February 1, 2018
The arts of Asia are blessed with the syncretic traditions of interior monologues and societal change. Not so the European models of performance that relegated myth and the human spirit in the care of the Church and performance to only reflect secular themes. This dismissal of stylization and a relaxation into naturalism has caused so much of Western performance traditions to be lost.
- Joseph Campbell
The Ecstasy of Being
It was a month of tumultuous words and events that left many of us heart sick and exhausted. The volume and velocity of hate against women who are no longer with us to defend themselves or have their stories heard - vicious and unrelenting attacks against female performers and poets - in my home state of Tamilnadu has seen the ugly head of MISOGYNY and HYPOCRISY surface in the very first month of the year.
2018 is the Chinese year of the DOG - an animal that is considered intelligent, faithful and intuitive. It is also a synonym for CUR - a pejorative for a dumb, idiotic, addlebrained MAN who devours and demolishes creative women as “immoral”. The D word continued to haunt the cultural and political space all through December and January. D for Devadasi. D for Devouring. D for Destruction. D for Desecration.
Between the headline grabbing comments of musician TM Krishna about Carnatic musician MS SUBBULAKSHMI and film lyricist Vairamuthu against mystic poet-goddess ANDAL, the Tamil community around the world was up in arms and social media was afire with the most foul and vitriolic stream of diatribe.
Women today who dance, sing, sculpt, act, paint and write have all been inspired by those incredible women who held their own in a man’s world conscripted by Kings, Nobles and Zamindars. To use these creative women as a deck of cards to be dealt and gathered up at will is both cruel and dangerous. To use caste again and again to either demean or insult other communities only reveals how little India has progressed in its 70th year of independence. What is even worse is to use the D for DASI word to slander not only the women featured in the speeches but also to tarnish an entire community of hereditary women as foul and tainted. How terrible and troubling this is!
It was also a month of revelations. That mystic poet/goddess ANDAL has power and commands collective devotion amongst ALL TAMILS who gathered in many cities and towns in protest of Vairamuthu’s comments came as a surprise to many. For a week ANDAL became among the top ten searches on Google! The protest against TM Krishna’s comment about MSS was contained to the dance and music community and relatively more niche in comparison.
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