Monthly Archives: March 2015

Official Tailoring – Darning the Linguistic Fabric By Navina Jafa The state of Gujarat boasts a unique style of weaving popularly known as the double Ikat Patola. It is an ancient and very intricate technique of tie or knot dyeing on the warp and weft separately before weaving. Traditional patterns emerge in jewel colors, most of them from the memory of the weavers, in a spectacular mosaic that is reflected on both sides of the woven fabric. This serves as a perfect metaphor for the wide canvas of languages and their dialects that reflect India’s cultural and linguistic diversity. The rich Indian linguistic heritage is similar to streams that flow separately, but often mingle and in that interaction one regional culture deepens and enriches the other. Languages are specific to the cultural environment and these manifestations of communication by human beings are dynamic. The creation of the states of India on the basis of language erected artificial political boundaries between regions. These served to curb the flowing dynamic cultures across areas that shared affinities other than language or dialect. From the cultural perspective it is clear that the history of this ancient civilization is characterized by an incredible cultural continuity. The civilizational essence has always been to take the past in the present and move towards the future. In each community the evolution of different languages reflects the imaginative response to unique geographical resources and spaces. Crossing time and space, communities bonded with each other encompassing the past for their present and future. There is an inherent societal behavioral idea of continuity, of constant adaptation and assimilation. When the soul that characterizes the country remains unchanged, why disturb the equilibrium? When cultural identities whose free spirit is structured there is always tension within the social fabric, and the price communities pay for this politicization is socio-cultural chaos. For any meaningful cultural policy directive in the context of India, ‘it is essential to constantly keep in view the complex, intricate and multilayered, multidimensional cultural fabric of the country, both in time and space.” Since last week much has been written and debated over a directive prescribing Hindi in government’s social media communication, and encouraging the use of Hindi for governmental official communication. Such directives like many others ignore India’s intrinsic linguistic diversity and inherent plurality and appear to be a politicization of cultural heritage. Although they claim that it is the only way to promote a sense of national pride and nationalism, they defy the very essence of what this civilization is about. Our sense of Nationalism in the 19th C actually emerged when the British introduced several tools that created networks across the physical landscape such as the postal and transport systems, and various documentation institutions e.g. Anthropological and Archaeological Surveys of India. English was major ingredient for the creation of the sense of a Nation. Culture remains the most important issue that underlies all engagement since the manifestation of the culture of a civilization is primarily language. The need of the hour is to look at preserving this heritage in a sustained and systematic manner. As my guru Dr Kapila Vastyayan says there are 50,000 unread estampages of inscriptions from our monuments and coins lying in the Epigraphical sections of the Archaeological Survey of India in Mysore and Nagpur. Inscriptions in innumerable monuments remain undeciphered even today. This is because within the fold of our major languages many of them have more than one script, for example, Marathi has four, and similarly there are different scripts for Pali, Prakrit, Kharoshti, Arabic, Persian and the Dravidian languages. However, today, we have no more than 35 inscription readers, all of them above 70 years of age, left. There is an urgent need to invest in a mentorship program in order to have a larger pool of skilled people to conserve languages. Otherwise what our monuments can speak will remain unheard. While it is imperative for the government to prepare policy / vision statements, the principle of less government in the field of culture needs to be followed immediately. Today there are ten ministries dealing with matters relating to different aspects of culture. This results in a fragmented approach and a piecemeal attention to problems and issues. The first step could be to bring all these matters under one umbrella /comprehensive ministry/ department alongside the setting up of an advisory body of balanced and progressive cultural professionals’ e.g. Indologists, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, linguists and art specialists. Only then can we move forward towards preventing the politicization of culture.–Dance-Technology-And-The-Individual/293492 IMPRESSIONS Glocal Dialogues – Dance, Technology And The Individual The Festival, ‘Dance Connect’, was an exploratory journey through movement, five senses and technology. NAVINA JAFA COMMENTS PRINT MORE SHARING SERVICESSHARE ON PINTEREST_SHARESHARE ON EMAIL TEXT SIZE The Contemporary dance genre in India has emerged as a link programme between the local and global cultural identity. The 7th Attakalari India Biennial in Bengaluru is South Asia’s largest and most important festival of contemporary dance and digital arts. While it has always been a center for the traditional, local dance forms, the Biennial, spread over ten days, marks the growth of India and Bengaluru as a global melting pot for creative energies. More than ever, there is a need to chart National/Regional cultural policies that address the importance of creative and cultural industries along with the systematic participation of the corporate sector through their CSR programme. Jayachandran Palazhy, Founder and Artistic Director and his team backed by an impressive line of private, public, National and International range of patrons hosted an awe-inspiring programme. The festival brought together cutting-edge contemporary dance and digital performances from countries across the world like New Zealand, France, Germany, China, Norway, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Korea, United Kingdom, South Asia and India. Most of the International representation was made possible by proactive embassies and cultural bodies such as the Alliance de Francaise, British Council, Goethe Institute, Swiss Art Council Pro Helvetia, Cultural Wing of the Chinese Embassy and InKo – The Indo-Korean Cultural and Information Centre among several others. Occupying center stage in a multi-tiered structure of both performative, and cerebrally stimulating programmes, were choreographies by well-known choreographers, members of a choreography residency programme and emerging choreographers from the South Asia platform. The growth of the contemporary dance genre was started in United States. It was a pity that the Americans who actually pioneered this genre of dance were nowhere to be seen. The initial artists of this movement who date back to late 19th and early 20th century found themselves questioning the idea of movement, place of the individual identity, concept of time and space and much more as was seen within frames of ‘traditional’ and ‘classical’ forms of Western Dance. Interestingly, the pioneers such as Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn turned for answers to the East. (Both toured India, Japan and Egypt). Their efforts were taken forward by Martha Graham, who has been compared to the Picasso of dance. Later came Paul Tayler, Merce Cunningham and Rudolf Laban. The latter created a scientific documentation of movement and space measurement used even today. Interestingly, an in-depth study of movement science has been done by well-known dance scholar Dr. Kapila Vastayayan in which she reviewed both the Western Laban system and that which was presented in the 2nd c Indian text on Performing Arts Bharata’s ‘Natya Shastra’. The birth of some of the most amazing technological developments in the 21st century has allowed us to be connected with groups and individuals worldwide. Thus the Festival, titled ‘Dance Connect’, was an exploratory journey through movement, five senses and technology where various issues related to the new existential environment of the 21st century emerged within binaries which human beings create and struggle with to explain. The existence of such frames of time- space, virtual-real, mechanical-emotional, traditional-modern, connect-disconnect, came trajectories of viewing how the human body/bodies questioned, answered and explored these dynamic boundaries through the medium of dance. New Zealand’s Daniel Belton’s ‘Traces’ captured the idea of line and revolving extensions in sound and dance movement portrayed through the medium of a film which was projected on the outside body of the concrete, violin shaped structure of the Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Whereas German choreographer Constanza Macras said, “For me dance does not have to be beautiful and decoratively pleasing. I see dance as a political instrument, in the sense that it exposes the underlying problems of society.” Her piece titled ‘The Past’ included an in-depth exploration of Bangalore’s past and present with the assistance of the art of memory, what happens with our memories, what happens to those who remember; architectonic places as narrative instruments of our history: in the rewriting of it, for overcoming the wounds of the past, and for understanding contemporary events (personal and global) as part of a constant cycle. Her work reminded one of Ariane Mnouchkine’s work. Mnounchkine, the Ibsen awardee French stage director, has expressed similar concerns through her avant-garde ensemble Theatre du Soleil . British choreographer Alexander Whitley’s kinetically charged ‘The Measures Taken’ performed in the contemporary Ranga Shankara Theatre was rooted in digital collaboration, and was both a dialogue and a duet between human movement and the digital world. We are the most technologically connected generation in history but are perhaps, the most emotionally disconnected. One could feel the same contemplation in another way in the Black Out by Philippe Saire (Switzerland) which was an elegy to the dark side of human beings, with impressions of humans caught in web of material culture was projected at the center of the performance and dancers left traces of their movement on a floor strewn with black granules. The Festival displayed compelling range of Asian artists many of whom had moved away from their traditional dances into the realm of the Western Contemporary genre but returned to imbue their new reflection with their traditions thus creating a synergy of glocalization. This is illustrated through Jayachandra’s own journey as well. His return to Bengaluru to start Attakalari marks the interaction of Western Contemporary and Kathakali and Kalari. The most spectacular journey, however was captured by the Chinese Tao Theatre Company who presented two un-named pieces called 4 and 5. Interestingly, choreographer Tao Ye “never went west, and was never part of any religious environment. He does not give any title to his compositions, works in isolation, questioning various concepts of movement, space and time. He leaves much of the audiences’ interpretation. For example in 4, the dancers were told never to touch each other, in 5 the underlying principle was only of touching,” said Alison, his manager. However, while one watched these amazing pieces one witnessed two things. Firstly, in the ‘4’ it seemed as if it was a display of visualizing a Buddhist Mandala, while the ‘5’ appeared to be a dynamic representation of a symbol shared by both Buddhists and the Taoist tradition called the ‘Endless knot’. Could this fascinating coincidence show the phenomenal power of ‘genetic memory’, where cultural traditions may not be a part of an individual’s lived environment but somewhere these cultural traditions are genetically memorized and find expression perhaps involuntarily? Secondly, since the choreographer travels around the world it appeared that he was in some way inspired by the path breaking work of the American Dance company Pilobolus. Pilobolus is the name of a fungus. An organism which by nature grows only in synergy with another body. The American dance company creates works that explore human relationships. Tao’s work reflected the idea of human relationships which interestingly brought out the idea of energy and spiritual in a palimpsest fashion. The festival concluded with Mandeep Raiky from India. His production titled ‘Male ant has straight antennae’, which investigated the physicality of the male body through movement, relationships, games and touch. This important Festival was an investigation, an exhibition of the exploration of man, his body in a world of two realities in which we all exist today, the tension between the actual and the virtual.

Brooms and Pebbles- Debates on Heritage & Urban Development