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Performance Art or Protesting Act?


Performance Art or Protesting Act?

Johny ML


Blackening her face for 125 days was a new aesthetical mode that artist P.S. Jayamol adopted to create a social critique on the discriminated ‘living’ experiences of the Dalit communities. But it seems to have almost backfired on the face of the artist herself. The onus is now on Jayamol to defend her ‘creative social experiment’ which was lauded as a piece of performance art by local as well as international media.

Jayamol’s ‘performance art’ was almost a reaction toward the infamous ‘Rohit Vemula’ incident at the Hyderabad University. Taking ‘black complexion’ as a definitive marker of the Dalit identity, the artist had embarked on her ‘social experiment cum performance art’ by smearing her face and the exposed parts of hands and feet with removable black paint whenever she ventured out of her home/studio.

However, the argumentative Kerala intelligentsia, especially the Dalit intelligentsia, came out strongly against the artistic ‘co-optation’ of the Dalit issues by using her ‘upper caste’ body as a point of departure and made the artist accountable for such superficial ‘sabotage’ of a Dalit ‘agitating and theorising’ spaces. On the other hand, a major section of the artist community questioned Jayamol on the very idea of ‘performance art.’ Their contention was that the artist herself wasn’t clear about whether it was a piece of performance art or a social experiment. They also raised questions via social media regarding the aesthetics of ‘black’ and the politics of the performing body or that of the body in ‘performance.’

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Kerala is no longer the same. The issue of ‘black’ taken up by Jayamol could’ve been lapped up by the intelligentsia had it been done a decade before. Today, the Dalit intelligentsia doesn’t allow any such ‘integrationist,’ ‘patronising’ and ‘co-optation’ moves from anybody. For the spokespeople of the Dalit sections in Kerala, no discursive space that has exclusionary tactics or inclusive approach for the sake of democratic norms is acceptable. What they want today is ‘debate’; they no longer want to be spoken at or spoken to. The clear and precise political positions of the Dalit intellectuals have categorically made it clear to Jayamol that while they accept and appreciate her ‘artistic performance,’ the very idea of sabotaging the discursive space that they’ve been creating for so many decades now cannot be allowed for whatever reasons, including the aesthetical ones. The colour Black is not the only marker of a Dalit or a Dalit’s experience. Black is a general marker for Indians, though the upper castes don’t accept this until they face discrimination at the hands of the real White within the country or elsewhere. While Black being a universal derogatory marker of the evil, marking a Dalit or a Dalit experience with the colour black is almost a reductionist approach. According to the Dalit intelligentsia, blackness has transcended to various daily experiences of the Dalit even in their interactions with patronising integrationists.

It would be a reductionist argument if I say that only a Dalit has the right to speak about the Dalit experiences. However, empathy can’t be a replacement for the real experience. Jayamol’s contention regarding her performance is that it was her position/status as a woman that made her at par with the black skinned Dalit. Though we could argue that women are gendered Dalits, there is a Dalit discourse within the gender discourse itself. Feminisms all over the world have debated the multi-layered experiences of women in various social strata and have come to a conclusion that white feminism can’t speak for black feminism; similarly white upper class feminism can’t speak for the white labour class feminism. Even within Black communities such debates prevail. Jayamol has failed utterly while conceptualizing her performance art, as she hasn’t understood the nuances of Dalit and feminist discourses. Simplistic equations like Dalit= black and Dalit= woman made her almost a laughing stock within the cultural communities all over the world. However, I won’t say that Jayamol as an artist doesn’t have the right to ‘perform’ or ‘conduct’ social experiments on caste system in Kerala using a ‘color’ as a marker. While she has the right to do so, she should also be aware that the word ‘color’ or ‘colored’ itself is a marker of race or caste (in India’s case) and it isn’t just white against black, it is white against all the other colors. In Indian context, it is Brahminism against all other castes created by Brahminism itself.

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When art is treated as a ‘reaction,’ not really as ‘response’ or ‘assimilated experiential responses filtered through intelligence and feeling via adequate methods and materials,’ many Jayamols would happen in our society. Such reactionary artists, as they are driven by the urgency to ‘react’ rather than to respond intelligently, fail to understand the gravity of the situations. The failure that happened to Jayamol’s art project is because of her ‘reactionary’ approach. This performance was a ‘reaction’ to Vemula’s suicide. Her concerns were extended to the unfortunate incidents like ‘Ooraly’s arrest’ and the ‘rape and murder of Jisha.’ Reactionary artists often grab the opportunity of famous as well as infamous social happenings and attach their ‘art-ivism’ to such developments. That’s why Jayamol’s performance looks like a tacky social experiment meant for a ‘desired result’ masquerading as a piece of performance art process. The reactionary verve of the artist blinded her in seeing how artists like Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, Carolee Schneemann, Marina Abromovic and so on used body as a performance tool much before the social experiments intend to shock and eke out a reaction from the ‘shocked’ or ‘offended’ or ‘don’t care’ audiences.

Jayamol isn’t alone. Reactionary art is the latest fad in Kerala where people are looking for publicity by attaching themselves to the latest social events that demand intellectual solidarity from different sections of the society. This is an outcome of the Kochi Muziris Biennale that has been promoting an art culture which is predominantly spectacular, and supporting capitalist art with a rebellious streak. While claiming its leaning toward political art, Kochi Muziris Biennale runs with the pray and hunts with the hunter.

Before I close this article, I would like to tell the artists in Kerala and elsewhere that art is political only up to the level of the political integrity of the artist himself or herself. Painting Mahatma Gandhi with a blackened tooth or talking about Dr. B. R. Ambedkar doesn’t make an artist political. Mere sloganeering and claiming of a political voice or space also doesn’t make an artist political. Even the party affiliation of the artists does not make them political. Picasso was a Communist Party card holder, but apart from the forced reading of ‘Guernica,’ we don’t identify Picasso as a communist. Reactionaries are never political. Whether they are visible or invisible, accepted or rejected, accommodated or thrown out, Dalit political discourses have been there for over a century now in India, and a reactionary artist just cannot snatch that space for whatever reasons. As a Dalit scholar and leader had put in one of the television debates, ‘Jayamol can wash the black colour by evening, but what about us who can’t wash it off and also have to hand it over to the successive generations like a pollutant?’

(Photos: Kalakakshi/Facebook & See-ming Lee ??? SML via Foter.com / CC BY-SA)

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ചായം പൂശിയ ഐക്യദാര്‍ഢ്യത്തിന്റെ ചെമ്പ് തെളിയുമ്പോള്‍

Why this Indian woman is using ‘blackface’ as solidarity

Here’s Why This Young Artist In Kerala Is Covering Herself In Black Paint For 100 Days

Paint Me Black


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    Johny ML

    Johny is a New Delhi-based art historian, critic, curator and writer.

     

 


 

INEQUITIES AMONG PHOTOJOURNALISTS PRODUCE A FAMILIAR IMAGE


Inequities Among Photojournalists Produce a Familiar Image

A lack of diversity among photojournalists runs the danger of perpetuating clichés and crippling stereotypes, but the industry is slowly starting to address the problem.

2016 Global Hunger Index: Revealed


News | World | World Politics

2016 Global Hunger Index: Revealed – The Worst Countries in the World at Feeding Their OWN People

Adam Withnall Africa Correspondent  | @adamwithnall | Monday 17 October 2016

A year after the international community set the target of eliminating hunger by 2030, 50 countries around the world are failing to provide their people with enough food.

According to the Global Hunger Index for 2016, close to half of all developing countries received “serious” or even “alarming” ratings based on levels of malnutrition, growth stunting and child mortality.

Overall, the world is getting better at addressing the issue of extreme poverty-driven hunger. But in some regions, particularly central Africa, there is still a long, long way to go to eradicating the problem.

“Simply put, countries must accelerate the pace at which they are reducing hunger or we will fail to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal [of ending global hunger by 2030], said Shenggen Fan, the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) which has been producing the index annually for the last 11 years.

Africa accounts for six of the worst 10 countries in the ranking this year, with three – Central African Republic, Chad and Zambia – coming in the last three places.

The rest of the top 10 is completed by Haiti, Madagascar, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, and Niger.

Among the 118 countries ranked, only two have seen their scores get worse in the years since 2008 – Sri Lanka and Jamaica.

But there are 13 other countries for which a lack of data means it wasn’t possible to calculate an index score – and they include some of the most concerning malnutrition crises in the world.

The IFPRI said that even without a complete score, partial indicators for things like child stunting, wasting and mortality were cause for concern in Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Syria.

Armed conflict is a leading cause of hunger and undernutrition in many of these countries,” said Bärbel Dieckmann, President of Welthungerhilfe, one of the organisations involved in the report. “Zero hunger will only be possible if we significantly increase political commitments to conflict resolution and prevention.”

This year, no single country scored so badly as to fall in the “extremely alarming” category – but the nationwide figures mask the fact that within some states there can be acute malnutrition crises.

Mexico, for instance, has a low level of overall hunger, but contains areas where child stunting – an indicator of malnutrition – is relatively high.

Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide, called it “unacceptable, it is immoral and shameful” that there were still 795 million people “condemned to facing hunger every day of their lives”.

“Agenda 2030 provides us with the ambition and commitment to reach zero hunger,” he said. “We have the technology, knowledge and resources to achieve that vision. What is missing is both the urgency and the political will to turn commitments into action.”

“The 2030 Agenda set a clear global objective for an end to hunger – everywhere – within the next 14 years,” said David Nabarro, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change. “Too many people are hungry today. There is a need for urgent, thoughtful and innovative action to ensure that no one ever goes hungry again.”


Grow Africa


Grow Africa

The Grow Africa Partnership was founded jointly by the African Union (AU)The New Partnership for Africa\’s Development (NEPAD) and the World Economic Forum in 2011. Grow Africa works to increase private sector investment in agriculture, and accelerate the execution and impact of investment commitments. The aim is to enable countries to realise the potential of the agriculture sector for economic growth and job creation, particularly among farmers, women and youth. Grow Africa brokers collaboration between governments, international and domestic agriculture companies, and smallholder farmers in order to lower the risk and cost of investing in agriculture, and improve the speed of return to all stakeholders.

Grow Africa is:

  • an African-owned, country-led, market-based and inclusive platform for cross-sector collaboration,
  • to increase inclusive and responsible investment in to African agriculture,
  • and thereby generate agriculture-driven economic growth that contributes to reducing poverty and hunger.

 

Grow Africa consists of a partnership platform, network, and secretariat.

Partnership Platform:

The Grow Africa Partnership comprises over 200 companies and governments in 12 countries. These companies have made formal commitments with the government in the respective country to invest in agriculture. Ten of these countries are part of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a partnership in which stakeholders – public and private sectors, and donors – commit to specific policy reforms and investments, outlined in Cooperation Frameworks that accelerate implementation of African country food security strategies.

Network:

The Partnership is supported by a network of knowledge partners and topic specialists.

Secretariat:

Grow Africa is supported by a Secretariat which during 2012-2015 has been designed and incubated by the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. The Secretariat transitioned in 2016 to Johannesburg, South Africa and is now hosted by the NEPAD Agency.

GOVERNANCE

Grow Africa is an autonomous entity, hosted by the NEPAD Agency and governed by a multi-stakeholder Steering Committee.

Additionally, Grow Africa’s priorities are guided by a Leadership Council, an informal group of leaders committed to realizing the investment commitments pledged by the private sector, governments and development partners within the New Alliance and Grow Africa. It consists of high-level representatives from African governments, development partners, the African and multi-national private sector companies, civil society, and farmers’ organizations that monitor, support and advance progress. Two co-conveners lead the Leadership Council. These are:

The Leadership Council has met bi-annually since its formation. Starting in 2015, it will have one official meeting per year. The co-conveners will publicly release a joint statement after each meeting.

Funding

Grow Africa is supported by grants from the following donors:

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Not Proud to BE an Indian

A letter …


Not proud to be an Indian

Updated: Sep 30, 2012 13:20 IST
Namita Bhandare
Namita Bhandare
Hindustan Times

Dear Mr Nihangaza,

I write to you as a mother and as a citizen of India, a country that has a proud tradition of tolerance; a country where guests are supposed to be treated as gods – atithi devo bhava.

But today it is not with pride but shame that I write to you, a father in faraway Burundi whose son lies in coma in India following a murderous assault on him.

Your 23-year-old son, Yannick, came to India to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in computer science. You say he was an ‘outstanding student who was constantly busy learning the skills needed for his future and the contribution to the betterment of the world’.

When parents choose to send their children to a faraway country to study it is in the belief that they will return more knowledgeable, more understanding and with a positive vision for tomorrow. Our children are our investments in hope, a testimony to the human spirit’s undying optimism in its ability to make this world a better place.

I do not know the circumstances under which you sent Yannick to India. I do know from newspaper reports that on the night of April 21, he was on his way to a party in Ludhiana when he got into a quarrel with a group of people and was attacked with bottles, iron rods and stones and left for dead until some passers-by took him to the hospital. Two arrests have been made, but the others are free.

Doctors are not hopeful that Yannick will come out of coma. What you now, understandably, want is to return home with him. And for this you have written to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal asking for justice and financial help. “In a country that I believe is a civilised one and where the laws of the land should be respected and evil be punished…the killers who stoned my innocent son and left him assuming dead are known and still free,” you wrote.

Mr Nihangaza, I do not mean to be cynical but I would caution you against raising your hopes for justice. Your letter has gone unanswered and you are in a country where racism runs deep, not just against African students but also against its own citizens. Were the deaths of Loitam Richard in Bangalore, Ramchanphy Hongray in New Delhi and the suicide of Dana Sangma part of a racist pattern? We cannot leap to conclusions but surely attitudes to ‘outsiders’ become evident when Delhi police ask women from the north-east to avoid wearing revealing dresses or cooking ‘smelly’ food or when Hyderabad University focuses on students from the north-east during a drug awareness campaign.

Racism is often hard to prove. It comes in the form of a sneer, a leery look or a slur – chinki, Madrasi, kallu. Was Yannick the victim of a hate crime or just a crime? We may never know but enough Africans in India have spoken about blatant as well as latent prejudice.

Prejudice seems to have become one of our defining features. We see it when the Shiv Sena declares war against migrant taxi drivers. We see it when millions of people purchase ‘fairness’ creams in the hope of improving prospects. We see it in our ads that declare: “It’s tough being a West Indian in India.” We see it when IPL authorities send black cheerleaders home.

Yet, we are hyper sensitive when the shoe is on the other foot. On April 21, the night your son was attacked in Ludhiana, a student from Odisha, the same age as your son, was shot dead in Boston. We shouted ourselves hoarse with outrage over his killing. We shouted ourselves hoarse when Indians students were attacked in Australia. And we shout ourselves hoarse when Ashton Kutcher makes fun of our accent and way of life.

Will we shout ourselves hoarse over what happened to your son? I fear we will not. I hope you will get the justice you desire. But more realistically, I pray that your son will find a better place than the one he had here in my country.

Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer

The views expressed by the author are personal