by Veda Handa
In a first of its kind of event to take place on campus, the Gender Circle invited the SPACE (Society for Promoting, Art, Culture and Education) Ensemble to perform at the college, inter alia, their original piece “The Mud People” to commemorate the Dalit History Month on Thursday.
Lamenting the tyranny of mosquitoes on campus, Director Hartman D’Souza remarked that their repertoire usually lasts much longer, but had to be limited to only five poems, lest their audience got bitten alive.
Yet, the five poems, spanning across 45 minutes made an indelible impression. Ranging from Pablo Neruda to Telegu poet Digumati Naresh Kumar, the poems, were performed through a combination of jazz and movement, and were an ode to the strength of sound. Principal actor Katheeja Talha emphasised the symbolism behind choosing jazz as their preferred style saying that, “Jazz, as a performing art, has its origins among the black slaves in 19th century America, the movement of whose shackled feet provided the beat to their songs.” Their art is thus, their form of resistance.
And, the hum of resistance it was, that echoed in all their pieces, voicing the anguish of the hitherto oppressed- victims of war, chemical disasters, and neo-liberal development. Their composition “The Mud People” acted as a grim reminder of the caste based violence that continues to plague the country, decades after Independence, and the oppression faced by the women, who are the worst of the lot, facing the interplay of caste and gender.
Interestingly, the troupe itself has never faced any resistance. D’Souza attributes it to the fact that they, as artists “are in your face, but never offensive.” On the other hand, he marvels at how residents of relatively conservative neighbourhoods, like those of Malviya Nagar appreciate their work, and “take his girls to their homes, and offer them tea and biscuits!” Being an all-women group thus in no way acts as a disadvantage.
The Ensemble, besides having a unique style of performing, also has an unusual way of garnering its funds by the “hat method.” Subsequent to every performance, the actors collect lose cash from the audience, which acts as their primary source of earnings. They do however charge a modest fee when conducting workshops or performing at “posh” places like ours. This, they channelize in conducting acting workshops for those who generally cannot afford to avail the same, such as adolescent girls residing in Trilokpuri, thus following a Robin Hood-esque model of sustenance.
“Theatre is a wonderful form of expression, (and dissent), but is sorely lacking in law schools. Acting is a skill that can prove to be very useful for lawyers”, concludes D’Souza, lamenting the absence of theatre activity at NLU Delhi, and expressing an interest in fostering the same.