Society

The rainbow shines at Chennai’s the Queer and Allies Art Festival

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What does homosexuality in Nature look like? Are company policies enough to prevent workplace harassment? The Queer and Allies Art Festival had the answers

A rainbow-coloured flag fluttered at the entrance of a nondescript building on Old Mahabalipuram Road. This was the only indication of the Queer and Allies Art Festival, held at the Erisha Auditorium, recently. Supported by Mist, a Pune-based LGBTQ collective, the festival aimed to open up dialogue around gender to people outside of the community. Currently in its fifth edition and in Chennai for the second time, it has been held at Hyderabad and Bengaluru and is soon set to head back to Pune. A celebration of the queer community, the festival boasted film screenings, live performances and panel discussions. An art display that was planned, was unfortunately not showcased due to lack of space.

Mist identified movies and documentaries, shown at the Pune International Queer Film Festival, that explored the intersections between identity and sexuality while addressing corrective rape, segregation of public space and pressures of society. Brothers by Mike Mosallam was an honest portrayal of the LGBTQ oppression in a religious space, while Bag by Chris Cahilig was a lighter take on love and relationships. Eyal directed by Santoshh KK, narrated a heterosexual man’s curiosities and fears after he witnesses a gay relationship for the first time, bringing to light the confidence of people fighting for love beyond gender.

The rainbow shines at Chennai’s the Queer and Allies Art Festival

The festival had Dwight Cook from the NGO Working with Pride for an interactive session titled Your Story Will Make You a Leader. Focusing on empowering people to make better decisions while prioritising emotional and mental health, the career team transformer affirmed, “The minority group tends to grow up with lesser social affirmations but often does not realise it has the unique ability to see beyond norms. Inclusion and diversity are at the grassroots of creativity and should be adopted by everyone.”

Associate director of Niraivagam Thaddeus Alfonso’s talk on Importance of Mental Health also stressed on similar points, while recognising that art therapy can be an effective tool to combat anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. The misconceptions around LGBTQ rights in the corporate world came to the fore in panel discussion Honest Conversation on Workplace Inclusion, where writer and researcher Nadika engaged with Moulee, a diversity, equity and inclusion strategist. Moderated by Mist founder Shyam Konnur, the conversation revolved around how companies need to go beyond branding and policies to ensure effective inclusion of the queer community.

The rainbow shines at Chennai’s the Queer and Allies Art Festival

Moulee also explained how labour laws currently do not protect queer people from harassment at the workplace, “While many companies are holding conferences on this topic, it is the community that was effective in the striking down of Section 377. Events like these help in bridging the gap between the two and ensure that change can take place at the workplace as well.”

Dance of our people

The stage was opened up to various performers — a line-up of poetry, dance, music and beatboxing was in store for the audience. Patruni Sastry, a Hyderabad-based dancer presented Unihorn, a performance that shed light on homosexuality in the natural world. Complete with props and masks, the performance employed dance as a medium to show gender expressions of two animals. “Traditional dance forms are restrictive. I wanted to create my own context while addressing gender and sexuality. I have labelled my work Indian Expressionism and this style helps me to showcase my activism through dance,” said Patruni.

The rainbow shines at Chennai’s the Queer and Allies Art Festival

While the dance performances were vibrant and entertaining, the poetry recitals were interlaced with personal stories and experiences. For Biraja, the event was a platform to understand different perspectives of the queer community, through movies that are not typically showcased in mainstream media. Reciting poetry on two friends who find each other through stories, she stressed on the power of solidarity, “People are drawn to pride parades but we need more people from outside the LGBTQ community to attend these festivals and protests. To simply call yourself an ally is not enough, support and awareness grows stronger only through these creative platforms.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 1:42:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/a-low-down-on-chennais-the-queer-and-allies-art-festival/article29944972.ece

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