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kabir Project


The Kabir project brings together the experiences of a series of ongoing journeys in quest of this 15th century north Indian mystic poet in our contemporary worlds. Started in 2003, these journeys inquire into the spiritual and socio-political resonances of Kabir’s poetry through songs, images and conversations. We journey through a stunning diversity of social, religious and musical traditions which Kabir inhabits, exploring how his poetry intersects with ideas of cultural identity, secularism, nationalism, religion, death, impermanence, folk and oral knowledge systems. The core inspiration of the project is music, and Kabir comes alive in documentary films, ten audio CDs and poetry books through the power of song (www.kabirproject.org).

This project is a 6-year initiative undertaken by filmmaker Shabnam Virmani, who is artist in residence at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India. The project is supported by the Ford Foundation, New Delhi.

Apart from the films, CDs and books, the true spirit of the Kabir Project lies in the taana-baana (warp & weft) of social networks and friendships built over these years between the singers, scholars, activists, artists, illustrators, students, music lovers and lay persons who have been woven together through student labs, festivals, workshops and other exchanges. Folk singers Prahlad Tipanya, Mukhtiyar Ali and others have become deep friends, giving the project its soul force. Our advisors include scholars Linda Hess and Purushottam Agrawal, poet Ashok Vajpeyi, and singer Vidya Rao.

The project is growing rapidly in many ways, with cultural groups, educational, social and community-based institutions and individuals are taking the initiative to organize festivals, workshops and interactive events that include the films, folk singers, live music concerts and discussions, reaching out to very diverse audiences. 

In the next phase of the project, work has begun towards constructing a multi-media web-space to browse the music, poetry and ideas of Kabir. This web-space will be co-created with the involvement of folk singers, along with innovative social experiments to vitalize the Kabir oral traditions at the village level. We are also holding exploratory workshops with teachers and educators to brainstorm ways of bringing the ideas and values of Kabir into the classroom.

Shabnam Virmani is director of the Kabir Project, a documentary filmmaker and artist in residence at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore since 2002.She is founder-trustee of the Drishti Media Arts and Human Rights collective, where she directed several films and community radio programs in close partnership with grassroots women’s groups in the country, before moving to Srishti in 2002.

Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology is an institute of art & design education, research and experimentation. Srishti offers residency programs for artists and welcomes creative practitioners and scholars of arts and design for visits and collaborations. Visit www.srishti.ac.in.

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