6 Assagao: Awakening the Social Conscience

Iris C F Gomes

6 Assagao appeared on the scene in Goa three and a half years ago as a confluence of art, intellect and social activism. Nilankur Das, who is part of the team that makes the events at 6 Assagao a reality, reflects on a social awakening birthed by the turbulent atmosphere of Assam in the 80s. Marked by political unrest, student agitation, secessionist movements, the Indian Army’s combing operations and the President’s rule, this time period shaped his motivation to work in the development sector, and later in outreach and communication programmes.

People Tree, which was founded by Orijit Sen and Gurpreet Sidhu and functions as a space for products of unique design, began as an alternative bookshop in Delhi housing textile products and accessories. Far more than an ordinary store, People Tree boasts of having been the nurturing ground for social movements and the mentor of 6 Assagao. Nilankur says of People Tree, where he once used to have his activism T-shirts on display, ‘People Tree is an icon of alternative thoughts, ethical practices and social play.’

Taking root in the philosophy and ethos of People Tree, 6 Assagao is styled as a catalyst to the creation of social capital, to raise activism driven individuals who use their talents and powers to pursue social development and progress. It is to be a platform for the dispensing of information on rights based issues which will bring forth stories that are appealing and novel with artistic undertones, and bonded with contemporary concerns, lives, and aspirations. ‘6 Assagao was just waiting to happen when we discussed the possibilities four years ago. We started off with socially conscious film screenings and grew from strength to strength to be a platform for multidisciplinary art forms. It is becoming a place to explore and strengthen connections between social activism and artistic practices,’ says Nilankur.

6 Assagao has gained much fame for its comprehensive array of programmes that include screenings and discussions on documentary, art house and independent cinema, artists’ presentations, lecture demonstrations on various subjects, acoustic​ original​ music, book launches, alternative and traditional theatre, poetry performances, spoken word, play readings, etc. The highlights have been filmmaker Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s explanation of how the blood lust stoked by a world torn apart on religious lines had turned his soul cold, and Seth Tobocman, a member of the radical avant-garde anti-art movement ‘NO!art’, talking about the Occupy and Squatters movement​s. People Tree founder Orijit Sen’s sharing of his views and understanding after his travels to Palestine, the stirring rendition of ‘India, I see blood in your hands’ by activist music band Imphal Talkies, and Rana Ayyub’s reading from Gujarat Files, her book revealing the truth about the 2002 Gujarat riots, which was met with a standing ovation, are some of the other significant programmes held at 6 Assagao.

The dynamic team behind 6 Assagao consists of Chan Yangya spearheading operations in taking care of the smallest details, Phul Kumar and Chaya Torasdar helping in logistics and execution, and Televis Th assisting in the food and beverage section. Nilankur wades through webzines, forums and websites in search of inspiring stories. His major influences are ​ ​Rodriguez de Gerada, Artfux, Banksy, Citizen art, etc. He says, ‘The concept of culture jamming is important to ​me, and I do look up to collectives like Billboard Liberation Front and magazines like Adbusters. And derive inspiration for community organisation from books like Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, etc.’

Looking towards the future of 6 Assagao, Nilankur says, ‘It will emerge as a school of collective intelligence and critical thinking. All the events with their intrinsic values and wisdom are being archived now for future reference. We are planning an institute of higher learning.’

Contact details

Phone: 0832 226 8228

Email: peopletree.assagao@gmail.com

Address: Cursino Villa, No.6 Saunto Vaddo,

Anjuna Mapusa Road

Assagao, Goa, India