Grant Period: Over one year
Balmunch is an organisation that provides a forum for artists, educators and social activists to work with children. Its activities have included theatre and crafts workshops, stage productions on educational themes, science camps and environment awareness tours.
The traditional handmade toys of Malwa, cultural region extending across parts of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat, have a long history. They provide an important source of livelihood for local craftspeople and are an integral part of the material, social and educational culture of the region. Folk theatre has spun stories around the toys and, in turn, provided an environment and impetus for the creation of new toys.
Unfortunately, however, the connection between toys and folks theatre, songs, and tales has become attenuated because of the growing influence of film and television culture. This grant supports a convergence between theatre workers, toymakers, and children with the aim of giving new meanings to the old faces of Malwa toys, thereby providing hope for their survival.
Facilitated by Mr. Satish Dave, a playwright, theatre worker and educational activist, the project will focus on reconnecting narratives to Malwa toys, infusing both with a new relevance. Traditional narratives will be revived or adapted and new narratives imagined for the toys. The process will involve three groups - children, theatre artists, and toymakers - each with resources and skills to spur creativity in the others.
The two collaborating organisations - Balmunch (Ujjain) and Rang Vidushak (Bhopal) – bring relevant and complementary talents and expertise to the project. A representative group of toymakers, actors, and children will administer project activities. The work plan comprises a series of five workshops held in different towns of Malwa, coinciding with local festivals associated with the agricultural cycle. Participants drawn from the local community will take part in theatre games and exercises, improvisations and toy making, ending in the creation and presentation of new toys and narrations.
Specialists from different disciplines will review the results, interact with participants, and suggest directions for the next stage of work. The concluding toy festival in Ujjain will exhibit and demonstrate the material, narrative, and performative outcome of the workshops.
The material outcome and documentation of the collaborative activity will initially be housed at Balmunch, and used to recreate the workshop experience for children from different schools, while exploring the possibility of establishing a permanent toy resource centre.
Satish Dave, playwright and educational activist, Ujjain
Rang Vidushak, theatre group, Bhopal
Balmunch, children's development group, Ujjain
Rajaram Panchal, traditional toymaker, Ujjain