It is said that man’s most powerful tool is the pen. Words have a huge role to play in upholding systems of oppression; men have used sexist discourse to subjugate women for centuries. It is this reason that projects like Sister Library are so important. Women authors, just by writing through their own consciousness, play a part in dismantling the patriarchy. Sister Library aims to create a space where women authors can be read, and where people feel comfortable exploring non-conforming literary works. It would be the first community-owned feminist library.

To support this project, Feminism in India conducted an online interview with Sister Library’s Aqui Thami to find out more about the team and its aims. Aqui Thami has worked on several projects such as The Dharavi Art Room, an initiative that utilises art to support and empower children and women in Dharavi, and The Bombay Underground, a project that helps keep the ‘underground alive’. Sister Library is her most recent project and reflects her passion for uplifting women artists.

Image source: CNBC

While the library has travelled across India to different cities, the team hopes to secure a more stable plan for the library. Sister Library is holding a fundraiser for a permanent space in Bombay so that they can turn it into an actual physical place that celebrates women authors and creative artists.

Beverly Devakishen: How did the idea for Sister Library come about?

Aqui Thami: Through many reading interventions that we (bombay underground) executed in many different parts of the city I realised that people were not reading women. Works of women were looked at as a subcategory and was limited to that. This troubled me and I looked at my own collection. only to find it heavily disproportionate. My collection had less than 20% female authors and since that day I made a very conscious decision to read women exclusively.

Works of women were looked at as a subcategory and was limited to that.

This was 5 years back. As the collection grew, so did my desire to share these amazing works with people. that was how the work initiated.

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BD: Why do you think reading women authors so important to so many of us?

AT: Because women’s experiences are shaped by gender and therefore their works carry that perspective which in so many ways are unrelatable and jarring to many people (even today) because we have internalized male perspectives to the extent of invalidating perspectives that challenge the norm.

To me personally, reading women has changed the way I look at the world. It has also helped immensely with my practice. I cannot stress enough on reading works of feminist foremothers, many of the challenges we face today have been critically examined and articulated. It allows us a space to ideate ways of change making.

BD: What are your hopes for Sister Library in the future?

AT: In the future, i do want a permanent space for SL so as to become a lending library and have a space for everyone who would want to read women. I’m sure there will be people from many different places visiting the library the idea is that it becomes a space where people from all walks of life are welcomed to celeberate women.

we have internalized male perspectives to the extent of invalidating perspectives that challenge the norm.

This doesn’t mean that the travelling will stop. I would still want to keep touring to many places especially small towns 

BD: Can you tell us more about the space that you are hoping to get for Sister Library? 

AT: Sister Library the (art) work is about celebrating works of women as well as an act of reclaiming libraries – celebrating works that don’t find mention in the mainstream media and re-examining the idea of what a library could be.

SL will be the first ever community-owned feminist library in India Shifting ideas around spaces of knowledge production and distribution thereby dismantling epistemological hierarchies.

Lorde, do we need a feminist library in this country! Please have everybody contribute to make this space possible.

BD: How are art and literature important to feminism?

AT: Years and years of violence and subjugation can break the spirits, anybody, we need art to keep us going to share the change we envision that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Also read: In Conversation With Meghna Chaudhury: The Co-Founder Of The Irrelevant Project

FII thanks Aqui Thami for taking out time to do the interview. You can follow The Sister Library on Instagram and Twitter.

Featured Image Source: CNBC

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