How COVID-19 replaced rituals of mourning with a solitary grief
Could she be really gone?” It is something Guwahati-based Lonie Chaliha, a retired school teacher in her sixties, finds herself wondering months after her sister, Julie Dutta died. In the last five years that Julie battled cancer in Kolkata, Lonie was a constant source of comfort. “We were close in a way only sisters can be: we would talk every night, we would share everything,” she says. Every time Julie underwent a major chemotherapy procedure, her sister would fly down to Kolkata. This March was no different. Julie, also in her sixties, had undergone a procedure and Lonie was with her sister. “But mid-March I came back to Guwahati to sort out some work, thinking I would go back in a few days,” she says.
Bani Abidi: ‘One gets fatigued in the face of rampant patriotism’
You are one of the driving forces behind Generator, the cooperative art production fund launched by Experimenter gallery (Kolkata). Do you feel that such support measures are imperative during this time of crisis? What is the role of an artist in a time of crisis?
The conversation about sharing and distributing resources is something I’ve been having with Prateek and Priyanka (directors, Experimenter gallery), for a while. It took on particular urgency once the COVID-19 lockdown hit people’s earning potential. I feel that in countries where state funding and grants are absent, the fraternity of artists needs to enable each other. The general process of ‘establishing’ oneself is that everyone waits to see which biennale an artist is invited to, which gallery they are picked up by and how much he or she is selling for. The compulsion of this process is flawed. We, the artists, need to decide for ourselves what kind of work we want to see around us. The art market has been the sole driver behind art production for the past 20-30 years and you can see the effects of that in the kind of wealth disparity and value system within the art community. Artists these days can amass substantial wealth. That creates a whole culture of them becoming luxury brand celebrities who run small studio firms. That also determines the kind of spectacular art that is being put out. It’s quite a departure from my imagination of the artist being an aware and unique interlocutor of life, who has a very particular form of insight into society and lives on its edge.
How Chaitanya Tamhane broke India’s 19-year hiatus at the Venice International Film Festival with ‘The Disciple’
Music had never played a significant role in Chaitanya Tamhane’s life. Through all his years in Mumbai’s theatre circuit, where he made and acted in plays, and, later, while working with Balaji Telefilms, the 33-year-old never listened to anything more compelling than popular Bollywood and Marathi music. Yet, in his filmmaking debut, Court (2014), the story of a folk musician and activist accused of abetting a sewage worker’s suicide, Tamhane examined class, caste and corruption through the prism of poetry set to rousing tunes. The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and won the best feature film prize in the Horizons category. It travelled to several other festivals and won several awards, including a National Award for Best Feature Film.
Why the wild tigers are on the rise
On July 29, we celebrated International Tiger Day, and, indeed, there was something to celebrate, with India’s wild tiger count nearing 3,000. Down in Jungleland went deep into the forest to interview a spokesperson for tigers for their take on the matter. Reader discretion is advised — the interview did not go strictly according to script.
DIJ: Congratulations. You guys have nearly hit the 3,000 mark. Already, you’re spilling into areas outside national parks and sanctuaries.
Tiger: Hey, let’s put this in perspective. There are more than 1.3 billion of you and over 536 million head of livestock. So who’s spilling where?
Bernardine Evaristo: ‘I’m inside the system but my radical heart still beats’
A lot of the discussions in Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton) – on race, sexuality, social media, politics – are contemporary, but there is also the legacy of the ’80s Black feminist theatre. Could you tell us about your memories of the time?
I came of age in the 1980s. I was a part of a Black women’s trans-cultural feminist community in London. We felt very disenfranchised from British society. I’d gone to drama school (Rose Bruford College), trained to be an actor but also trained to create my own theatre. There were three Black women in my course (Evaristo, Paulette Randall and Patricia Hilaire), with whom I formed a company called Theatre of Black Women in 1982. It’s Britain’s first Black woman theatre company and we formed it because we simply wanted to be a voice in theatre and there was very little work for us in the early ’80s. Nobody was going to employ us, and, if they were, we felt that we wouldn’t be interested in the kind of roles that they might be offering us. You’d be employed to play a cleaner, a cook, a prostitute or a nurse, and we wouldn’t want to play those roles. And so, we formed this company. But we didn’t all stay together. Eventually, I was the last person standing. At one point, it was too much, and, so, I left the theatre world behind. But there were lots of us who were out there, primarily in London, who came from all parts of the country, who were Black women, who were creating visual arts groups, music groups, dance groups and writers’ groups so that we could create our own platforms because there were so little opportunities for us.
How a translation of Ismat Chughtai’s last book ‘Qatra-e-Khoon’ offers a lesson in universal resistance
Tahira Naqvi’s translation of Ismat Chughtai’s One Drop of Blood compels, cajoles and convinces the reader of the importance of catharsis in a perplexing world, where media, digitisation and Artificial Intelligence have taken over human relations and simple pleasures. The Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, with an “army” of 72 people which included women, children and old men, all dearly beloved family members, arrives in Karbala, where thousands of soldiers of Amir-e-Mu’awiya’s son Yezid’s army are baying for his blood. The Imam, who is denied water for three days in the burning sands of that inhospitable land, sends one after another of his band of faithfuls to battle the marauders and be slaughtered in the burning sands of Karbala. Why? To save Islam from falling into the hands of the bloody and debauched rulers, the Amir and his heir Yezid. Over 1,400 years later, Muslims from all over the world commemorate this event in the month of Muharram, which is also the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time of remembrance and mourning, in which all sorrows are sublimated in the greatest sorrow humankind has seen.
‘A Fistful of Mustard Seeds’ shows why the Malayalam short story is invariably politically charged
Recently, I had the opportunity to translate a story by E Santhosh Kumar, ‘Grains as Big as Eggs’ (not in this collection). Its bare-eyed stare at the horrible things happening in a small village — a metaphor for the dark times we are living in — would knock the wind out of the sensitive reader. Therefore, when I received the present collection for review, I was more than excited.
A Fistful of Mustard Seeds has 12 stories, written over a period of two decades. In his introduction, Kumar observes that new writers bring new worlds with them and that the 12 stories are 12 different worlds. He explains why the Malayalam short story is invariably politically charged and points out that as the world changed in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the Left parties of Kerala were unable to interpret it to the public, and the job was left to fiction writers.
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