Landing in Ahmedabad at 5am, we left little time for recuperation and sleep before venturing out to the city in search of Gandhi’s Ashram. Post-diwali, the streets were by definition quiet yet still seemed to encompass the renowned hustle of the Indian roads. That first weekend was spent familiarising ourselves with the city; its architecture, its people, the heritage and culture, the food. Once the festival began on the Sunday afternoon, the workshops informally started & the opening night was celebrated. Tim’s workshop on documentary drawing saw us and twenty students from the National Institute of Design (NID) Vijayawada campus taking seven auto-rickshaws to the Teen Darwaza – the entrance gate to the royal square which houses the old city’s busiest bazaar. We drew everything from the market vendors & the food they were selling to the typography and branding from the neighbouring shops. The afternoon took us up onto the rooftop of a second gate, with views of the whole market just as the sun began setting – casting a golden hue on the still chaotic scene of the market. Filled with unexpected happenings, we ended the afternoon’s drawing session at Sidi Sayeed Mosque just as the evening call to prayer sang out; allowing us to witness and document the prayer routine first hand.
In order to capture the changing landscape of the city between day and night, the group headed back out at 10pm, this time ending up on the outskirts of a night food market. Despite the late hour and it being a Monday night, the streets were still lined with tables of people eating Gujarati snacks. It was here where it was made obvious the impact and effect drawing on location can have not only on your work but also how you perceive and subsequently document the situation. Having noticed that there were three of us, sketchbooks in hand, observing and recording his Fafda stall, the stall owner began to take notice, change his behaviour and almost pose for our drawings. This session went on until almost half past one in the morning, the streets slowly emptying as it got later. This day was perhaps the most influential and beneficial of the trip; highlighting the importance of drawing on location as opposed to taking a photo to then reference later. Documentary drawing would enable me to comment on society in a first hand manor, giving my already opinionated work a sense of humanity and personalisation – something that I am sure to try and explore in at least one of my final year projects.
As the rest of the week went on, it was a matter of balancing workshop time, creating multiple zines with drawings from around the city, with exploring and appreciating all that the city had to offer. For me, getting a sense of the city was just as important as participating in the networking & design aspects of the festival as culture and travel has such an role in my current and future practice as an illustrator. This meant appreciating the hand block printed fabrics and eating thali (a sharing platter style dish) off of a leaf whilst sat on the floor. It has been discussing feminism and society with other creatives whilst eating dinner one night or trying my first fresh coconut from a stall on the roadside for the equivalent of 50p. This trip has me leaving with a new found drive for my post university plan, encompassing the way in which illustration and new cultures has been explored this week & the ways in which documenting the city around you can create or bring light to its stories.
Sophie’s visit to NID was supported by a Bath Spa GALA Outreach Award
By Sophie Parsons, Undergraduate Student at Bath Spa University