By Priyanka Sancheti
When I first started volunteering at the Community Library in June last year, what struck me was how the library emphasised on telling stories through multiple mediums; books were of course the obvious and immediate points of access but there were so many other ways to encounter the fascinating of stories. I would go there every Friday to see the children deeply engrossed in reading their books in the Reading Room, excitedly leafing through and checking out books, and waiting in anticipation to hear stories during the Read Aloud sessions. I recalled my own experiences in libraries, whether as a child or an adult, the thrill that would course through me at the prospect of choosing from so many books, feeling greedy and wishing to read all of them at once. I am now a writer and pursue amateur photography and find myself telling stories through those two media, sometimes combining the two.
I also make collages as well, juxtaposing images cut out from magazines and newspapers, pastels, and watercolors. I suggested conducting a collage-making workshop for the kids with the intention of exploring yet another new mode of story-telling with them. So, almost a year ago, I entered the library with a huge stack of magazines and wondered what stories would I get to hear and see that day. Initially, when the kids gathered for the class and curiously looked at the pile of magazines sitting in the middle of the room, they wondered as to how they would be able to tell a narrative from cutting out pictures and gluing them together. I had brought a couple of my journals for reference; I showed a couple of my collages, asked them what they thought the collages were saying, and things started to fall in place.
While some eagerly launched into the exercise, flipping through the magazines and swiftly cutting out images to glue on to the paper, others took a bit more time to figure out what exactly they were supposed to do. I had deliberately brought fashion and art magazines as I thought they would offer the most visually interesting assortment of images to choose from. I personally always liken collages to jigsaw puzzles and eventually everyone's stories of puzzles started to come together. Some were pages long while others were a single page but heavily populated with images.
When everyone had finally finished working on their collages, I asked them to come up one by one and display their works to their classmates. I first asked the group to guess what the story was about before asking the artist of the work to narrate it. In some cases, the group accurately guessed the story while others were definitely much more convoluted! In some cases, in mid-narration, the artist would request to add a couple more images to his/her story as they would suddenly realise that something was missing. And what stories they were! Bollywood weddings, a dedicated dog, and superheroes were amongst the ones I clearly remember.
Once everyone's stories were seen and heard, we hung them from the shelves where their collages were visible to everyone. I had such a fun time conducting the collage making workshop and I sincerely hope the kids enjoyed it too. I have since then moved from Delhi and currently in Bangalore. But I were to get an opportunity again to conduct a collage-making workshop when visiting Delhi, I would love to do so again!
[Priyanka has volunteered with the Community Library Project, and led this collage-making workshop.]