Every time K Thakur seats a customer for a haircut or a shave at his street-side salon in Khirkee, a bulb will automatically switch on above their chair, and in the mirror before him, the customer will see the reflection of an Amitabh Kumar painting on the wall. “It is attracting a lot of attention and compliments,” says Thakur, looking at the work dominated by shades of pink and blue.
Thakur’s is one of the five shops that have undergone a makeover at Khirkee Extension. The project is part of the festival Khoj Dus Tak, which celebrates the completion of 10 years of Khoj at Khirkee. The three-day event, starting on November 23, will comprise numerous activities that will see a collaboration between artists and the neighbouring communities. “Khoj’s engagement with Khirkee, its inhabitants and the surrounding areas has given various artists the opportunity to facilitate several participatory activities. It is to celebrate this continuous process of community engagement that we have organised Khoj Dus Tak,” says Pooja Sood, director of Khoj.
The preparations started months in advance. The archives were sifted to cull old maps of the area and combine them with studies done by Delhi Urban Art Commission and recordings with one of the oldest residents of Khirkee — Masterji — who talks about the transformation of the surroundings. Another photo installation project conceptualised by Julia Gutge and Malini Kochupillai, titled “Khirkee’s Khirkees”, records the aspirations of those living in the area.
“While some are happy with the existing scenario, others seek changes, ranging from small to larger concerns, including a woman saying she is afraid to go out in the evening,” says Gutge. Kochupillai will also present the photography series “Super Burka Girl in Khirki”, where clad in a rainbow-coloured and camouflage-print burka, Grace Zanatto as “the Burka Girl” visited residents to discuss their concerns.
Children in the area are also involved. During the last few weeks, children from Swarn Public School in Khirkee have been interacting with theatre group Purple Mangoes and their conversations will culminate in a street play. Posters and three-dimensional models from architect and urban planner Sudeshna Chatterjee’s 2011 project “Play@Khirkee” that explores the play areas in Khirkee will also be part of the exhibition. “Children in Khirkee have several places to choose from, ranging from the park to the dusty barren rectangular DDA park, vast rough grounds of Satpula and open spaces around Khirkee mosque,” says Chatterjee.
The collaborations will also extend to exploring the soundscape. While under “Khirkee Se”, sound projects will be played in public spaces such as barber shops and tea stalls, for “Khirkee Raag”, music band Tarik will collaborate with three musicians from Khirkee to create an original song about the neighbourhood, where sounds from local chai-wallahs and hawkers will be used. “Such community programmes have always been led by the Khirkee Extension community to produce collective visions and ideas about creative and urban development,” notes Sood.