SARAH AHMAD | 30 AUGUST, 2019
Found on All Fours: An Urban Rural Art Exchange
Through minutes of art in an intimate space
In a carousel of darkness she carried a pen, a flickering kerosene lamp and a few sheets of old paper. She wrote down memories of battles fought, sinners’ saffron mast, lists of minuscule thoughts on society, notes on life, on people, and then she danced, she read aloud, to be heard, she conversed, ate in company, shared her translucent notions; it was then that the darkness became light, the light swaying along a day of hope, into a clear mirror like sky – shadowless, boundless, free.
Often when pieces of art are communicated, they find a place in someone else’s life, the audience becoming the subject, the narrator, the character traits, brush strokes, surreal gashes on canvas rolls.
Found on all Fours, founded by Anoop Chugh, is an amalgamation of strangers, stories and the idea of conversations through minutes of art in an intimate space, a dwelling, a café, a classroom, or just another space in an urban home.
“We encourage the idea of strangers meeting under one roof and sharing their stories through theatre, storytelling and art in all forms,” says Chugh. “The idea is to bring people closer to stories and the theatrical portrayal of one in their living rooms, encouraging the idea of breaking free from digital stories, screens and the online world, and taking out time to listen to stories that reflect an urban home, public and public culture.”
Founded two years back, Found on all Fours is a traveling circus of storytellers, enacting tales through a series of broadways in people’s living rooms, terraces, lawns, in various cities and towns in India. The team has travelled to more than 20 cities and participated in over a hundred gatherings of art and theatre in various Indian homes, an idea which also led to Kahaani ki Dukaan (Story Store) – theatre, art, reading and conversations in India’s rural centres.
Co-founded by Jasmine Kochar, Kahaani ki Dukaan is a cultural space for people to experience art while also becoming part of that experience: with small library spaces, films, illustrations, visuals, books, audio and theatre becoming essential components in a series of cultural episodes in an Indian village.
“Through Kahaani Ki Dukaan we are trying to achieve artists’ interaction with locals at a more humane and emotional level, as we want the villagers to not only become spectators but participants. By introducing workshops for them, age and gender no bar, we would like to make art in any form seem approachable. By largely telling only their stories, we are making it less intimidating and more holistic,” Kochar shares.
Kahaani Ki Dukaan also involves the children of the village in art-based activities, and often the kids become independent proponents of simple narratives for long periods of time.
“There is a lot of difference between an urban audience and a rural one. While we portray harsh realities through our performances in urban communities, we tend to show more hopeful, uplifting, conversational and simple stories in villages.
“The urban audience is devoid of time and comes many a time with preconceived ideas, so we try to encourage them to pause and reflect. Whereas in a village we are trying to fill people’s time and engage them, making them understand the importance of art in society and in our daily lives,” Chugh explains.
Kahaani ki Dukaan has led to the creation of libraries in villages, and village stories have become books, plays and podcasts. Storytelling and broadway sessions have been played out in cities, as stories from villages like Gunehar in Himachal are brought to the cities; while books, art and artistic collaborations from cities have been taken to villages, helping bridge the rural-urban divide in India.
Plans are afoot to begin long-term story-shops in rural Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand with performances, experiences, local stories, art, books, workshops and stays would bring the city people close to villages. Villages and the people there would become destinations, with Kahaani Ki Dukaan becoming a platform where everyone would meet.
Performances and broadways in cities showcasing people’s stories from villages would culminate in village tourism, where city dwellers would become part of short- or long-term cultural experiences in village homes.
Through stories and workshops as well as experiences of a village life and various village art forms, cities would come closer to villages creating responsible village tourism, and the initiative would leave villages a little more prosperous and connected; with art playing a role in bridging the gap.
Found on all Fours through its #Foafestival (an art festival) seeks to set up multiple art platforms in the metros to engage, empower and connect through various art forms. “We hope to organise more art festivals in cities and engage more people, collaborate with artists, and encourage the exchange of urban-rural art.
“Al-Qawi Nanavati is an artist we collaborate with quite regularly, Abhishek Malik is our Hindi storyteller, Vikas Gupta our theatre artist and Kavita Malviya a poet and spoken word artist. We continuously seek to collaborate with new, young and emerging artists and use their skills both in cities and villages,” says Chugh.
The summer came in wearing a mask of stories, narratives unfolding in barren spots of paper, digital screens, conversations and drama. It left indelible marks on those who came across it, and those who became a part of it. They told their stories, these stories became art, sometimes preserved through visuals and photographs and sometimes within humble mud houses or two-storeyed structures packed between urbane edifices.
The stories became recurrent, moving, poignant, heartbreaking accounts of life, forever etched out in people’s minds; shifting, swaying, musical masterpieces about someone’s life being transported into other people’s homes and backyards, one story connecting varied lifestyles, beings and thought processes: the urban resident understanding the struggles of a villager, a villager becoming empowered by the skills and stories of a city dweller; both intermingling in the larger goal of bringing art closer to people and art bringing people closer, a significant cultural exchange leading to love, hope and understanding.
Find them on Instagram- @foundonallfours