day 1 – first day on the job

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we’re at new light right now waiting to meet up with urmi. we met urmi’s brother, arnab, for the first time after months of exchanging emails. it was great to be so warmly received – yesterday was a bit rough…contact with urmi has been sporadic and everyone we encountered yesterday was oddly grumpy. when we arrived here a half hour ago or so we were greeted by several of the young girls we met in march. we pledged to maintain our professionalism this trip though, so we’re trying not to do too much ‘babysitting’. not that designers can’t ‘babysit’, but we think we need to establish ourselves a little more.
on our way here we followed a man carrying goat heads by the ears freshly slaughtered as an offering to kali at the kali temple. colleen then said how calm it felt at that moment and i was delighted by the irony of her observation – you know you’ve been in india once or twice if you genuinely feel that the atmosphere is calm a few feet behind bleeding goat heads.
internet service has been harder to find than we expected, but we’ve finally been able to upload pictures from the day…

outside of what’s becoming our breakfast spot we discovered a family kantha stand. from what we can tell it looks like they live there as well. we were both excited to see how they reinterpreted kantha. the quilts were vibrant and well composed. we loved them – i bought 2 and they’re keeping us warm during the cold kolkata nights.

today was the first time meeting the anchal quilt makers and many of them were there for the first time. urmi invited sex workers from the neighborhood to join the group (up to now the women involved have been from the dalit, or “untouchable”, community who live adjacent to the red light district). the integration of these two groups was a little tense at first and a handful of sex workers left midway through the workshop. luckily, the tension subsided the following day during the narrative collage workshop.
since we learned of the workshop only a couple hours beforehand, we didn’t have much time to prepare. we raced back to our rooms, picked up our textile and kalighat art books and decided to talk to the women about the (disappearing) arts & craft tradition in kalighat and the potential to use kantha as a medium for greater personal and creative expression that could resurrect kalighat’s declining arts & craft legacy. we felt that this introduction would prepare them for the following day’s workshop on narrative collage.

a view from new light into the kailghat red light district

we ended the day in kalighat at the dalit shelter where dalit children gathered to do their homework. these children are some of the children of the kantha makers.

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