In MAHILA, the filmmaker steps between different worlds, going from West to East, from urban to rural surroundings. Her encounters with the experiences and observations of rural Indian women provoke reflection on the process of empowerment. In an artistic ethnography we see and hear how they are using education, technology and politics to redefine their destinies. As we trace the filmmaker’s memories we are taken into questions about story-telling. How are the women fighting to get their stories heard? Can the filmmaker tell other women’s stories?
A film about grassroots activism, eco-technology and networks of women.
Mahila/Women – 26:00 – Nl subtitles
A film about the Barefoot Solar Engineers.
Summer 2006, a few months after I met Mr. Vasu Srinivasan at the Luminous Green Symposium organised by foAM, I decided to develop a project on the Women Engineers of the Barefoot College and the Women of Tilonia.
Diving into the matter, I quickly made up that a documentary movie had to become the central issue in the project. My interest for the women Solar Engineers and the Mahila Samiti women of Tilonia comes out of a personal involvement that links art, women empowerment, ecology, technology and social engagement.
Introduced to the Barefoot College project, I was struck by certain similarities between my own relatively protected work environment and the specificities of the trainings/workshops in Rajasthan.
Okno, a Brussels-based artist-run organisation for media, art and technology, focuses on social art and community-based technological research projects. To be more specific: current projects research the implementation of sustainable energies as solar/photovoltaic and wind energy in community-based city- and meshnetworks and public space art projects.
Belgian and international artists work together in a DIY-approach and during the decentralised workshops the sharing of knowledge is an important factor to come to valuable results.
The solar engineer training at Barefoot College, India has a similar structure: productivity results from collective work; the learning environment is open and decentralised and knowledge is passed on in a bottom-up and hands-on way.
From start on, the decision to step into the solar project is community-based. The village selects and delegates its future women engineers for a 6 months training, and every village family engages itself to pay its share in the remuneration of the engineers to set up and maintain the village solar system. January 2008 I went a first time to Barefoot College to meet and interview the solar engineers. There I discovered that the solar workshops are only a very small part in a much bigger story concerning the empowerment of the women in question.
#01_on women empowerment and creative networks
An artistic research project driven by grassroots activism, eco-technology and networks of women to build integrated and sustainable relationships between people, their environment and technology.
My interest in the women Solar Engineers and the Mahila Samiti groups for women’s empowerment in Rajasthan comes out of a personal involvement that links art, women empowerment, ecology, technology and social engagement.
When I learned about the Barefoot College project, I was struck by certain similarities between two practices that seem worlds apart at first sight: my own artistic work environment and the practical trainings/workshops in Rajasthan.
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A border, by definition, is simply a line separating two political or geographical fields. The word itself connotes political, economical, cultural, and psychological zones, along with conflicts and their conflicting positions. The same word also inhabits the act and the possibility of trespassing. Diverging thoroughly from this idea, this exhibition focuses on such projects and works that question the circumstances and limits of their territories of research, as well as the capacities and possibilities of the medium they choose to work with.
One of the main intentions of the “Soft Borders” exhibition is to duplicate the operation logic of the Upgrade Network in a gallery space, and to function as an “interface” to aggregate all possible means of perceiving and interpreting the word “border” by the Network. Yet, interface is a protocol that manages a border.
Although the exhibition displays different methodologies, technologies, motivations, and approaches, each and every work shapes, covers, and fills the volume of the gallery space in like attitude. It is the common language of the Network, which values equal distribution, sharing of information and production in tune with a similar mental and productive frequency. Parallel to this basis, the title “Soft Borders” also contains a strong indication of the word “software”, which operates on common languages (follows a code) shared and known by those who are correlated with it. In this respect, the expectation of this exhibition is to build new links and to explore new possibilities through and with the audience by sharing the common language of the Network.
(Basak Senova, curatorial statement)
Screenings at HUMlab, the Conference room
Annemie Maes and Goedele Verleysen
Starting with the screening of the movie ‘MAHILA’ (about the women solar engineers of Barefoot College India) followed by the screening of the film of Goedele Verleysen (on the role of the women in the political situation in Bolivia). A more detailed presentation on the projects will follow the screenings.
This will be followed by a more detailed presentation on the projects, and a discussion starting from a list of questions. These questions will be modified collectively, during the workshop. New list will serve as a starting point to do audio interviews with the participants, and will be added to a collective (open source) audio database.
May 1st, Labour Day, my computer and me made this short experimental movie: ‘pw:betelgeuse, portrait of a young moroccan woman at okno’.
Big HardDisk didn’t like the footage too much, and I had to call Little HardDisk for help to bring it to a displayable result.
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I tried to apply a respectfull approach towards the portraying of people in Islamic culture, and at the same time take the digital culture of Okno into account.
Big HD made the selection of the images and gave them their specific rythm and rendering, little HD and myself gave a little help to finalise the experiment.
From 27th to 29th March 2009 the Course “Grandmother’s University” was held at the Navdanya Vidya Peeth campus in Derhadun. About 30 female farmer’s from Uttaranchal, Uttrakand and Maharashtra and 20 western students gathered together to celebrate woman’s work and knowledge through attending interactive lectures.
Dr. Vandana Shiva conducted a session on Women and Agriculture in which she stated that throughout history keeping seeds has been mostly women’s business.
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Politics of Change was a gathering in Brussels during a 3-day workshop arranged by so-on and hosted by okno, both cultural organizations composed of several members engaged in different aspects of the artistic creation.
The call, made by the filmmaker and activist Annemie Maes, had different goals. One of them was to reflect on topics as gender and activism in the cultural field, another was the sharing of common technical tools to be used for sharing and spreading the word. One of the main issues we confront today as artists, thinkers and activists, is the fragmentation of our landscapes and the difficulty of access to mainstream media.
The artistic and cultural field remains a field where only a few actors achieve a mega status and become icons. Which strategy should be used to raise the number of multiplicators and create networks to get support and collaboration?
The participants in the workshop came from different fields, writers, students, filmmakers, anthropologists, journalists, visual artists, economists, researchers.