Exhibition throws light on how ‘grindmill songs’ highlight rural women’s issues

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A chunk of rural women highlights their issues and feelings through age-old tradition of grindmill songs, which are a reflection of the society, People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) co-founder Namita Waikar said on Sunday, adding more research on such songs will help people understand their issues.

Speaking at the “Critical Zones” exhibition organised by Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan at Zapurza Museum of Arts and Culture, Waikar said the grindmill songs highlight different issues such as patriarchy, caste, village deities, marriage ceremonies and friendships.

“Initially, the women were reluctant to speak on their issues… We found out that the women expressed themselves through grindmill songs. This is, thus, an age-old tradition and an important platform where women express their opinions on a range of topics. More research on such songs will help in understanding the issues faced by rural women,” said Waikar.

For about 25 years since 1987, two social scientists — Late Hema Rairikar and Guy Poitevin — and their team collected over 1,10,000 grindmill songs that rural women sang as they worked every day at the stone mill.
This substantial “jatyavarchiovi” collection is now being published on PARI along with the stories of women who sing them under the Grindmill Songs Project (GSP). Of these, 73,000 songs have been translated into English, while a number of songs were even translated in French.

Waikar also spoke about climate change and asserted that some couplets talk about nature, rains, weather and narrate how climate change has affected rural lives.

Jitrendra Maid, who is also working on the grindmill song project, said such songs are even useful for policy makers to understand social structure.

“The women expressed their values through grindmill songs. They also voice opinions on national issues. These songs will also help in understanding social structure, which can be useful to the policy makers while framing policies,” said Maid.

The programme was moderated by Renu Jamgaonkar.



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