The Conflictorium: a space to deal with history of conflict in our lives
In a quaint little old Parsi building in Mirzapur, Ahmedabad is the Conflictorium – a space that has been set up to help people interact with the concept, history and presence of conflict in our everyday lives.
The first gallery, the ‘Conflict Timeline’ attempts to map the history of Gujarat on a timeline. The gallery puts into perspective how a history of a place comes to be defined more by a series of conquests told by the victor of the ruling class than by stories of co-existence in everyday lives across history. This gallery captures the absence and therefore the need for history to be a narrative that weaves together multiple perspectives that make history worth understanding.
The next gallery, ‘The Gallery of Disputes’ highlights the presence of conflicts in our lives from the smallest of restrictions imposed in a society to establish norms to the biggest conflicts that plague the world today like war and abuse. Presented through the imagery of animals, the gallery exhibits conflicts that only exist among humans and human societies. Inspired by literature that uses the animal world to showcase human nature, this gallery situates all of human conflicts in the context of the animal kingdom and that instantly allows us to recognise the dominant yet invisible presence of conflict all around us. This gallery also draws from everyday popular culture including cinema and new channels to show how conflict is used to sensationalise content.
A gallery named ‘Moral Compass’ has the Indian Constitution as the central exhibit that visitors are free to engage with. In today’s time and age when societies are constantly troubled and stretched by strongly opposing ideals, the Indian Constitution – the longest written constitution in the world – roots our values thus serving as a reference to readjust our moral compass from time to time. Surrounding the Constitution are banners showcasing landmark bills and laws passed by the Parliament to eradicate untouchability.
The ‘Memory Lab’ is an interactive installation that allows visitors to present their experiences as a note that other visitors can read. This is one of the most touching installations at the gallery as people share memories that are both dear and difficult to them. Reading these memories evokes nothing but empathy which is one of the most powerful means that we have to overcome a basic divide that tends to inform social interactions. The installation is a documentation of personal and internal conflicts that we overcome ever so often in our lives. While we may tend to believe that we are alone in the adversities that we face, this installation reminds us of the universality of the phenomenon.
The museum also houses galleries on the first floor where installations of various kinds are displayed. The installations themed around urban lights were extremely effective. They highlight how light from electric sources are used jarringly in urban settings to compete for and to capture the attention of people.
Another constant presence in the conflictorium is the ‘Sorry Tree’. A tree that leans into the balcony carries messages of apology as a symbol of hatchets that are being buried. Here is the perfect place to allow yourself the liberation of expressing or accepting an apology.
Conflict is an inevitable reality at every level. Every time there are two entities who hold unique beliefs, there will be conflict. The objective of this unique museum is to help us think of how we want to respond to the conflict. It will be unnatural and far fetched to say that there will be no conflict in the face of absolute acceptance. But then, how can we manage our differences so as to be enriched by them and not divided into smaller numerators and bigger denominators with each difference?
#keeptalking is the message the Conflictorium wants the visitors to take away. Create a healthy dialogue to talk about conflicts and differences peacefully so that we can be enriched by them and use them as opportunities to fill with peace. Let us converse about conflicts not to win or lose but to learn and grow. Let there be peace.