The 1st Edition of The South Asian Fringe : The Mountain Edition wafted through the summers of 2017 precisely from May 5-7, 2017, in a hamlet called Jogiwara nestled within the folds of the Himalayas. The South Asian Fringe is a festival platform which explores spaces, communities and identities in South Asia and also what the South Asian identity in the global context and the global in the South Asian context.
The Mountain India Edition dedicated to Lal Ded : the 14th century woman mystic from Kashmir , celebrated the ¨resilience of artists¨, against the growing corporatization of arts and tendency towards totalitarianism.
Jogiwara easily lays claim as an unique stretch of settlement lying at the confluence of a tangible past which is of a verdant mountainous village and an emerging mushrooming township. Few would mind the nice 20 mins drive from the soon to be smart city of Dharmasala & a leisurely walk from its suburb, which happens to be the wondrous mall called Mcleoganj. Jogiwara and its adjoining villages has an unique demographics which includes people from Himachal Pradesh, sprinkled or even at times overrun by tourists from throughout India, a very large Tibetan community which has created an unique identity for Dharmasala and of course a vibrant international community of artists, tourists and seekers of spirituality who have added to the cultural diversity of this pace on a very significant manner.
Jogiwara is blessed with a lovely community of people from all over the world, who look forward to lap up new experiences. They turned out in good numbers to enjoy the performances & workshops and to interact with the artists and amongst themselves. It was great way to understand the unique politics of this place which is ever evolving. It must be a unique space in India, truly a global village – its identity being formed through real transactions and negotiations amongst the various mix of people. We could also but not be worried about felling of trees which is making way for new constructions and the hills are getting densely populated.
Locals spoke about the great changes they have noticed in the last 10 years, with waterfalls drying up, summers getting hotter every year, the snow on the nearby peaks are melting quickly. Unemployment amongst the locals and the inequality in wealth amongst the Indians and the Tibetans & the international community is creating tensions and conflicts which is palpable. The landowners in the area are happy that the land prices have escalated exponentially due to the presence of the international community , particularly the art community here. However, this is now endangering the community of artists as the landowners now feel that they can get a much higher return on the properties if they are used commercially instead for art practices & there are wealthy hotel owners who are seriously scouting for property in this region, to cater to the rich Indian tourist who are largely from Delhi & Punjab. There are exceptions of course and there are some people who realize that there is much to be gained to retain the great atmosphere which has evolved over the past decade which will make Jogiwara a unique place on the tourist map. Jogiwara is at an interesting crossroad & it will be interesting to see how things pan out for this most lovely village with a global society in India.
All the 3 spaces were quite heavenly and has proper flooring, acoustics and ambiance for performances. It is very unusual in India to find such high quality performance spaces in the a small village like Jogiwara is. They are quite fascinating.
Kashmir by Lhamo
I was passionate by Lal Ded (translation by Jane Hirshfield)I was passionate,filled with longing,I searchedfar and wide.But the daythat the Truthful Onefound me,I was at home.
Lhamo is a contemporary dancer and a scholar from Hungary who has been drawn into researching and following the trail of Sándor Csoma de Kőrös – a remarkable man – a scholar & seeker of knowledge on Hungarian genealogy who traveled mostly by foot across from Europe to Afghanistan and finally landed up Ladakh and Kashmir and arguably the founder of Tibetology. Lhamo too has made several forays into Ladakh , Kashmir and of course Dharmasala.
“It is a country where the sun shines mildly, being the place created by Rishi Kashyap, for his glory – big and lofty houses, learning, Saffron, icy cool water and grapes rare in Heaven are plentiful here – Kailash is the best place in the three worlds (Tri-lok), Himalayas the best place in Kailash, and Kashmir the best place in Himalayas” – Kalhan
Through this performance Lmaho expresses her deepest love & yearning for the valley of Kashmir – itś quintessential landscape, the birds, the apple & walnut orchards, the typically noisy streets, Islamic culture, the lake which launched so many dreams. It is her spiritual home. Interspersed by audio visual field recordings from Kashmir, it was a truly sensual and evocative piece of a performed travelogue.
The # International Video Art Xibition
The # International Video Art Xibition, drew admiration and great interest from the community of artists. This Xibition which featured the world of well-known video artists from throughout the world , including some legends, came to life on mud walls & the thrilling breezy outdoor gardens in the back drop of the mountains. This experimentation with the format changed perception as to the position of video art vis-a-vis cinema or documentaries, in the manner in which it interacted & transformed the spaces. – both indoors and outdoors ; apart from obviously expressing the myriad themes on which they were based.
Burn by The Pocket Company
The short piece called ¨Burn¨ by The Pocket Company comprising of a duo of young Tibetan artists and directed by Niranjini Iyer, sparked off a healthy conversation about what it means to be a young Tibetan born in India. living here and yet in a state of exile, tolerated, accommodated, integrated to some extent into a narrative of India, yet decidedly the other. The past and the future both look so tormentingly uncertain for this community as it grapples with its identity.
This spoken word performance is centred around the instances of self immolation by the freedom fighters in Tibet as a protest against the Chinese occupation. Mixed with songs of Tibet, it was a short but powerful performance.
We look forward to more performances from this group in the future.
Atma Rathi by Dr. Dimple Kaur
Gita – the most significant Psychotherapeutic Discourse
Dimple Kaur says
The artist brings to stage the psychological interpretation of Gita – the inner traumas, fears, anxiety of the present day human being who’s is the midst of war, insanity and chaos. The dancer attempts to interpret Gita through this production where she focuses more on the content which is for individual as against the verses in their original phrases.
Dimple Kaurś hour long exposition of Atma Rathi – the epic discourse between Krishna & Arjuna on the war fields of Kuruskshetra – the premises and the outcome of which has played a strong role in defining Hindu sense of philosophy, politics, duty & morality and the subject of much critical discourse. Dimple Kaur ś performance, rendered through the form & language of Bharat Natyam staged on the lawns of the Subody Butoh School, with the beautiful snow-capped mountains as the dusk descended led the audience into a deep meditative stage, perhaps one of inner reflections and coming to terms with paradoxes of life, while being aware of the enormity of the universe with its never ending play of opposites and plurality and a constant battle for regeneration.
Dance Theatre presentation on recent refugee crisis by Rashee Chauhan (India)
In the performerś words :
How does it feel when you are forced to ignore and go against your inner voice. There is pain, tears, sorrow, grief. Besides all this sorrow there is hope, hope to once again live and listen to your inner voice.
A quest for redemption, to return from this exile to find that metaphorical home. A short performance
Lotus Pond by Liddiane (Brazil) and Pillare (Columbia)
¨Alone, i crossed the Field of Emptiness,
dropping my reason and my senses,
I stumbled on my own secret there
and flowered, a lotus rising from a marsh¨
Inspired by the uttering of Lal Ded, Liddiane (Brazil) and Pillare (Columbia), created this performance installation called the Lotus Pond. A performance which is of a evoked the quest of the self merging with another and their journey together towards , leaving behind the material world to merge with the void, en route its journey to its realization of the ultimate truth. The lotus pond is representative both the transcendental and the immanent. As these artists explore the female body mind and the formation of a new identity which is ever evolving for those who have undertaken this journey across the globe and towards transcendence.
Visually brilliant,this performance will remain etched in our memories for a long time with memories of a dusk, with the sun set behind the hills & consciousness erupting in the lotus pond, with the audience captivated by the artists from South America.
Shadows of Fire by Naireet Basak
Naireet Basakś Shadows of Fire was a spectacular shadow art performance, using clowning techniques, movements based on Butoh and his grounding as a street theatre artist , well synced to the chilling soundtrack comprised of a montage of speeches by Charlie Chaplin and his constant tirades against the dispensation of war and a shrill cry for peace, which pierced the darkness of the evening, keeping the message of sanity alive. The performance reiterated the role art and artists have played in a constant battle against the machinery of war and destruction to maintain the equilibrium for humanity. This could never be more pertinent to the highly complicated and conflicting realities of South Asia , where governments are feeding the war machineries brutally at the cost of a better life for the enormous mass of people still living in abject poverty and hopeless condition.
What is a life about by Anna Lena (Germany) and Fredda (Canada)
What is a life about a video and sound art experiment by Anna Lena (Germany) and Fredda (Canada) provided a personal & poetic gaze on the life in Mcleodganj . Light and soulful, interspersed with journalistic voice overs, songs, field sound recording and candid footages, it evoked imageries of a space which was in South Asia, but could also perhaps be a small town in Germany or Canada. Did it not then speak of a universality that “But at least two things we all have in common, we are breathing the same air and we are sharing the same earth.”
Prayer to the Himalyas by Yoko and Haori
Yoko and Haori explored their identities as youth born in Japan & as performers who are emerging from tradition ad exploring the world. Their performance titled Yama no Mai by (Prayer to Himalayas), is a kind of journey, beautifully presented through use of traditional Japanese dance forms and music.
A contemporary Butoh performance choreographed to ambient music, under the track of the moon explored the body in performance. A deeply personnel stylized piece by Raisa Scarton.
3 performances by Parnab Mukherjee
The three performances by Parnab Mukherjee could easily be the center prices of our discourse on the South Asian Identity. The underlying theme of all his three performances in this festival is in bringing forth the peculiar position of the South Asian artist in the ẃestern’ world of creative arts. Forced to be clichéd, unimaginative, unreal, distanced from himself, he runs the risk of being a caricature. He is constantly navigating though this conflicted space even when he is back ´home´. South Asia is at this peculiar threshold as it oscillates wildly between trying to integrate into the western concepts of liberal democracy and an increasingly fundamentalist narrative which is in effect working in tandem to create a totalitarian structure, one constantly feeding the other and somewhere the artist and the South Asian is trying to find his sanity and one may say new aesthetics.
My Idea of a Swaraj
My Idea of a Swaraj ; a spoken word performance by Parnab Mukherjee dwelt into a critical analysis of the concept of śwaraj’ and how does one belong to this idea. Is it is measurement of success, or in reference o the assessment of that success by a system which itself is not Śwaraj’ itself. What are the tools of Śwaraj´. Parnab takes a pragmatic view of the concept of Swaraj.
Museum of Million Hamlets
We explored a space which was the sauna at The Mud House , within which we were treated to a fine performance by Parnab Mukherjee titled ‘Museum of Million Hamlets. The sauna then became a museum where Parnab touched on the transactions between the artists from South Asia and a curator who was Europe., transaction of bodies, transaction between the artist and the audience, transaction between the east & west, transaction with memories.
Perhaps much informed by his personal experience as a much traveled and performed artist all over the world, it spoke of the dilemmas and choices faced as one unravels an identity and roots in an industry of art. at the end one is left with a hollowness as all identities and past are extracted once more to leave the body neutral, ready to absorb more, as a new being with a new identity, unburdened by the past yet obliged to be the product of accumulations.
Birthday letter to Yehuda Amichai
A tribute to Yehuda Amichai, one of the greatest contemporary poets from Israel.
In Parnabś words
Yehuda Amichai’s poetry is a meditation on the semantics of power, renunciation, the present life and the aftermath of a mind’s journey from cognition to transcendence. It is an ocean of wisdom and gleanings, our performance delves on to a performer’s letter to Amichai written to remember his birthday which fall the performance.
Interspersed throughout the play are references from his writings on matters ranging from the concept of time, the idea of inner lives, Aesthetics to being alive and of course the philosophical core of Amichai’s pacifism: what is the threshold/tipping point of a stance and when does life become overbearing and then you need to leap across boundaries of time, text and boxes. Our play looks at the idea and dialectics of inhabiting many lives inside one life.
The performance was in form a letter addressed to the poet, included some of his verses. But it was about a South Asian – a Bengali youth who is speaking to Yehuda Amichai about his experiences, in response to a reading of Amichaiś life and poetry. The protagonist tries to make sense of the absurd realities against the poetś sense of aesthetics. As Hegel said, art only succeeds to a certain extent in expressing the truth and hence the torments of a professional artist in whose bags lies a few taxidermic models which are but props and art takes him nowhere but to vacuous existence condemned to the whims of the patrons. It is an artist seeking new aesthetics, a body seeking a new identity ….
Tantra Remixed : A Prayer to Gravity by Honza Svasek
It was intriguing to watch a performance based on Butoh investigate the theme of Shiva & Shakti through the performance ¨Tantra remixed A prayer to Gravity¨ by Honza Svasek from Netherlands. the performance is about the constant interplay between Shiva which is about consciousness or intellect and Shakti which is nature and energy, the interplay between the urge of movement and gravity being the creator of energy. The interplay of one resisting the other constantly. A difficult and complicated performance to perceive perhaps for the audience as much of it was encoded in the language of Butoh – a form which seeks to deconstruction fluidity and poetics-ism to challenge our perception of beauty and aesthetics.
Concert by Peter Tegner
Peter Tegner from Sweden provided a much needed relief from the intense content of this festivalś performances with a delectable session of a concert on guitar. The silence of the mountains and the beautiful acoustics of the Subbody Butoh hall accentuated the deeply meditative and healing nature of his music.
Diurnal Waves : electro acoustic concert by Gorka Ferrero
The last performance of the festival was an evening of electronic music by Gorka Ferrero who created a mesmerizing but disturbing sound-scape provoking a deep introspection. Gorka who was born in Argentina and moved to Spain as a child, has a great variety of experiences. he has traveled to India and lives in Jogiwara for a good part of the year. His music reflects this journey and his struggles.
There were also 2 amazing workshops. Honza Svasek conducted a Butoh workshop which introduced the participants to the basic movements of Butoh. Dr. Dimple Kaur led a workshop a dance based therapeutic workshop which was based on the principles of Natyashastra. Both the workshops were well attended.
The festival helped to bring the community of artists closer and opened up a new realization of possibilities and collaborations. it also bought the space into sharp focuses as a great destination for festival tourism apart from a space where artists could continue to develop their work in great freedom responding to the creative impulses from nature and the dynamic politics. The festival also has evoked interest from the local community who are keen to see it continue which they see will be beneficial to the sustainability of the place.
Our warmest thanks to the following people:
Pamela Garcia & Gorka Ferroro who are co organizers of the festival and also opened up their beautiful space called he Mud Hosue for the festival. They were angels.
Subbody Butoh School and its students. Especially profound gratitude to the founder and director Rhizome Lee. The cultural space in Jogiwara is what is it largely due to the efforts of Rhizome Lee and he has been such a underlying influence on our work and philosophy. This festival was also a tribute to this great visionary and artist.
All the people who contributed through their generous donations to make this festival a success.
Marlyn Zimmerman and Jigme who documented the festival.
Francesca Fini, who played such an important role in ideation of this festival and also in putting together the Video Art Xibition.
Wilfried Agricola de Cologne, Robert Cahen, Marcus Shahar and Nezaket Ekici, Nikita Maheswary for being part of this festival.
Millennium Post for being the official media partner.
All the artists who participated… you were so beautiful.
The audience who made all this worthwhile.
The readers and on line supporters.
All members of Culture Monks.
To Lad Ded & her translators
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