The crowd-funded Sister Library is the first ever community-owned feminist library in India, founded by 29 years old artist and activist Aqui Thami.
Her personal work is known for her guerrilla posters, photography, and zines which she considers something so basic which can challenge the status quo of production, distribution, and knowledge. The core of her practice is grounded in the act of doing, and explores experiences of marginalisation and resilience.
She noticed five years ago that as little as 20 per cent of her shelves were occupied by female authors, a number telling of the patriarchal set up that builds a male-dominated narrative of the world. She made then the very conscious decision to read women exclusively and set up Sister Library, which took off a year ago as a travelling library of 100 books, touring several cities across the country. The library is now a permanent small space in the Bandra neighbourhood of Mumbai housing 600 works of literature by women including zines, nonfiction and poetry mostly from Thami’s own sprawling collection.
Thami envisions the library a a space to help reshaping the role of women in Indian society and even break the boundaries of caste and class. Since Indian society is caste segregated, knowledge production and sharing has always been historically restricted, so even if there are amazing works by women they are in universities and private libraries with no or limited access. A major part of gaining feminist consciousness is also about creating open spaces for consciousness raising, so she thought this was what she could do.
She states she owes her life to all the female creators before her who were brave to be vulnerable enough to enable change. Thami left the Thangmi indigenous tribe in the foothills of the Himalayas when she was just 15 and while feeling like an outsider art allowed her to enter worlds that would otherwise always consider her invisible. She doesn’t envision change as a noisy spectacular revolution. For her, a quiet sojourn in the pages of feminist philosophy and critical theory has been enough to reveal the ways of the world. And what is integral revolution if not the one entailing to experience inner and outer life on one’s conscious own terms, and being unapologetically happy doing so?