by Britta Tollefsrud
Asst. Managing Director
For months I would look into the sky at the planes that flew overhead knowing that one day. I would be aboard a similar vehicle carrying me miles from the comforts of the home I knew. What scared me most was that I found myself in a beautiful network of creative collaborators who pushed me artistically while creating a nurturing environment. I had no idea what world I would be entering and if I would be provided with the same support system.
Upon my arrival to this “small circus”, as we lovingly call the Kattaikkuttu Sangam, the place I now happily call home, I gradually found another community of creators and collaborators who have travelled from all over the world to share their delight of theatre, dance, and music. Here I learned that collaboration transcends cultural boundaries, language barriers, and geographical lines. Collaboration happens when one person leaps and another is ready to catch them.
The Kattaikkuttu Sangam (KKS) is an NGO in Southern Tamil Nadu that works to marry their Kattaikkuttu Young Professional Company (KYPC) with their Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam (KKG). The Gurukulam is a residential school that offers comprehensive education from 3 rd -12 th standard concurrently with professional artistic training. What these kids can create is mind blowing and watching them perform as professionals of the KYPC shows their maturity and love of their art.
The art of collaboration is readily apparent daily at KKS. Of the 26 years since its inception, KKS has collaborated with various artists and professionals from all over the world, each bringing their rich cultural experiences to share. These students are like sponges and their interactions with these volunteers from all over the world have inevitably broadened their entire scope of the world and their artistic vocabulary!
Currently there are many workshops happening here at KKS with the students. Collaboration is apparent amongst the students’ artistic endeavours as well as the facilitators, who band together over a good idea. For instance, I and two other volunteers were talking one evening about facilitating a girl’s workshop. Our shared goal was to create a safe space, using creative tools of expression, to share their experiences of growing into the women they are becoming. The workshop was intended for one weekend session but has now grown into a weekly event and we are now collaborating with three acrobatics from a physical theatre school in Switzerland to create a movement piece featuring the girls in a strong, powerful role.
We also have a storyteller from the UK who is creating three variations of The Little Prince with the students. Although he had a base structure for his workshop before arriving to India, the forte of his creative process relies heavily on the input from his students. Through their collaboration he is able to create something with them that is touching and raw.
I myself am working with the students as we compose music together paired with movement. We also write scripts together, and tell stories together. Like the UK storyteller, I work to elicit creativity and thoughtful creation from the students. Together we walk away with a piece of art that is owned by our collective force. Collaboration is beautiful in that sense, it is not owned.
“Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you” said a certain Winnie the Pooh. Collaboration is opening yourself for the Poetry and Hums of others in spaces that are safe for mistakes and nurture you to try again. These are the most comfortable homes, the most beautiful spaces, and house the most beautiful people.