Residency 2020: Learning to Sow the Seeds of Change
Updated: Mar 24
We didn’t fully realise that wrapping up a residency and festival is as much of a production for the organisers as putting one together is! Amidst the flurry of difficult goodbyes to our brilliant band of residents, volunteers and collaborators, we’ve been packing down the festival site, settling accounts and figuring out how much we’ve raised for Arannya, while also finding pockets of time to reflect upon these three incredibly rewarding (but equally challenging!) weeks.
The beauty of WILDBIYOO is that it represented very different journeys for every single person who came onboard this experience with us. We are overwhelmed by the love and creativity that flowed from this gathering of fine minds and even finer hearts, and are acutely aware that every person associated with the project was essential to its manifestation on the whole.
After weeks of emails exchanged between our residents and team, we were thrilled to be seeing all their beautiful faces in the flesh! On day one, after breakfast, we got straight into a playful, energetic dance of interactions, led by Ronan, one of our facilitators. In sharing moments of vulnerability interspersed with play, we were able to loosen the mask we are so used to wearing.
As our beautiful residency hub of Khaama Kethna was going to be the source of inspiration for creating in the next few weeks, we had a leisurely walk through the jungle. Stopping to look, listen, touch, this was the beginning of a recalibration of our bodies to the rhythms and pulses that life here ticks to.
We wanted to find ways for Wildbiyoo residency to be a convergence of a wider range of makers, thinkers, activists and artists than the scope of a uni-disciplinary program usually offers. This is why we programmed a different panel discussion every week, bringing local and locally-based experts into conversation with our team and residents. Similarly, we also went on a different excursion for each week, so our residents could explore the natural and cultural heritage of the unique Canacona taluka as much as possible. There were workshops as well, inviting our residents and the wider public to experiment with locally found materials and learn a new skill.
The first week was about familiarising, acclimatising. About enchantment and inspiration. But then, having spent more time getting to know each other a bit better, the thin veneer of politeness began to peel off, and difficult questions were brought to the table.
The residents began asking themselves what their real purpose was in coming here:
What is this seed that we are looking to plant? How might we gather in ways which feel radical and relevant to this moment of climate crisis? How do we acknowledge the many privileges that have allowed us to come together at a time when many in the world are suffering? How can we as artists create meaningfully, when most of our shared systems of meaning are crumbling faster and faster every day?
Some of these difficulties manifested as a struggle with working with new materials, or with dealing with the hot and humid weather. For many, it was the sluggish pace of life in a Goan beach town and the shock of encountering a place dominated by the demands of the tourism industry - which Goa heavily depends on.
The visit to Dhumane garbage plant and the community clean up event with residents, Goenkar team, and around 200 students from various schools and colleges around Canacona was certainly a harsh reminder of the world we are creating for non-human life and for future generations that will inherit this planet. Hidden from the sight of unsuspecting tourists and residents, a sprawling heap of lifeless plastic, orphaned shoes, hospital syringes and here and there, a dead cow reminding us of the mute violence that enables our luxurious lifestyles.
During this week, while residents began researching and gathering resources to create their projects, we were also fully immersed in bringing Clean Chaudi Community Day to life. For Community Day, Wildbiyoo and Goenkar worked together to bring about 200 students from various local schools, along with our MLA and ward members, musicians and members of the wider Canacona Community into a lively day of spreading awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis.
Above: Sri Nirakar High School (Maxem), Government high school Sadolxem, Government I.T.I., St Sebastian High School (Loliem), Sri Sarvanand High School (Paiginim), S.S. Angele high secondary (Maxem), Sri Mallikarjun and sri Chetan Manju Dessai College (Canacona), Government high school Gaondogirim, River House and Vidya Aranya school
This was a difficult week for us to pull through but one with amazing opportunities for learning. We got into the devastating science of the climate crisis with Francesca and the heartbreaking social reality it presents for millions of farmers in India and around the world with Abhijit. On another night, we had a small seminar after dinner, where we each brought an article that spoke to us with respect to the larger theme of “art and climate change”.
Verodina’s clay workshop gave our residents more clues into what materials they would go on to use. We also explored materials in more depth, in an informal panel discussion on art and the future of materials around the banyan tree shala.
The farm visit to Khaama Kethna’s Khola farm was a heartening example of small-scale resilience at work. After a wander through the farm led by Vivek and Suresh, we spoke of the struggles indigenous farmers and foragers are encountering with the loss of forest areas and ancient knowledge of local ecosystems. We were introduced to native species of grasses and flowers, heard anecdotes about the medicinal and aromatic properties of plants and their secret lives, mingling and colluding in a symbiosis we know so little about.
Afterwards, we spent the afternoon swimming in the blue waters of Canacona’s most beautiful secret beach and playing in the sand, followed by a stunning zero-waste meal cooked by Chayan on a little rock fire.The stars came out to keep us company, with the trusty Pleiades shining their sisterly light sweetly into the dark night.
Climate justice and resilience
If — to stick with the simple but instructive metaphor of sowing seeds — the previous two weeks had been about examining the conditions of weather, soil and water which are necessary to bring a seed to life, in week 3, we began to tentatively sow these seeds. We had imagined Wildbiyoo as a lab for testing out ideas on a small scale through unique collaboration facilitated by the overarching theme of climate justice that had brought us together. This week, we were joined by members of Extinction Rebellion India, who carried with them a depth and dynamism that invigorated three long evening sessions on climate justice, with a focus on how it is affecting the Global South.
In our panel on Art and Activism in a time of Emergency, we navigated the difficulty of explicitly wedding art to activism, the importance nonetheless of employing creative strategies to speak to people’s heart and not just their intellect, and reflected on how art can become a powerful tool for bringing social justice to communities.
Sowing “seeds” was not just a metaphor! Thanks to Abhijit’s “Seeds of Change '' workshop, we paid tribute to the potential of seeds as a tool for community resilience by sowing indigenous plants-to-be into Khaama’s dark, crumbly soil.
While the focus of this last week went into residents working to finish their projects, our team was welcoming a wonderfully enthusiastic and talented group of volunteers and getting busy with setting up for the festival. But we were also able to squeeze in one last excursion. This time, taking us around the neighbourhood itself, with Soul Travelling, Goa’s most authentic walking tour guides!
When we look back at everything that these three weeks of residency were, we feel like it was only at the very end that we were able to revisit the meaning of Wildbiyoo. It felt, paradoxically, like an arrival at a true beginning. When we think about the name WILD BIYOO, we understand now that we needed to travel into the wilderness to gather just a single seed. We need to do less, and be more, preparing the soil as a community for as long as it takes until the time is ripe to sow a seed that will perhaps one day give rise to a forest. On the very last day, during the residency debrief, we felt incredibly grateful to hear our residents share their experience of Wildbiyoo, with honesty, insight and compassion. Drawing from the collective wisdom of this little community and the priceless lessons that only come with living through that which we set out to do, we are slowly but surely beginning to prepare the ground for another season of Wildbiyoo 2.0! A lesson from the jungle that highly resonates with us: we don’t always get what we want, but if we pay attention, life finds a way of giving us precisely what we need, when we need it most.
Written by Francesca Cotta