Hartman de Souza — theatreperson, writer, activist, teacher, environmentalist and much, much more — makes the word eccentric sound rather tame. In Bangalore recently with ‘Creatures of the Earth', a theatre production that he directs, Hartman says, with a charming yet evil smile, that the cast was selected by a panel of judges who asked potential candidates questions such as “What do you think of brinjals?”
The man's got ants in his pants. Pacing continuously, pausing occasionally to pull at his hair, he talks about how illegal mining has devastated much of Goa's forests and wildlife habitat, depleted precious water sources, and made life harder for the local people, including the significant Adivasi population. With many years of experience in theatre behind him, ‘Creatures of the Earth' evolved in response to this situation.
Viewers had said of one of his previous productions staged in Pune and Goa that it was a pity it was in English, as this meant it couldn't be taken to villages. And so ‘Creatures' was born, with a group of young actors performing without language. With eighty-five performances across Goa, Pune, and most recently, Bangalore under its belt, the production tours along with a mobile exhibition of haunting photographs, exposing the raw scars of mining across the sun ‘n' sand State. “I think the Lokayukta report has changed the tide of the battle against mining. Goans are now asking for the same kind of audit to be done,” Hartman says, optimistic that his production will have a resonance in Bangalore.
Expressing a desire to team up with activists from Bellary in order to expand their collection of photographs, he thinks ‘Creatures' may help Bangaloreans find out more about mining in Karnataka. His writing on illegal mining has also appeared in publications such as Himal Southasian and Hindustan Times.
At sixty, having been a football coach, cook, and carver of totem poles, Hartman appears to have done everything in his power to live life off the beaten path. And his rakish grin — now missing a tooth after he fell off a tree while secretly trying to film a group of miners — is all the brighter for it.