As a part of an initiative to explore the oral history of different parts of the city through intangible cultural resources, the Centre for Community Knowledge (CCK) of Ambedkar University has teamed up with Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to organise a month-long event in Mehrauli next week.
INTACH Delhi chapter convenor Swapna Liddle said, “This kind of initiative may help to achieve bigger goal — development of entire Mehrauli area. It encourages the community to participate in restoring oral and cultural heritage and ultimately the area.”
This is the third edition of the ‘Neighbourhood Museum’ series. The first one was held in Shadi Khampur, a Jat majority village, in 2012, followed by another one in Nizamuddin in 2015.
Surajit Sarkar, associate professor and coordinator at CCK, said the idea behind the whole exercise is to unearth stories of common man relevant to life within a community.
“History is not only about kings, queens, lords, or riches. The people also make history. However, their narratives hardly find space in books or records. We don’t know about the people of Delhi and their lifestyle. This neighbourhood museum or pop-up museum is an attempt to record and present the narratives, perspective, and voices of residents of our neighbourhood,” he said.
The venue of the event can be in any premises in the colony like a haveli or a locality park. People are interviewed to know their stories, photographs and artefacts are collected and exhibited at the venue. The university ties up with a social organisation, community group, or an institution for better perspective.
“It is like revisiting existing cultural knowledge by engaging communities and representing the diversity of lives and livelihood of the city through dialogues, photographs, or artefacts. It also presents the fascinating growth of a neighbourhood of Delhi,” Sarkar added.
As part of the programme, exhibitions, discussions, workshops, and cultural events are organised in which locals participate and share their folklore, songs, customs, and stories are passed down from one generation to the next as there is none available in any written form.
A plethora of information gathered through this concept is being archived in digital form. Its compilation would soon be available online. “This may go a long way for history enthusiasts and research scholars,” Sarkar said.
Lauding the efforts being made by the university, Liddle said the steps being taken by the university may pave the way for the city museum.
“Community or city museum is common features in foreign cities but unfortunately Delhi has none. We have several museums and galleries in the city but there is no specific place where one can go and can find information about the city and its people,” she said.
The information gathered at the event held in Shadi Khampur is being documented by the university.
Until 70 years ago, the women of the village used to make their own thread from fibres of semal seeds (red cotton silk tree) and get fabric woven from that yarn at Raigar Pura near Karol Bagh.
This was the usual practice followed as buying clothes from the ‘city’ was a very expensive affair and, also, due to non-availability of convenient transport.
Jats in Shadi Khampur and other nearby villages have their own community songs for weddings and other social celebrations. Majority of the populace here was dependent on agriculture.