I haven’t blogged about this yet, and my tardiness has had an unfortunate consequence: all the photos of the conference have been mysteriously wiped off my machine. Post-upgrade I had a lot of problems which weren’t solved until I changed my motherboard (again). I keep all my data in a different physical disc so the many reformats of my system disc shouldn’t have wiped out anything, but apparently one folder of photos didn’t make it. Damn.
Anyway, on March 21-22 there was a conference at Thrissur in Kerala on graphic novels/comics. It was titled ‘Re’presenting Comics: Transgressions in Media and Culture and was organised by CPRACSIS, the Centre for Performance Research and Cultural Studies in South Asia. This was the first conference of its kind in India, and not unnaturally it was a rather more exploratory than expository exercise. There was a wide range of attendees, including some senior cartoonists from Kerala, including P. Mohanan and E.P. Unny. Unny was very erudite in the history of the comics medium and has done graphic novels in Malayalam, sadly as yet untranslated and therefore unknown to the rest of India: I hope someone translates them soon. P. Mohanan’s caricatures of famous people were intelligent and hilarious. Professor John A. Lent who edits the International Journal of Comic Art was there, and had samples of the Journal for sale. IJOCA is a phenomenon and a labour of love. This publication gathers scholarly articles and studies of comics from all over the world in a huge 600+ page annual volume. I managed to scrape together the cash to buy one copy.
Bharath Murthy, mentioned elsewhere in this blog, was there too, and was selling his self-published autobiographical novel Learning to See. Bharath, Alka and I met a few times in the course of the conference to talk about the future of comics in India, and Bharath’s plans for more novels. There were also a number of notable scholars with academic papers about comics; including our very own Aryak Guha with a paper on Amar Chitra Katha. J.P. Manzanilla of the Philippines had a paper on the vast comics culture in that country, which is apparently very political as semi-underground comics tend to be. There were two JUDE people, Mandy and Isheeta, who want to start working on comics and will probably be part of our group-in-the-making. JUDE’s teaching of comics in Literature and the Other Arts is having an effect.
At the end of the conference there was an informal round table moderated by Gokul Gopalakrishnan and the director of CPRACSIS, C.S. Biju. Andrew Dodd of Kalyani Navyug, publishers of Campfire books, was on it, as well as all the paper presenters. It was decided to do the following to get things moving in the Indian comics world.
- Organise more conferences on comics and graphic novels. These should be hybrid events with academic and trade aspects to them, i.e. part of the programme will involve the presenting of scholarly papers, and part will be in workshop format for practicising writers, artists, editors, publishers etc to get together and compare work, shop around and network.
- Set up a web presence and discussion board where notices of these events can be posted and shared. Bharat Murthy’s Comics Discussion Board (link to the right) is a step in the right direction. CDBI could be developed as a message board for everyone interested in teh medium to keep track of new developments.
- Discover and translate/republish old comics published in Indian langauges that no one know about or everyone has forgotten. Publicise the first generation of practitioners and focus attention on their work.
- Support publishing programmes and ventures that will bring comics to the Indian market.
If I’ve forgotten anything, please remind me with a comment. Sorry about the lack of visuals. I can’t even find the caricature of me that Mohanan very sweetly did. Oh well, I’m sure I’ve put it somehwere safe and it’ll turn up by and by.
In other news, my phone has died and gone to the great charging point in the sky. I traded in its still-warm body for a cheap Motorola. All of you who tried to call me during its death-throes, apologies. The new gizmo should be working now. Today we should be having the second meeting of comics makers at my place. I’ll post a digest of our discussions tomorrow.