Art cannot exist in an atmosphere of divisiveness and in isolation, therefore, the prevailing situation in which attempts were being made to impose the supremacy of one over the other demanded each artist to take a stand, said leading Kathak dancer and choreographer Aditi Mangaldas. Ms. Mangaldas is one of the performers at the two-day convention under the banner “Artists Unite” beginning next month at the Lal Qila against the “dangerous and cynical triggering of violence and communal hatred”.
More than 200 musicians, artists and poets from across the country will come together to perform at multiple platforms in one space on March 2 and 3 where thousands of people will pass through each day. There will be a main stage active in the evenings. During the day, programmes will run simultaneously at several platforms and these include, a performance stage for theatre, a stage for young musicians and spoken word poetry, a visual arts space for installations and other forms of display, a children’s space for music, story-telling, art work and performances. Programmes will simultaneously be held in Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Dharwad, Chandigarh, Pune, Ahmedabad, Patna and Bhubaneswar.
Disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj, Ms. Mangaldas said she felt the need to celebrate the uniqueness of this diverse country and it prompted her to be part of this convention. She said India was made of “diverse colours”, “diverse fragrances” and “diverse nuances”, and we all must fight to preserve this diversity. “Every responsible citizen of this country must now take a stand on this,” the Kathak exponent said.
Underlining the significance of convention in fight against hate , Ms. Mangaldas, said violence was not uncommon to humanity, but turning blind eye to it and encouraging it with statements and actions or the lack of it is not good for a democratic society. “A political party not open to criticism is like a river without banks. It can cause huge devastation,” she said.
Declaration of Intent
Artists Unite, a platform of writers and artists from across the country who have come together for the cause, also recently came out with a detailed ‘Declaration of Intent’ signed by hundreds of artists and writers.
Gurugram-based independent filmmaker Rahul Roy said the declaration is the catalyst for collective events across the country. He said the idea behind the convention is to weigh in with a collective voice, and with a creative energy that reinforced the idea that culture is the glue that kept India together.
“India is a uniquely rich repository of cultures that evolved out of long histories of philosophical, religious, literary, linguistic and artistic encounters. As cultural practitioners, it is our responsibility to protect the legacy of India which resides in its history of plurality,” said Mr. Roy.
On the political significance of the convention, Taru Dalmia, a reggae artist, said the State is acting in an increasingly authoritarian manner and basic freedom are under attack in India. He added that hate is being used as a political currency and narrow nationalism that didn’t allow questioning or nuanced debate is being forced on them.
“Politicians and large sections of the media are speaking in a language that mandates murder. There is an attempt to scare us into submission and to silent inconvenient voices. We have seen writers murdered, professors, journalists, students, activists and lawyers jailed,” said Mr. Dalmia, who is also part of the band called The Ska Vengers.
Mr. Dalmia said many communities and individuals in India are resisting. “As artists we are not part of a single community. We come from different disciplines and beliefs. But we all felt the need to speak out collectively. Many have come together to organise festivals and use their music, voices, images and bodies to demonstrate unity, to say that we are not afraid to speak out and that we want a more inclusive and equal society,” Mr. Dalmia summed up.
Among others, Shubha Mudgal, Rabbi Shergill, Astad Deboo, Maya Rao, Jasbir Jassi and Chaar Yaar, Dhruv Sangari and Shital Saathe have committed to perform at the Delhi event.