Sree Neelakanteswara Natya Seva Sangha - NINASAM

Arts Education
2007-2008

Grant Period: Sixteen months

The Sree Neelakanteswara Natya Seva Sangha (Ninasam) is essentially a cultural organisation working in the field of the arts.  It proposes to hold a series of short-term culture workshops for undergraduate students and others of the same age who work with cultural organisations in Karnataka. The objective is to fill a serious vacuum in the formal general education system, which lacks a mechanism to help youngsters to appreciate the most significant art works and aesthetic traditions of their immediate environment and of the larger world.  Ninasam’s emphasis will be on orienting the young to vital modes of art experience and thereby opening their minds to the rich world of intellectual inquiry. The workshop series will culminate in an intensive teacher training workshop that will be synergised with Ninasam’s annual Culture Course, which is now a major fixture on India’s cultural calendar.

The Malnad region is traditionally known for its idyllic surrounds, tolerant attitudes and cultural leanings. Indeed, the survival of an energetic cultural institution like Ninasam in the small village of Heggodu is eloquent testimony to the above. In the past few years, however, there has been rapid and alarming erosion in all these qualities. With the forces of commerce and management coming to dominate the collective psyche, youngsters cannot even begin to shape the kind of life that would give them a sense of autonomy, meaning and fulfilment. This project aims to counter this process of depersonalisation by helping the youth learn modes of critical engagement with some of the fundamental issues in their society and their lives. One of the fundamental issues confronting the youth of the region is the escalating conflict between political extremism of the right and the left. Young recruits to either side have been drawn from undergraduate students and non-students of the same age group. These impressionable minds have been falling easy prey to the vendors of ideological violence when just a little cultural education would have helped prevent such anaesthetising indoctrination.

One part of the project would be in the form of a series of three-day workshops on specific themes and issues to be conducted for students in chosen undergraduate colleges in Karnataka. Another part would consist of theatre workshops of a three-week duration.  Some of the workshops for young enthusiasts would also be done outside colleges, in collaboration with selected local cultural groups. Ninasam will decide on the themes/issues and arrange for the resource persons, while the hosting institutions would be required to look after the local organisational aspects. The colleges and cultural groups to be covered under the project would be so chosen as to represent the full spectrum of the region/state/society in which Ninasam is situated. Care would be taken to reach areas which, for one reason or another, have seldom experienced such activity. Resource persons will be drawn from the intellectual and academic community of Karnataka. Some of the themes that Ninasam has short-listed are colonialism, neo-colonialism, mass media, forms of violence, caste and gender equality, development, religion, ecology, and the politics of science and technology.

With the project lasting about 16 months, Ninasam will be able to use its annual Culture Course in October as another important training opportunity in this regard. Those selected teachers from the hosting institutions will be invited as special delegates to the Culture Course in October 2008. Ninasam will reinforce all of the above by having some teachers from one hosting organisation attend workshops hosted by other organisations as well.