A Circulatory Network of Poetry without Borders
by Dr. Fathima Nizaruddin

Shabnam Virmani is a documentary filmmaker from India and the initiator of the Kabir Project. Through the Kabir Project she has been exploring the philosophy of Kabir, Shah Latif and other mystic poets through a deep engagement with their oral folk traditions for close to two decades, ever since the riots of Gujarat in 2002 propelled her on this quest. Her inspiration in this poetry has taken the shape of 4 documentary films on Kabir, a digital archive called Ajab Shahar, writing books, organising urban festivals and rural yatras, singing and performing herself and infecting students with the challenge of mystic poetry. Currently she is working on a new idea to bring the power of mystic poetry and folk singers into school classrooms.

In this conversation, Dr. Fathima Nizaruddin, a postdoctoral researcher with the International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counter Strategies (IRGAC) of the Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung interviews Shabnam Virmani about her journey with the Kabir Project for almost two decades. Shabnam talks about the relevance of the world view of Kabir and other mystics in contemporary times and the way in which Kabir Project has been able to carve out spaces of co-existence through the use of various means including songs, films, books, journeys as well as online platforms and a digital archive. She expands on the possibilities of creating circulations that can provide new repertoires of living together by drawing from poetic traditions around the work of mystics like Kabir who question the very basis of distinctions between the self and the other.