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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

The Museum of Untold Stories

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

Episode 5: The Web of Revolution


Bhama is a history teacher. Her students hate history. So, she takes them to a museum. Except the museum is a very weird place. It has a chorus of curators explaining every exhibit and automatons that recite history. See footnotes for further reading on the historical events mentioned here.




Scene opens to a new room in the museum. Lights slowly come in. The Curator Chorus is already in place.

Dance of the Strings

  • The dancers enter in ones and twos

  • They have string wrapped around the waist

  • The dance involves moves that have them unwrapping the string and tying it across the stage like a web

  • The way the strings are tied should be strong enough to allow the girls to weave through them

  • The strings should be stretchy as well like those elastic dancy bands

  • The web is set and the dancers leave or stay, depending

Enter Bhama and the girls. They struggle to walk through the web.

Girl 4

What is all this string?

Girl 2

I feel like a fly stuck in a spider’s web

Curator Chorus

We are all flies

Stuck in the web

Of History

Girl 3

That is very encouraging, thank you…

Girl 5

If this museum wasn’t so interesting, I would definitely think those women are weird.

Girl 1

Those women are weird! Look how they talk.

Bhama

You can call them weird, all artist are little weird.

Girl 2

I thought they were historians. This is a history museum, isn’t it?

Bhama

History is art. That is why you study Arts to learn history. Arts and humanities.


Curator Chorus

Arts are human

And

Humans are ART

But that may be

Difficult for you

To understand

Now

Do you know

When you are?


Girl 1

Don’t you mean, where we are?

Curator Chorus

No, we do indeed mean

When

Time is not a

Straight Line

It is zigzags

And

Jagged Edges

A jumble

A shamble

Of Strings

Within strings

Interconnected with

Woven into

Strings

Each string is alive

Each string is

Dead

And when you touch

One string here

You can feel the

Vibration

In another string there

So every when

Is a where

And every where

Is a why

And that is why

We built this room

It is a Revolution

Girl 3

A revolution? I see nothing revolving.

Girl 4

Not revolution like the Earth revolves around the sun, silly!

Girl 1

Revolution like, French, Russian, American – like a change, a radical change!

Girl 2

Oh, you mean those things were lots of people get angry and kill lots of other people?

Girl 5

Usually the very rich, the nobility and the king and queen…

Girl 2

And then no one knows what to do, so there is a dark age…

Girl 4

And then someone comes and becomes king again…

Girl 1

Or America comes and establishes “democracy”. What, my mum told me.

Girl 3

So, this is a room of epic, historical fails?

Girl 2

Just like those older spiderman movies…

Girl 5

Oh, that’s why the theme is a web…

Bhama

You girls chatter too much and think too little. Not every revolution fail.

Girl 3

But that’s what we studied…

Girl 1

You mean mugged up…

Girl 3

Whatever, I mean they say things like liberty and equality

Girl 4

And fraternity, and justice

Girl 5

And equality

Girl 3

I already said that. My point is that nothing changes.

Girl 4

Hundred years ago, we were complaining about the British. Today we are complaining about our government. At least our parents are.

Girl 2

Yes, we just complain about the school and the teachers.

Girl 1

Not you, Miss Bhama, we like you. You got us to this museum.

Girl 5

But, the thing is we just keep shifting the blame and the cycle keeps going…

Bhama

So depressing for people so young like you! Not every revolution fail. Not everyone blame. Some people do. And lots of things change. For better.

Curator Chorus

The Teacher is Right!

Some people wait

Some people make

That is what this web is about

Small revolutions

Happen everyday

Butterfly wings

That dream up storms

And small beginnings

That change the world

You just don’t hear about it

But trust us

Pull a string and

You will know

Our automatons are here to tell

These untold stories

Enter Automatons, in a machine ballet. They twirl and do a sequence of movements repeatedly till one of the girls pulls a string. Again their storytelling is supported by visuals on the screen. The music keeps playing in the background. We can also have a bucket of images like polaroids that the automatons or the kids can attach to the string with clips

Girl 2

Well, here goes nothing…

She pulls the first string. We hear a loud echo-y twang. The automatons react to it like they are being wound up.


Automatons

The Matchgirl Strike

Everyone believed that their hands were small, so this work was best for them.

Small hands. Strong hands. Crafty hands.

Once up on a time, girls and women – thousands – worked in the factories of London.

Making matches

The matchgirls worked 16 to 20 hours a day, with no breaks and hardly any pay

And the white phosphorus from all those matches

Slowly dissolved their bones…

But that was not the end

The Matchgirls walked out

And refused to work till their demands were met


More money, less time and safety from the white devil!

The met the bosses, they met the parliament

And started the first women-led strike in the world

One of the people to help them was Annie Beasant

The independence Annie saw in them years later would make her speak out for independence in India with the Home Rule League

The automatons continue their repetitive movement

Girl 3 pulls a string. Another twang. Another automaton steps out.

Automatons

The Green Belt Movement

Once upon a time there was a girl who planted millions of trees. Her name was Wangari. Wangari grew up in Kenya in a place full of birds and animals and lots of green trees. But the trees were cut down, first by the British colonizers and then by the Government to make way for roads and farmland. As Wangari grew and started teaching at University, rural women would complain to her…

“We have to go further and further for wood for fuel”

“The streams are drying up”

“The crops are failing”

Wangari realized, “We need to bring the forest back

The women asked, “How many trees should we plant?”

“A few million”, she said

“Are you crazy? We can’t even count that high!”

“Then we plant more trees than we can count”

They started planting seeds in cans and when the seeds grew up to be saplings, they put them in the ground and started again with new seeds.

First it was just a few women and everyone made fun of them. But soon these few became thousands. The crazy project became the Green Belt Movement, a green revolution in Africa. Today the Green Belt revolution has planted 40 million trees, not just in Kenya, but across the world.

Girl 4 pulls a string. Another twang.

Automatons

Parivartan

Once upon a time, actually just 15 years ago… women got tired of being thirsty all day and waiting for the cover of night… to go to the toilet. So they decided to do something about it. The got women from the slums in Ahmedabad together, trained them in sanitation system planning.

“But ben, we need money also no, to do this”

“Then we need to learn how to save some”

And so the women opened bank accounts and started saving money like they never had before.

“But ben, this is not enough, where will we get the rest.”

“We’ll just have to ask the big people.”

“You mean beg from rich people?”

“No, I mean, demand from the government”

And so, these women also trained in getting funds from the Government.

And in 3 years, 46 community-based organizations for sanitation started in 895 slums. They trained more than 13,000 women and installed toilets in nearly 90,000 households.

Girl 5 pulls a string. Another twang.




Automatons

The Women’s March

In 2017, women across the world came together

To organize the biggest protest in history

Against gender inequality

In

New York

Washington

Belfast

Johannesburg

Indonesia

Rome

Paris

In

Bengaluru

Delhi

Pune

Chennai

Mumbai

Kolkata

Hyderabad

Lucknow

Puducherry

Silchar

Nagpur

Ahmedabad

Jaipur

Bhopal

Udaipur

Kochi

Karimganj

All performers leave their personas and together sing the 2017 MILCK song of the Women’s March: “Can’t keep Quiet





This is one of the scenes from the massive collaborative project with my alma mater, where we worked with personal and people's histories and created a large-scale production. Not all scenes translate to standalone work, so only this scene is available as a download. This is a project I hope to continue with kids and so more scenes may be uploaded soon.


Museum of Untold Stories
.pdf
Download PDF • 112KB

Further reading:


Images used in post:

Photo of matchgirls participating in a strike against Bryant & May, London 1888. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Women’s March on Versailles, 1789. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Iranian Women Day's protests against Hijab, 1979. Source: Wikimedia Commons






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