In West Bengal’s West Midnapore district, a santhal village called Borotolpada is coming alive for an annual international cultural event, called Night of Theatre n 10•La Nuit des Idées. Beginning 5 pm on January 27, the dark hours will be packed with dance-theatre performance, sound art wandering, video installations, photography exhibition and philosophical discussions, among others, created by artists from the village in collaboration with those from France, Germany, Mexico and Canada.
Several santhal dances are being grouped in the programme under the title, “Reske Ened” — Reske meaning joy in santhali. As the Reske Ened dances are performed, Indian and French philosophers will read out small texts on what moves them in life. “Our aim is to try to see what combination of elements makes you feel more deeply and, by consequence, think more critically,” says Jean-Frédéric Chevallier, one of the founders of Trimukhi Platform, which organises the Night of Theatre n 10•La Nuit des Idées with Institut Français India.
While folk and religious traditions in India include night-long performances, the Night of Theatre marks both a movement of audiences from the urban centre to a peripheral space to experience contemporary art forms and a questioning of the notion of “centre” and “periphery”. It will include avant-garde creations, such as Sound Art Wandering, in which André Éric Létourneau from Canada is working with Sukul Hansda, Chandrai Murmu and Dulal Hansda, from the village, to record, merge and modify local sounds to create aural art that will be played from 10 speakers fixed on the mouth of earthen pitchers and mounted on trees. Ikue Nakagawa from Japan will direct a contemporary dance trio involving young artists from the village: Joba Hansda, Ramjit Hansda and Salkhan Hansda. An exhibition of photographs, a collaboration between Élodie Guignard and local artists, will turn the walls of Trimukhi Cultural Centre into a gallery. “You will not see the wall, only photographs,” says Chevallier.
“We don’t do anything normally because we are not normal,” says Chevallier. Apart from writings books on philosophy and arts, he continues directing dance-theatre performances and his latest, to be premiered at the Night of Theatre, is Jol E Jibon•La Vie dans L’Eau. It takes place in the waters of a lake at the outskirts of the village. “I have been working on a poetical text that is used also for the performance. It is composed to oblige you to think. Or at least that’s what I am trying. I wrote the main parts in French but we translated them with the team of Trimukhi Platform and use it sometimes in Santhali, sometimes in English, in French or in Bengali. Even if you listen to them in your own mother tongue, the words will trouble you inside. And it is combined with the vision of bodies evolving in the water as you sit on dry land to watch this show,” says Chevallier.
He has been a resident of West Bengal since 2008. Married to artist Sukla Bar, whose video installation is a part of the festival, he is trying to master the art of rolling out Bengali sentences. As one of the founders of Trimukhi Platform, he has started learning Santhali, and is called “Jean-da” in the village. If there is a curatorial idea in the festival, it is not focussed on conveying a message or telling a story alone. “These artists create work that awaken the sensations and the thoughts of each one in the audience, and for each one in a different manner,” says Chevallier.
Part of Bonjour India programme, The Night of Theatre n 10•La Nuit des Idées will take place at Borotalpada, West Bengal, on January 27. The journey starts on January 27 at 1 pm from Howrah station, Kolkata, coming back to Kolkata next day at 11 am. Entry:
Rs 2,400, with 20 per cent discount for students and senior citizens. For booking online: http://trimukhiplatform.org/nightoftheatre10lanuitdesidees/