Course: Cultures of Resilience
Instructors: Shreyas Srivatsa and Mahesh Bhat
This work was exhibited as part of two shows
Culture of Resilence : Resilence of Culture 2018, Kalaburagi, India
Srishti Collective 2018, Bangalore, India
Dear History is a set of two books–Student's Workbook and Teacher's Guidebook–designed as a supplementary toolkit for middle school students of Kalaburagi to explore their local heritage. The project aims to create an alternate means for children to engage with and appreciate their rich local histories, and be more actively involved in their preservation.
Dear History addresses the growing need to create minds that are full of questions rather than just knowledge. It is an attempt to make history interactive for students and is designed as a companion to textbooks.
This project comes under the thesis group, Cultures of Resilience and was executed from Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in collaboration with UNESCO Chair in Culture, Habitat, and Sustainable Development India, Deccan Studies, Team YUVAA, and Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
Kalaburagi, also known as Gulbarga, is a small town in north Karnataka with a rich history. It was the founding capital of the Bahmani Sultanate and has many places of historical significance. Unfortunately, many monuments are in a state of disrepair.
Interestingly, Kalaburagi is also full of stories and anecdotes that have been passed down for generations. This history only comes out through interaction with the people and place, which currently takes place only in limited ways.
On our first visit to the border-town, we went to a 14th century fort which was built by the Bahmani Sultanate. After seeing a dried up moat at the Fort, I was immediately reminded of fairy tales with medieval castles and deadly duels. Then I started imagining how the Bahmani Rulers might have used this moat.
This made me realise that spaces spark an interest in the stories about its users, both current and former.
Also, a small anecdote about someone can make you interested in visiting their space.
For example, the story of the ruler Firoz Shah Bahmani, a botany enthusiast who used to make people stay after prayers at the Dargah in Firozabad and give them lecture on the region’s flora made me want to visit his Fort.
So, what is the role of storytelling in cultural preservation?
“Stories are how we encapsulate things we have learnt in a memorable form...”
- Prof. Neelkanth Chhaya
Storytelling facilitates an informal transfer of knowledge. Its lack of a strict structure allows for personalization of the story by the storyteller. So every story, told differently with every recounting, has an infinite number of lessons that can be taught.
Throughout the town we encountered a lot of location specific stories, like the legend of the Crow at Firozabad Fort and the Chandelier Thief at Khwaja Bande Nawaz Dargah. All these stories have vivid imagery, interesting characters and memorable dialogues. These stories made the historical sites not seem like something from the past but rather something that has evolved with time.
Can these stories be used by the people of Gulbarga as a means to engage with their historical spaces?
Through my interactions with the students and teacher at different schools, I learnt that History coursebook was limited to administrative and political history and did cover aspects of daily life i.e. artefacts, materials used or clothing. It was difficult for teachers to generate an interest in the subject due its lack of tangibility and relatability.
This was also echoed in my conversations with the local historian, Rehman Patel
“We start history by learning about spaces far away and ignore what is close to us.”
In order to bridge the gap between written and oral, I created Dear History a supplementary activity book which allows the user to explore and record their personal, family and local history.
Middle school students of Kalaburagi. Since 6th grade onwards, history is a separate subject, students can explore their local history while learning about ancient indian empires.
Since Dear History would be introduced at school, it was important to not turn it into another subject that students need to prepare for the exams. So rather than directly sharing the stories with students, the kit allows them to discover and record these and many more tales by themselves. The activities start from places with familiar places, like their home and school, and slowly expands to the rest of the town. Aim and Suggestions for each activity are provided in the Teacher's Copy. According to the curriculum, teachers can pace out the activities over multiple years or breakdown into short-term projects. It encourages parents and other subject teachers to be active contributors.
Click below for a Reader View - Teacher's Copy
Click below for a Reader View - Student's Copy
Click below for Complete Documentation