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“Amar Durga”: portraying women emancipation through mythological and real-life sagas, By Krishna Goswami
Suparna Banerjee’s dance film “Amar Durga [My Durga]” is a tribute to every woman on this planet who strives to overcome the societal demons of subjugation, indifference and hostility placed in front of her by slaying them with her powerful ten hands, as seen in the icon of a Hindu Goddess Durga. The clarion call of the pandemic of Covid-19 – “Stay home, stay safe” – remained to be the primary inspiration for webcasting this film on social media.
Banerjee conceptualised and choreographed this rosary sewn piece by conglomerating the famous Bangla poem of Mallika Sengupta’s “Konyashlok” and some selected verses from Bengal’s musical montage “Mahishasuramarddini (the Slayer of demon Mahishashur)”, narrated by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. Using Bharatanatyam and Tagore dance techniques, this piece employed various emotions including ferocity, strength and compassion. The performers were Debanjana Banerjee, Dimpol Dey, Sayantani Datta, Srijani Das and Suparna Banerjee who from various geographical locations (Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune, India) mirrored the undying spirit of our modern women. The recitation was beautifully rendered by Arijita Bhattacharyya.
In the poem, Sengupta’s portrayal of Durga contains several trappings, tensions and dichotomies. To exemplify the power that resides in modern women, the poetess borrows characters from different tiers of life including a fictitious village girl named Durga Soren, astronaut Kalpana Chawla, social and human activists Medha Patkar and Teesta Setalvad and the Manipuri women who walked naked to protest rape and abduction. On one hand, Goddess Durga is placed high on the pedestal and worshipped; on the other hand, Durga as a woman of this age is thrown out to the edge of this patriarchal society. The dancers eloquently represented these long drawn battles of modern Durga, who is equipped with the weapons of perseverance, hard work, education and the self-belief which aid her to snatch the equal status within the social, economic, political and even sexual domain. Much creative thoughts were devised to reveal how a modern woman wishes to become Durga even though for once in her life: no, neither through make up of painting a third eye or putting on the artificial long hair, colouring heavily the forehead with vermilion or wearing the nose ring. Visually, Banerjee entwined the image of the pre-historic Durga with today’s real-life woman who engulfs all her pain and sufferings and rises above by vanquishing her enemies with pride. Home-confined on the auspicious day of Durga-bodhon (the awakening of Durga), “Amar Durga” refreshed the audiences’ mind with mythology and theatrical exuberance.
I enjoy the beauty of colour from all kinds of sources, but above all I revel in the spectacular beauty of light and colour in nature in all its glorious manifestations everywhere -- from the tiniest elements on our Earth to the most infinite in our Cosmos, which is my ultimate source of inspiration that enhances my aesthetic consciousness and sensitivity.
At the same time, I am conscious that all the trillions and trillions of life forms, galaxies, stars, planets and amazing phenomena of our infinite Cosmos is a huge mystery, mostly well beyond human understanding.
My fascination with our Cosmos stems from my childhood days in the tropics when I used to be enchanted and mystified by the sparkling and twinkling stars of the night sky, thanks to my beloved mother. She used to make me lie down on the flat roof of our house at night and tell me to count the stars. At that stage when my vision was very sharp, I was mesmerised by the myriad of stunning colours emanating from the twinkling stars !
I owe it to my mother, who was exceptionally spiritual and creative, especially in art and music, in me becoming a creative artist. Indeed she played a vital, encouraging and supportive role in my evolution and development as a creative human being.
My Cosmos paintings are a personal interpretation with scientific understanding of the subject, inspired mainly by the fantastic imagery produced by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Photo Story: "AT HOME IN THE WORLD? MEDIATING BORDERS", By Krishna Goswami
The Covid-19 pandemic has spread its nasty tentacles into every strata of society causing unfathomable social, economic damages least to mention the psychological effects on us. Suddenly the familiar has become strange. This pandemic has been unique as there is the dichotomy lurking between intimacy and otherness.
In the photostory “At Home in the World? Mediating Borders” I have revealed dance artist-scholar Suparna Banerjee’s stranded life in the USA on account of sudden suspension of international air travels by the Indian Government in the pandemic. The story has been inspired from daily conversations between Banerjee and myself through Skype and messenger video calls in the months of April and May 2020. As Banerjee awaits repatriation, I make a conscious attempt to capture the subject’s inner turmoil, solitude, insomnia and fatigue.
In the beginning, the night comes with unfathomable loneliness and creepiness; the interplay between the light and ephemeral shadows reflects the subject’s fears. Although this isolated apartment, situated away from the vexing crowd, offers Banerjee a partial relief at the time when practising social distancing is mandatory, the repetitive chores and monotonous life throttle her. As the story evolves, the confined apartment becomes a trope of unlimited wait for return to her home in India. The act of gazing through the window indicates Banerjee’s hope to get reunited with her affectionate husband and octogenarian parents, who equally share her poignancy. This separation has nurtured her creativity, which is highlighted through the mirror and her dance movements.
At the end, the boundary between interior and exterior is blurred when Banerjee steps out of the home in search of freedom and respite. The microcosm of Banerjee's living room also leaves a few questions behind for us to review: when would Banerjee be able to return home? Would her home ever look the same after this pandemic? As a digital canvas, the story portrays the crisis of a marooned woman, whose home is never be forgotten, but its edge would always be broadened through her travels, imagination and her constant search for the self.
The making of the story has a purging effect on me. It is as if all my forebodings and unsettling thoughts of the future got an outlet to filter away. The conviction has been that the documentation of the pandemic shall remain encapsulated in the visual presentation and that the viewers shall be able to participate through the subject in the frames. They are free to interpret the story through their own experiences. I have deliberately kept myself in the frames to show the longing for togetherness while maintaining physical distancing. The use of light and minimalist furniture has been deliberately used to focus on the mood and empathy to surface.
Technical Notes: While manoeuvring distant geographical borders, the internet played a vital role in this story. As Banerjee did not have any other option but to use the fixed Wi-Fi connection in the living room of the university housing in Ames, USA, the frame was confined chiefly to the living room and a part of kitchen! Goswami planned the limited resources including arranging the lights and the accessories. During the shoots, Goswami instructed Banerjee to get the best possible setting and posture. The quality of images is compromised while trying to capture the digital presence of the subject during the video calls via Skype and Facebook messenger. Yet, both the participating artists feel the need to unfurl the pain and the vacuum through the visual presentation.
By Ana Palma
Born: Viana do Castelo, Portugal 1986
I am a Portuguese visual artist living in London since 2015. I have exhibited as a solo artist and in several collective exhibitions and I’ve also been shortlisted for art contests.
Studying Fine Art led me to another passion: education. Sharing knowledge and experiences has always been an evident personality trait which explains my career as an art teacher. I do believe that Art can help young people become better human beings developing critical thinking, creativity and a broader vision of the world. This interest in the human psychology and personal development is not only present in my work as a teacher but also in my artistic practice. Currently, my work delves into the relationship between human beings and Nature. The human figure and the natural world are unavoidable subjects through which memories, emotions, and symbolism emerge.
There are two aspects that have had a huge impact in my practice: one is the fact that I was brought up in the countryside surrounded by Nature and the other one is a strong painting and drawing foundation (particularly anatomical drawing).
My grandmothers taught me not only to appreciate and respect Nature but also to use it to heal ourselves. They showed me that there’s a unique connection between women and nature which they used as a way of expressing themselves and be creative. Both my grandmothers felt complete and fulfilled when they were surrounded by their plants, trees and flowers. I was lucky enough to spend most of my days with them learning how to look after the plants, understanding the seasons and other Nature’s cycles.
The other aspect that has influenced my practice is the passion for drawing, particularly anatomical drawing, which I’ve explored intensely in my Fine Art degree. Drawing is my main language and the most natural way I’ve found to express myself. I am in each line, in each stain and they are permanently constructing and deconstructing me.
My most recent solo exhibition, FEMINA is a personal journey to understand the idea of femininity. Natural elements, women and poetry merge together to create images that tell stories about sweetness, bitterness, fragility, and resilience. What makes a woman a woman? What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century? What role does the past play in how women see themselves and are seen today? In this body of work, I’ve explored how magical the process of creating or finding an image is. Letting intuition lead the way allows ideas to start revealing themselves through lines and brushstrokes while digging into the depths of two-dimensionality to uncover skin, flesh, and bones.
My artwork is influenced by a wide range of disciplines from music to dance or poetry, however, visual art is the most obvious. Artists such as Paula Rego, Lucien Freud, Graça Morais, António Mendanha, Larry Rivers or even Francisco Goya have always been a source of inspiration.
By Joana Palma
Born: Viana do Castelo, Portugal 1983
Joana Palma was born in Portugal and currently lives in London, UK. Coming from a family of artisanal descent and strong incision in the textile and wood industry, Palma’s childhood was full of adventures. As a child growing up in a rural surrounding, she always had the freedom to run through forests, fields and paths to create her own world. She used to build her own toys to play with.
This creative freedom had made her always look for more alternative environments and ephemeral mental spaces where she could more easily fit in. Gradually, her works started to gain visibility and her art objects were adopted for decorating social events. The first large-scale objects that she created portrayed the theme of space and mystical inheritances. However, she felt the need to widen her knowledge and set out to study abroad. Moved to a diverse artistic cultural scene of London, her work began to receive attention not only within her community, but also in the domain of the corporate world. She has been invited to carry out projects across different continents.
With her academic training, she has become aware of the artist's role in society and the need to transcend socio-cultural barriers through art. This knowledge has led her to the need for social inclusion and to create events that are of participatory nature. Noting a growing demand for a paradigm shift in the current reality, she aims to expand her work in the area of contemporary art. Besides, she encourages young people to be independent thinkers for bringing forth creative transformations.