Ambdekar Digital Bookmobile Project

Rekhe Bharti (Ambedkar Digital Bookmobile)This week is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fittingly, Columbia University and Barnard College recently hosted (from Nov. 27th through Dec. 8th, 2023) the Ambedkar Digital Bookmobile project designed by Smita Rajmane and Somnath Waghmare. This project documents and collects material relating to singers of anti-caste songs from rural regions in Maharashtra state, India. On December 8th, there was also a screening of Chaityabhumi, a documentary film by Somnath Waghmare that chronicles the annual pilgrimage of Dalits (and others) to the site where Dr. Ambedkar’s last rites were performed on December 6th, 1956. Along with vivid documentary footage, the film includes contextual interviews with different groups.

Gate of ChaithyabhumiSmita Urmila Rajmane is a public intervention artist and performer with a diploma in painting from Bharata Kala Mahavidyalaya, Pune and an MFA from Shiv Nadar University. Her work emphasizes themes of caste, class, and gender discrimination in relation to public performances and archival installations. Somnath Waghmare is a documentary filmmaker and PhD scholar who has completed two earlier documentary films: I am not a Witch [2015] and The Battle of Bhima Koregaon: An Unending Journey [2017]. His work is unified by a focus on marginal communities, most especially the history of Dalit movements in India. The Ambedkar Digital Bookmobile has been traveling to various institutions and locales as a portable multimedia archive. Representative singers documented in the project include Rekha Bharti, Kalabai Hirvale, and Usha Jumbade in Aurangabad, Maharashtra; Bhima Koregaon Vijay Stambh in Perne, Maharashtra; Shahir Raosaheb Bhaurao Gaikwad in Dharkhed, Parbhani, Maharashtra; Yalgaar Sanskrutik Kala Manch, a cultural movement collective in Mumbai; the Jail Bhim Gayan Party active in Vadgaon, Tasgaon, and Sangli regions in Maharashtra; and others.

For Columbia University library resources on Dalits in Maharashtra, see subject: Dalits India Maharashtra. For more on Dr. Ambedkar, see subject: “Ambedkar, B. R. (Bhimrao Ramji), 1891-1956.”

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