Published: 16th December 2018
Bahujan Art Festival: TISS students invite marginalised artists to showcase their art, culture and food
In many mainstream art festivals, marginalised artists seldom find a space and when they do it is mostly a token seat, which is why this festival is important to the dalit movement to reclaim their ar
On Sunday, the TISS campus in Mumbai will vibrate to the beats of the parai, art and theatre will bring colour to its walls, the crowds will dance to rap, the projectors will bring light to great films about revolutions and the rooms will echo with the written words of the oppressed. We're talking about the Bahujan Art Festival or the Marginal Art Festival to be hosted by the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. The festival will bring together Bahujan and marginalised artists from ten states across the country and will provide a platform for them to discuss, network and celebrate their art.
A similar festival was previously organised at the Ambedkar University, Delhi earlier this year and it focused on how marginalised artists could create their own platforms. This time around, the focus of the festival would be exploring the possibilities of self-sustenance and what kind of network/resource building is available to the communities. Most artists from Dalit Bahujan Adivasi communities and other marginalised groups often fail to find a space in mainstream art festivals and platforms. Or they are only there for tokenism, which is why the primary aim of this festival, the organisers say, is to contribute to the massive cultural movement by talking about issues that concern them and reflect in their art.
Aroh Akunth, the Cultural Secretary of the Student Union is TISS says that they did not want to limit the definition of the word 'Dalit' and that they envision the festival as an open collective featuring art from different marginalised identities. This festival will host a line-up of art experts, artisans, rappers, filmmakers, posts, writers, cultural activists, poets, photographers, actors, singers and musicians. "Most art festivals feature work by upper caste speakers and the discussion panels are the same. Just for the sake of "diversity" they will have one token voice. Which is why it was important for such a festival to happen where all DBA and marginalised artists could display their art, come together to network and share thoughts on how to use their resources in the best way possible," Akunth said.
In their concept note, the organisers say the festival is an effort to facilitate spaces for artists and reflects on making many artforms have been systematically denied to the artists from marginalised communities and hegemonized by the upper castes, "We believe that it is in shared narratives, that a community us constructed and it is only art that allows allows us an unparalled political imagination which can then challenge the normative and hierarchical."
The panels will have discussions on topics like casteism in filmmaking with documentary filmmakers like Somnath Waghmare and Jyothi Nisha, "the Culture in our Identities" with Paras Banjara and Ram Lal, 'Verses of Resistance' featuring Sumeet Samos as one of the panelists, Ambedkarities Feminism with Urmila Pawar and Sharda Nawle. Exhibitions of Warli art and also the work of Malvika Raj, Syamsundar Vunnamati, Sunil Awachar, Maari Zwick-Maitreyi. There will be performances by rap artists and a parai band from Tamil Nadu, among others. Besides these, film screenings are also scheduled, book releases and most importantly, there will be food a well! "The food will be Dalit Bahujan style," Akunth tells us
Since five out of the seven student union members are from the DBA communities, the better representation in the Union this time made it possible for student leaders to facilitate funds from the Union for some support. "It is not a grand event but we've managed to cover the travel and living expenses of the artists," Akunth added. When asked if they faced any hurdles while preparing for the festival, they said that they hadn't but the only issue they could potentially face would be about the food that they're serving, "Mostly, because it's food that the Savarna would think of as offending," Akunth said. But for now, the campus is gearing up to have a day long culture and art festival.
The festival is an open event and anyone interested is welcome to participate in it, the Cultural Secretary said.