How does nationalism look from above? Students of Ambedkar University have invited audiences to watch from the top of scaffoldings as they construct Nationalism, literally, using brick and cement. The performance, by the School of Culture and Creative Expressions, Ambedkar University, Delhi, is titled ‘Work in Progress’ and will be held in a warehouse on campus.
“During the performance, we pick up bricks, place them carefully and layer on the cement, each one of us, belonging to different backgrounds, wearing the same uniform of a construction worker. Our group comprises women and men from different religions and regions but, outwardly, as we construct Nationalism, we look the same,” says Ashish Atrey, a first-year student of performance studies. “The present right-wing politics made us think and we decided to construct the word Nationalism.”
The construction is accompanied by a band trying to tune its instruments to the National Anthem, a recording of Jawaharlal Nehru’s “tryst with destiny” and B R Ambedkar’s speech on the Constitution.
The performance will be held for two hours on January 18 and 19, and will include a woman in burkha reading from the Preamble to the Constitution. “We are laying it out, once again, for the people that this is what the Preamble says and how far we have moved. It makes evident the dark realities of resent,” says Ashwarya Samkaria, a first-year student.
Towards the end, all construction workers come together to collectively read from the Preamble. The students form the Performance Studies Collective and this piece is a part of their space and spectatorship course.
Their teacher, Deepan Sivaraman, who has directed the performance, says, “Work in progress, the term, itself is an analogy for what is happening in the country. It is not a new thing because the phenomenon of redefining the idea of India has been witnessed in the country before.”