Performance art openly engages with poetry, music, colour and gesture, says Inder Salim

I have forgotten my original name… I've been known as Inder Salim for 25 years!” says this multidimensional artist and performer from New Delhi when I ask him what he was called before he changed his name.

With this name he hopes to represent “a fusion of Islam and Hinduism”. Salim was in Bangalore recently to participate in ‘Pause in Kashmir', an event organised by Maraa, a community media and arts collective, as part of a series ‘Pause: In times of Conflict' that uses art and creative practices as a peaceful means of dialogue.

Urgings

Salim (with his face covered) silently paces holding a political map of Kashmir that displays its divisions, borders and neighbouring Indian and Pakistani states. Keen to involve his audience, the performer urges everyone to respond in any language with words or sentences that convey what the theme and enactment symbolised. “Violence”, “Human rights”, “Boundaries are imaginary” were some of the responses he got.

On ‘new' voices

“Many zones are wounded because of a history that treated them unfairly. At present, there are new, young and energetic voices in Kashmir. I am merely trying to connect with the emerging tide of youthful creativity, everywhere,” says Salim.

When a religious vigilante group tried to stall the programme, describing it as “a Hurriyat conference promoting separatist and anti-national values”, a shortened version of the event was held elsewhere in Bangalore on the same day.

Versatile Kashmiri

Hailing from a small town called Bijbehara in southern Kashmir, Salim — who is also a painter, poet, photographer and sculptor — is a science graduate who once worked as a bus conductor and a stenographer. He moved to Delhi in 1992, and now works at a bank. “One must be employed somewhere to earn two square meals. And artistes are no different when it comes to that fundamental need,” he observes.

As a mentor of City-as-Studio programme of Sarai/CSDS for performance work, Inder organised the Art Karavan International 2010, supported by friends, the Lalit Kala Academy, universities and other institutions and through nine northern Indian cities.

A new art

“Performance art is comparatively a new art form in India. So people are still unaware of it. But it is growing as it is openly engaging with poetry, music, colour and gesture,” says Salim.

Keywords: Kashmir issue

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