Guwahati Open Studio (16 June)
The one day Open Studio held in Guwahati served as a space for people to take forward discussions about sexual violence and impunity using theatre and other performing arts. Each presentation was followed by a feedback session.
Building on his journalism background, Gulal Salil shared a proposal of his documentary on sexual harassment in academia, tentatively titled ‘Due Process: A Legacy vs Life Situation’. His documentary will explore notions of sexual violence and harassment in the student community.
Karry Padu and Yomge Chisi’s presentation centred around the documentary they wanted to make on polygamy in Arunachal Pradesh, titled ‘I am Property’. The presentation provided a background of the socio-economic and cultural practices of the Tani clan, and showed how the documentary proposes to link the issues of sexual violence and the lack of land rights for women.
Rajashree Barman, Kasturi Kashyap, Torali Borah, Nilotpal Rajbangshi, Simanta Kalita and Himakshi Mazumdar performed a play that depicted the stigma attached to rape. Revolving around the story of two women, it portrayed the journey of the survivor from being victimised to coming out of the shadows.
Lapdiang Syiem, Abigail Nongsiej, Clyde Herschel Thangkhiew and Rangchirik Ch. Marak from Shillong shared various stories. Abigail performed two poems she wrote––one was about oppressive stereotypes, and her second poem was a reaction to Beth’s story (featured in the India Papers II, of the SVI series). Rangchirik’s piece looked at the complex process of confronting memories of sexual violence. Clyde’s work explored mental health, stigma, and trauma from the perspective of a male survivor of sexual abuse. Their performances relied purely on body movements and paint.
Yengkhom Boycha, Thangjam Jatishor, Aheibam Chiranjit and Yengkokpam Purnima from Manipur presented their work in the form of chapters of a story. Their piece covered various instances of state impunity, issues of forensic evidence, and the lack of proper investigation in cases of sexual violence.
The feedback sessions involved the audience giving the participants valuable suggestions about how to enhance their performances and make them more accessible to the public.
Bangalore Open Studio (1 June)
An open studio was held in Bangalore as a follow up of our earlier workshop in February. The objective was to go beyond the written word and initiate discussions on sexual violence and impunity using theatre and other performing arts. The six performances explored various kinds of impunity–social impunity, impunity within the justice system (to name a few)–and also covered themes like sexual violence, trauma and consent.
Shabari Rao’s performance looked at how women in positions of systemic power negotiate multiple and often opposing demands. Her character, a senior police officer, had to navigate and deploy power around class, religion, caste, gender and her position. Her piece demonstrated the relationship between systemic power and individual discretion.
Nisha Gulur and Sreekanth Rao’s performance was built on the presentation made by Nisha at an earlier, which explored her life as a trans woman. The performance also addressed themes like the intersection of trans people’s lives and the law.
Vidya and Chandra Keerthi’s performance used folk poetry and fables to address how gender binaries are formed, and how gender based violence is normalized. The performance approached the phenomenon of social impunity and its complicity in the perpetration of sexual violence.
Padmalatha Ravi’s presentation touched upon ideas of the nation and nationalism, statehood and belonging. By using her personal memories of significant historical events, such as the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Gujarat riots and the rape and murder of Manorama Devi in Manipur, she addressed the nature of memory and trauma.
Shilok Mukkati’s performance was a powerful personal testimonial of her life as a trans woman and her subsequent gender reassignment surgery. The themes that she addressed were male and trans rape – personal experiences of being sexually abused as a boy, her struggles with the body that she was born with, her sex reassignment surgery and the implications and experiences of that decision.
Anuradha HR and Umesh’s performance drew heavily from Hindu mythology. They dissected the story of the three sisters Amba, Ambika and Ambalika and looked at it from different lenses to bring out themes of gender, sexual violence, revenge, consent, and justice.