Under the realm of Bonjour India 2017-2018, Know Your Indo French Heritage, a Co-Creation
Workshop was organised by between 5 th -12 th January 2018 at Chandernagore College. This
workshop was a collaboration between Chandernagore College, Jadhavpur University, Indian
Institute of Management, Nagpur and Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative
Strategies in Lyon France. The objective was to foster long term partnerships between
institutes in India and France to work towards the sustainable development of the town.
READ MOREDesigned as an intensive 7 day intensive workshop between French and Indian students, it adopted multi-disciplinary hands on approach that created opportunities for close interaction between the participants and local community. The primary aim of the co-creation workshop was to reduce distance between people and their heritage by providing a platform to the citizens for co-creating, innovating and developing socially viable solutions for some of the urban problems.
The participants worked on a town level understanding of Chanderngaore and then focused on four typologies of public spaces as well as on ideating to develop sustainable solutions for the dilapidated Registry Building. At the end of the workshop, the participants displayed their work done in the form of an open air exhibition in an accessible public space which was open to all. The following section illustrates the work done in the workshop as well as defines a way forward for the town of Chandernagore's heritage that needs to be collaboratively implemented with close cooperation of the local, district and State administration for the sustainable development of Chandernagore.
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The inauguration of Bonjour India in Chandernagore was through the performance of the students of Sushila Birla School, Kolkata. They performed a dance drama L'ordeur du passè , a dance drama on the heritage of Chandernagore. The venue was chosen as Nrityagopal Smriti Mandir, one of the oldest auditoriums in Chandernagore which was built by the philanthropy of Shri Harihar Sett. The objective of the programme was to bring attention to this decaying cultural space within the town through the Bonjour India initiative.
This was followed by a Pop-Up Dinner and Cooking Competition between the home-chefs of Chandernagore, who brought bring their home cooked delicacies for the participants. This gave the participants an opportunity to meet with the locals and taste their local gastronomy. The cooking competition was judged by M. Damien Syed, Consul General of France in Kolkata, M. Fabrice Plançon, Director Alliance Française du Bengal and M. Fredique of the Consulate of France in Kolkata.
The first day of the workshop began with the ice-breaking sessions and the participants were then divided into three groups and escorted by the walk-leaders on three distinct walks (The French Town, The Native merchants and The GT Road) across Chandernagore. The walks were curated and led by the Citizen's Historians (Paromita Adhikary, Somwrita Nag and Rudraraj Millick) who were trained on the Heritage & People of Chandernagore Project in 2015. ATA assisted them in designing a map which was used by all participants during the workshop.
Venue: Sacred Heart Church, Chandernagore
The preliminary outcomes of the discussions were the need to involve the local youth in spreading awareness about the Indo-French heritage of Chandernagore. The discussion was recorded in a live graphic by Tangshu Karmakar.
This session was dedicated to understanding the economic potential of the town. This session
was enriched by the four students from IIM Nagpur that joined the participants for this day.
The participants were all divided into 4 groups each group had representatives from each of
the collaborating institutions. Each group was given the task of mapping the existing services
and facilities related to night stay options, restaurants, library and cultural spaces and health care facilities. Based on the understanding of the survey, each team prepared a pitch for a
business plan for what the reuse of the registry building should be.
The mapping exercise revealed that there was a severe lack of tourism related infrastructure for Chandernagore. Almost all the groups highlighted the need for a night stay place, restaurant and cafe. The need for a tourist information centre was also recorded. The groups also noticed the lack of cultural spaces particularly libraries and spaces for study. Additionally, the survey had highlighted the lack of health care facilities, no specialist services such as ICUs and referral centres. This exercise was crucial to determining the possible uses that could be housed within the Registry Building, depending on the realistic understanding of the site. Each of the groups then prepared a business plan each for the reuse of the registry building which was based on the analysis of the mapping exercise.
Venue: Courtyard of Sett House Palpara
The participants also offered such suggestions such as the Fete de lumiére that is held in Lyon France every year as a celebration of craft, art and lighting which could be something that could also be done in Chandernagore. There were suggestions on how to make the most of the special gastronomy of the town as was evident in the pop-up dinner where residents could invite tourists to their home for authentic Bengali gastronomic experiences. Overall, it can be summed up that there are several possibilities to ensure that the heritage of Chandernagore can also provide employment generation and economic revitalisation of the town for the tourist economy. These include home stays, curation of unique Indo French experiences and engaging the local community in heritage conservation.
The focus of this session was the engagement with the local community of issues of the town
by using a medium of temporary art installations. The first two days of the workshops had
familiarised the participants with what was special about Chandernagore and its heritage.
The second part of the session involved students from the local schools namely Kanailal Vidyamandir (English & French Sections), Sri Aurobindo Vidyamandir and Sushila Birla Girls School Kolkata joining the participants for a pop-up art installation in a public space. The objective of the exercise was to interact with the members of the local community and work together as a team to create a pop-up installation in a public space. This aroused the curiosity of the passers-by and enriched the understanding of the participants on the issues pertaining to the town. This helped in raising the awareness of the community as well as the school children about the heritage and the issues related to it. It also illustrated how simple art can be a great driver for bringing people together to think about their public spaces. Each group was provided a standard box of stationary which they were to creatively utilise for making the pop-up installation in their designated public spaces namely The Jora Ghat, Registry Building at Rani Ghat, Mairie Park and Dey Para.
The main issues of the town can be summed up as concerns for the environment particularly saving the trees, treating the animals with care, need for a coffee shop, the need for safety, potential for tourist facilities, need for hotels, popularising the French colony and putting it on the world map, food corners, multiplex, indoor stadium, places for young people to hang out, dustbins, control on development, becoming a happy city.
About a 100 community persons engaged with the group in this installation. Most of the community members were not aware of the history or surprisingly even the presence of the Registry Building, while a majority of the community wanted the building to be restored and reused as a cafè or restaurants, there were others who felt it was unsafe and should be demolished and rebuilt as a public facility. The team also engaged with the shop owners whose shops have encroached into the building expressed that their shops should be retained in the reuse proposal.
Venue: Courtyard of Dey Bari, Barasaat
The other issues that the discussion highlighted were the encroachment on the public spaces and the lack of environmental consciousness, pollution, garbage and litter on the river banks as well as the pukhurs. Another issue that was highlighted was the pace of rapid and piecemeal development having an impact on the imagebility and character of the town of Chandernagore. There was discussion about the lack of awareness about the heritage and the participation of the local people in the initiatives and projects about heritage that were undertaken in the town. The format of the adda sessions being conducted as part of the Bonjour India programme within the courtyards of people's houses allowed access to people to multiple historic homes and these could become the new public spaces of the town for cultural activities. This could be continued beyond the event of Bonjour India. Overall, it can be summed up that there are several possibilities to ensure that the heritage needed to be appreciated by the people who live and work in Chandernagore. There was a need for the development of heritage walk routes, recording oral history and involving the youth.
The participants were divided into four groups, each group looked at different public spaces in the town namely The Strand, Lal Dighi, Streets of Dey Para and G.T. Road. Adopting the methodology from DUGNAD, the participants familiarised themselves with the space, observed the issues and brainstormed on innovations and solutions for each of the spaces within their groups.
Venue: Courtyard of Sri Aurobindo Vidyamandir
One of the key issues identified was the lack of engagement of the community particularly the design professionals who are part of the community.Overall, it can be summed up that there needs to be an active engagement of design professionals in the everyday planning and decision making for the town. The community needs to take a pro-active role in the ensuring that any new interventions such as statues, signage should be in keeping with the heritage fabric of the town.
The participants were divided into 3 groups. Each group focused on the creative reuse of the Registry Building, building on all the first hand experiences from the mapping as well as interactions with the community. Each group analysed the existing condition of the Registry Building and developed their solutions. The groups were led by the tutors from Confluence Lyon, Charles Ober and Domittile Roy. The outcomes of the projects were displayed as part of the Pop-Up Exhibition on the Strand on the 12.01.2018
One of the outcomes of the mapping exercise also was the need to build an independent identity for Chanderngore. The business plans highlighted the need for the creation and building of an identity for Chandernagore in order to boost its tourism potential. This identity would need to be reinforced with home-stays, night stay options, restaurants, cafes, shops that further enhance the Indo-French milieu of Chandernagore.
The final conclusion of the workshop was laid out in the form of an open air exhibition that was erected at the Strand to have maximum visibility. The ideas were given out to the decision makers as well as residents and community members on how Chandernagore can move into the future. The session ended with the valedictory ceremony for the participants hosted by the Chandernagore College
The Co-Creation workshop closed with the special show on Metajingle at the Strand and Kanailal Vidyamandir transformed itself as a magical place for the closing dinner of Bonjour India. Many thanks to the students and alumni of the school who pitched in to make this happen. The job was to bring people together, seeking attention of the decision makers and set the ball rolling for future partnerships. An 8 day event brought much to the local economy with local capacity building and hope this continues to enrich the Heritage and People of Chandernagore.