This Bengaluru festival says art is not black and white

Participants at the International Transgender Arts Festival in Bengaluru.  

It is a global event with just one big message: Art goes beyond gender.

With song, dance and recitals from the Mahabharata, the participants made their statement on Friday, at the opening of the three-day International Transgender Arts Festival at the National Gallery of Modern Art here.

“We have received State honours for our classical arts, but Bengaluru’s dedicated platform for artistes from several countries is overwhelming,” says Varsha Anthony from Malaysia, after presenting a Kuchipudi item.

The festival is a first, from the International Arts & Cultural Foundation. Among those who have come is Maalika Girish Panicker from Singapore, who has a dance academy. She is joined by Manjamma Jogithi and Ramavva Jogithi from Bagalkot, with their roots in folk art. Lakshya from Chennai is a former Bharatanatyam tutor at Kalakshetra.

“We were elated to be recognised by the Supreme Court earlier. Today we are happy that IACF has offered us exclusive space for a congregation,” said Ms. Panicker who, at 42, is a guru to nearly 200 students at Aakash Ganga.

Ms. Lakshya says Bengaluru has taken a bold step. “If Koovagam in Tamil Nadu offers a religious fest for transgenders, Bengaluru can make this a permanent annual cultural event. We will perform the Mahabharata legend in which Krishna transforms into a woman to marry Aravan, before the latter is sacrificed,” explains Lakshya.

Srivatsa Shandilya, IACF’s founder, says the fest becomes important given the deprived history of the community. “Art for arts sake has to delve deeper,” he says.

Two artistes who look for such meaning through folk forms are Manjamma Jogithi and Ramavva Jogithi. They choose ‘Chowdaki Padagalu’ and ‘Jogathi Nritya’, a form of Janapada, to speak of life’s thorny path.Ms. Manjamma, a Rajyothsava Awardee, has had her years of struggle. “From the age of six, after my parents rejected me, I felt discarded,” she says tearfully. “God rescued me. I learnt Jogithi Nritya at Davanagere temple from Mathikal Basappa,” she says.

Beyond identity, transgenders want recognition. Narthaki Nataraj from Chennai, a Doordarshan ‘A’ top grade artist is happy: “Art is at last being regarded for its aesthetic value.”

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 8:03:23 AM |

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