Three young women probe heritage through the lens of gender

Meet Aakriti Chandervanshi, Charulatha Dasappa and Mallika Dabke, the curators of Sandbox Collective’s Museum of Memories

For months, Charulatha Dasappa, Mallika Dabke and Aakriti Chandervanshi worked together online to put up the exhibits

By Reema Gowalla

How often does it happen that a woman is not merely the muse but is also curating an entire gallery of exhibits? In case of the Museum of Memories, three young minds are in charge of an intriguing oeuvre of artsy, personal expeditions to the past. Aakriti Chandervanshi, Charulatha Dasappa and Mallika Dabke are all under 25 and possess a keen sense of looking at heritage through the lens of gender.

What began as a curious project by Bengaluru-based Sandbox Collective has turned into a virtual landscape of fresh perspectives on ancestry that are not necessarily ‘history lessons on heritage’.

Beyond the relics of a bygone time, the museum sheds light on the lesser tangible vignettes that are bestrewed in our households, but are often considered too commonplace to talk about. These legacies speak to our souls, shape our psyche, and are handed down from one generation to the next.

Gender being the theme of this gallery of memories, the exhibits — contributed by artists in the same age group from across India — shun the patriarchal influences to retell stories of women and queer inheritance. From curio and hibiscus to aachar and tamura, the narrative of each display is a stance on our personal histories. The project is supported by a grant from the British Council.

An enriching curatorial journey

Charulatha — who is a freelance editor and also takes an interest in theatre and women’s identity — says, “I think this curatorial project came to us at a good time, mainly because at this age we are trying to understand our own identities better. Additionally, the museum offers a unique way to look at heritage. For instance, Mallika is keen on the idea of intergenerational forces, while I am interested in how bodies occupy spaces. Among the three of us, there were elaborate discussions about the submissions, and how they made sense in the overall narrative of the museum.”

According to her, it was important to acknowledge how women have traditionally occupied domestic roles and how they are doing it outside the domestic space. “We were constantly in conversation with each contributor and among ourselves, which, I think, were the most enriching parts of the journey. It was intriguing to experience the diverse views, and understand how different people from the same age group were approaching the theme,” she adds.

Museum of Memories’ artworks are best viewed online

Mallika — who writes and enjoys studying the arts — thinks that the virtual space is ideal to explore and understand the exhibits of the Museum of Memories. “Going digital takes out the intimidations that are almost unavoidable at a physical space, be it in the application process or while showcasing a piece of art. It enables a distinct way of engaging with art, which is reciprocal and customisable,” she says, adding, “Being part of this project allowed me to play to my strengths in more ways than I could imagine.”

Exhibits are interactive and easy on the eyes

“Initially, there was a thought that someday the offerings of the museum will be opened for people to come and experience them in an actual space. But after having those multiple virtual meet-ups and constant discourse, we realised that there are more avenues that we can explore digitally,” says Aakriti, who is an architect by training and loves photography. She has also designed the Museum of Memories website.

“Taking on the role of a curator at such a young age and sifting through the works of talented artists was an exciting and enlightening experience. But it also changed our perception of how things are envisioned for a gallery display; how curating doesn’t always need to be a heady process. Things can be interpreted in a way that is easy on the eyes and is more interactive,” she sums up.

A glimpse of some of the artworks on display at the Museum of Memories

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