder of Seagull Books, Naveen Kishore began his creative life in the theatre. Intimate and intense, Kishore’s Performing the Goddess is a serial portrait that puts us in proximity with an actor’s private rite of transformation. Newly acquired by the museum, the seventeen photographs in Performing the Goddess depict the actor Chapal Bhaduri (b. 1938). Once famed for his work in jatra (a popular theatre form in Bengali-speaking regions of India and Bangladesh), Bhaduri lost his prominence when women actors began to portray female characters previously played by men. Bhaduri instead found work as an itinerant performer playing the goddess Sitala, whom devotees worship for protection from disease. In Performing the Goddess, we witness Bhaduri’s reverent and precise nightly preparation for the role of Sitala and his exhausted stripping away of costume after the performance. Yet, we do not see the public performance itself. Kishore instead asks us to understand something about the complexity of Bhaduri’s interior experience.

This body of work resonated widely in the 1990s and early 2000s, a moment of new critical thought about the performative nature of gender. A companion film by Kishore, Performing the Goddess: The Chapal Bhaduri Story (44 minutes, 1999; click the link below to watch), explores these connections through an extended first-person encounter with the actor.

Watch the film here

Dear Reader, 

For the last quarter of this year, here’s what we have for you: 

The sixth annual History for Peace conference The Idea of Democracy
travels to Ludhiana this November! Supported by the Takshila Educational Society, this History for Peace conference will, for the first time, be addressing both teachers and students at the Delhi Public School in Ludhiana.  
 This October, we invite you to History and her Source—an online workshop on engaging with ‘unconventional’ sources in History by historians Aloka Parasher-Sen, Aruna Pariti, V. Rajesh and Sagnik Saha. 

Anne Frank: A History for Today, the travelling exhibition, is back in Kolkata on 29 October and will be open for public viewing at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata all through November. 

An exciting new classroom resource re-looking at 1857 from History for Peace.

Read the entire newsletter here.

The Idea of Democracy| Calcutta: In glimpses

The 6th annual History for Peace conference

What is so powerful about the idea of democracy, and why does it resonate so strongly with people’s struggles across time and space?

Everything is dependent on political power in the country today—the good, the bad and the indifferent. So, do we just say: We have no access to this power and therefore we give up? Or do we say: We cannot change the political power but, within our little circle of activity, we can do what is possible? And I would say that is the way in which many of us have functioned all our lives. We have not attempted to change the political power. If you are not in a position to fight the political power, then please use your little energy and activity to make half a dozen young people think. The process of thinking involves the process of agency.

—Romila Thapar

In keeping with the urgent need of our times, History for Peace explored The Idea of Democracy at the annual conference for teaching history in Calcutta this August. Speakers at the conference included Romila Thapar, Krishna Kumar, Sudipta Sen, Sundar Sarukkai, Anurag Bhaskar, Apoorvanand, Arvind Narrain and TM Krishna; Teachers’ workshops were facilitated by educators Shahnaaz Khan, Shivangi Jaiswal, Smita Bhattacharya and Juraj Varga. 

Click here to read a detailed report on the conference. 

Seagull Books at 40: Founder Naveen Kishore through the eyes of colleagues and collaborators

A two-part series by Jerry Pinto for Scroll.In, celebrating 40 years of Seagull Books.

Naveen Kishore. | Gurmehar Kaur.

‘My first meeting with Naveen Kishore was marked by an absence. By the time I met him he was the Enigma from Calcutta as the city was then known, the man behind Seagull Books which had brought us our first film scripts, our first play scripts and some heavy hitting non-fiction books and important translations. I expected him to take all the oxygen in the room, to fill up space in the way some publishing legends were wont to do. Instead what I discovered was a watchful withdrawal, more in keeping with a writer or a poet.

Over the years however, I have also discovered a warmth offered in homoeopathic and healing doses; and a friend who can get things done.’ 

Read the entire piece here.

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